I was recently speaking to a group of 8th graders when one of them asked an interesting question. "As a CEO," she said, "What do you think is more important: vision or resilience?" I told her that my immediate response was vision, for two reasons: First, vision is the sole responsibility of the CEO. The CEO is the only one who should be writing the initial draft of the vision. It's that person's job to say where the organization is headed over the next three years. Second, resilience, when you're pursuing the wrong goals, is a terrible thing. I've lost a lot of money pursuing the wrong business goals for too long. There is a lot of benefit to failing fast.
I explained further that it is important to determine if you're pursuing the right goals for your life. If you're not having success, maybe you should just quit.
That's right, I told an 8th grader she should simply pack it in and give up. I could feel her teacher's stare in the back of my head. Now, it's important to be clear - I love resilience. I just think we should reserve our grit for the right things and quit the wrong things.
It's a concept I had been thinking a lot about recently, after I read "The Dip," by Seth Godin. In the book, the author explains that the advice we've all been given, “never give up” is "terrible." He refers to the "Dip" as the time when things get really, really hard. For instance, you can begin to pursue a goal with great enthusiasm, and then you realize how much hard work, time and dedication it's going to take to become one of the very best. Godin says that's exactly why the very best are so rare.
He writes that the trick involves discovering the "cul-de-sacs" that you might be pursuing. For anyone less familiar, cul-de-sacs are the dead end circles at the end of some subdivision streets. You can go around and around and never get anywhere. Each of us needs to recognize if we are moving into a dip that demands our resilience, or a cul-de-sac that we need to quit.
I think that concept is really important, because a "Yes" cannot exist without the "No" that accompanies it. It's hard to pursue a new goal without agreeing to stop something else. We just returned from our annual strategic planning session this week. Why do companies do strategic planning? Because every organization has a limited amount of time, money and resources. To say yes to something, we are intentionally or unintentionally, saying no to something else. That's no different than the process that my 8th grade friend will experience over the next eight years of her life. To be successful, she'll have to demonstrate a tremendous amount of resilience. My goal was simply to encourage her to apply that resilience to the right goals. If she's not going to be great, maybe she should just quit and find the path that will reward her hard work.