Today's blog is an excerpt from Joe Jordan's book Wireframe: Creating the Structure for Enduring Success which will (hopefully) be published in 2008. This content is copyrighted and used by permission. All rights reserved.
After a year of unplanned challenges, unexpected setbacks, and unheard of problems it is tempting to pack your hope in a box in the attic of your mind and think the worst that could happen might be the best that will happen. You start sounding like the Peanuts character Snoopy as he bemoaned, "Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There's so little hope of advancement."
He was born in 1936 into one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Prague. His grandfather was a major leader in the arts and his uncle's work laid the foundation for the Czech film industry. Following the Communist coup in 1948, his family lost most of its wealth. A gifted author and playwright, he was banned as a writer after his condemnation of the Warsaw Pact invasion. In 1977 he was charged with trying to subvert the state and in 1979 was sentenced to four years in jail. Ten years later he was again incarcerated, this time for standing in the street.
During long nights in prison, Vaclav Havel could not have imagined that he would one day emerge as the central figure of the Velvet Revolution and become the first president of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Repeatedly slammed by discouragement, defeat, and the unfairness of life, Havel continued to pursue his dream of a better future for himself and his nation. He learned to see beyond his current circumstances, refusing to allow the realities of the present to dim his convictions about the future. In 1995, Havel shared a message that articulated the beliefs that kept him pressing forward after hitting wall after wall of opposition.
Many times in my life and not just when I was in prison, I found myself in a situation in which everything seemed to conspire against me, when nothing I wished for or worked for seemed likely to succeed. . . Whenever I found myself immersed in such melancholy thoughts I would ask myself a very simple question over and over again, 'Why don't you just give up on everything?' . . . Each time, I would eventually realize that hope, in the deepest sense of the word, does not come from the outside, that hope is not something to be found in external indications simply when a course of action may turn out well . . . hope is a state of mind, and we either have it or we don't, quite independently of the state of affairs immediately around us . . . Indeed, only the infinite and eternal, recognized or surmised, can explain the no less mysterious phenomenon of hope. (Speech by Vaclav Havel at the Hiroshima Memorial)
Wherever you are in your journey as a leader, remember that your attitude is not dictated by your circumstances. The attitude you carry today is the attitude you choose to carry. Choose to look at life through a lens of hope. Unexpected vents often bring unwanted adjustments. Difficulties in business and in life are not dispersed through a merit system. Doing what is right--even solving a difficult problem---can make a situation more difficult than before. If you fixate on the tough things that cross your path you will likely become a very negative person.
One of the treasured gifts you can always give to yourself--and to those around you--is your genuine hope that tomorrow will be better than today.