Falling Forward

What amazes me about spring is that regardless of how brutally hard the winter has been, without exception, the leaves bud, the flowers bloom, the grass turns green and even the weeds (unfortunately) sprout. Winter cannot and does not prevent spring from falling forward!

I’m left with the question then, where do they (the trees, the grass, and the flowers) all get their strength from?

Of course the answer is that within nature itself is a hidden strength that sometimes becomes invisible due to circumstances, but without fail overcomes all the challenges of winter and eventually springs forward, demonstrating to all of creation that nothing, not even the harshest winter, can hide it or prevent it from rising again. It’s an amazing lesson for us all.

Have you ever asked the same question about life?

I know of so many people, that regardless of their difficulties, who are able to “fall forward”. Falling forward simply means that, as was written by some wise individual, “It’s not how many times you fall down but rather how many times you get up that matter”. So for some, the challenges of life may cause them to fall but regardless they are able to summon the strength to get back up and go forward. And there are some who do it over and over again.

Where do such people get their strength from?

Strength to overcome life’s challenges may come from several sources.

  1. Strength cultured over time from life’s experiences.
  2. Strength through the example provided by others.
  3. Strength from a genetic advantage (mental, intellectual, emotional).
  4. Strength from our learning in books and stories we read.
  5. Strength provided by our family.
  6. Strength from our practice of meditation and prayer.
  7. Strength given by our network of friends.
  8. And sometimes, just an “unknown strength” we did not know we had.

Several years ago I was involved in a restructuring of one of my businesses with the Smith Group of Companies. We were close to bankruptcy and I was close to burnout. For many years (after I had been appointed President), I was part of a CEO peer group. Upon my first appointment as President in my late thirties, I believed it was necessary to create an advisory relationship with other CEOs to help me in developing my judgment and decision making as I assumed greater roles and responsibilities. I remember attending one of my CEO sessions, and going into it, I was weary and worn from dealing with such debilitating business issues. I was expecting some pity, sympathy and TLC from my “likeminded CEOs”. What I got instead was a strong rebuke and increased pressure to stay focused on the job at hand. I left that meeting somewhat disappointed and for a while discouraged. Later I spoke with one of my “CEO Buddies”, Sab Ravalli, and he explained it this way.

Sab said it would not have been helpful if all they did was express sympathy and took some pity on the struggles in front of me. Rather, the best support they could provide me given the situation was to help me stay focused, to ensure I was thinking properly, and my judgment and decisions were sound. He explained the difference between “good time friends” and “real friends”. Real friends give, good time friends take. It was easy for me to criticize what they had done since I was not able to see and understand at first the actual support and strength they were providing.

I have never forgotten that lesson from Sab. I have several friends in my personal and professional networks who have helped me stay on the straight and narrow. In times of discouragement, confusion, weakness and vulnerability, the strength that I needed was given by those friends. And of course it would be wrong for me not to say that my wife Linda has been such a great source of strength in my life, more than I ever deserved.

There is an advantage that LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  provides. As business and social networking sites, it allows me (us) to list and identify all the friends in our network. At any one time I/we can draw on those in our network or we can make ourselves available to those who need real help. I have a site on LinkedIn that has identified hundreds in my professional network. I also have a business Facebook site that identifies some (“a few”) real friends in business. And I have a family Facebook site that gathers all of my immediate family together. If anything, it has shown me that in my network, I can draw on many for strength. It is a great feeling and provides much reassurance since though the joy of spring and summer is upon us, winter will undoubtedly come again.

The challenging part is that much time is required in cultivating good friends and there is a danger that social networking sites cause us to neglect that. Just as a good harvest requires much planting, fertilizing, weeding and cultivating, so does the development of our professional and personal networks or relationships. Remember that technology is intended to be an enabler, not a replacement!

Nature does have a lot of inner strength. But it is amazing what results from a healthy relationship between nature and humans. My garden will grow for awhile unattended, but with my full involvement it will flourish.

The ability to fall forward is very much then dependent on the total sum of your channels of strength. Those who have fallen and get back up quickly and even stronger seemed to have understood that.