The book A Series of Unfortunate Events written by Lemony Snicket is a must-read, not only because it’s a jolly good laugh, but because it contains valuable lessons on coping with and learning from adversity.
Everybody has one or several SoUEs in the course of running their business – even the most successful business owners. But having a SoUE doesn’t make you a failure. SoUEs are there to help us learn from our mistakes and refocus our goals.
In Snickett’s book, the evil protagonist Count Olaf assumes various disguises and causes all kinds of hardship in the lives of other characters.
Soloists and business owners are no stranger to this metaphorical Count Olaf. He reappears again and again in our lives under many guises – an unhappy customer, someone who pips us at the post with The Next Big Thing, an economic downturn.
Sometimes the Count is our own tired ideas and stale products we should have paid attention to some time ago. And sometimes, you simply feel that Count Olaf has become a permanent family member.
But does your SoUE mean you’re a serial failure? On the contrary, weathering your SoUE makes you more determined and more focused, forcing you to address important questions. For me, my SoUE saw me questioning whether I was built for solo life. Could I ever escape my Count Olaf?
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Here are the conclusions I drew after emerging from my SoUE:
- I am destined to be a soloist. There’s no other way I want to live. I might make mistakes, but soloism is my passion and my oxygen and without those I might as well shut the doors.
- I can’t think of very many successful businesses or people who were ‘instant successes’ or ‘overnight stars’. There’s no reality TV show for working hard in business because it’s long, often gritty work. But the reward is self-determination. So count me in.
- In all the business advice books and blogs written you’ll hear that you need to adapt, improvise and overcome adversity to succeed. Roughly translated – stuff happens. Ok, I’ll get on with it.
So to me, a SoUE that brings learning, new awareness and development is not the same as making mistakes repeatedly, without any learning involved (i.e. failure). Rather, surviving a SoUE makes you more determined than ever.
Your lessons learnt will be unique to you, but I found at the times when I’ve needed to brace for another SoUE, reflecting on how I came through the last lot is edifying, helping me to not only survive, but to come out on top.
What lessons did you learn from your SoUE?