Obstacles Build Character

As I head into the final month of 2009, I am reflecting on the challenges of the past year.  While doing this I read Roger Cameron’s Tip of the Month from January 2002.   2001, like 2009, was a challenging year with a recession and the September 11 terrorist attacks.  Roger’s Tip impacted me on the importance of perseverance and overcoming obstacles to build character.  I rewrote Roger’s Tip from January 2002 to apply to 2009.  I hope it helps you as much as it is helping me.

As a junior military officer (JMO) recruiting firm, we have the opportunity of working with clients from a variety of industries as well as JMOs from all military branches.  With a recession and two wars, Cameron-Brooks, our clients, and JMO candidate partners have had numerous obstacles to overcome and many of them unexpected and new.  Through personal experience as well as listening to Cameron-Brooks Alumni, our client recruiters and JMO candidates, I have learned the road to success is filled with pitfalls and challenges.  I have always known that there is no such thing as overnight success and that work can become increasingly frustrating when nothing comes easily.  However, this year has taught me perseverance by overcoming my own difficulties and achieving success while learning from others who have done the same.

Going all the way back to playing little league, I remember a phrase indicating the true test of character as being what you do when you are faced with (or buried under) obstacles, while staring failure and hardship right in the face.  2009 provided opportunities to experience and learn this again, and I am quite sure I will have more opportunity in the future. 

Anyone can feel good when standing on a peak in life.  Anyone can be happy being part of a winning team.  Character is shown in how you respond when you are in one of the valleys between the peaks, or what you do when your organization is struggling.  What we do in difficult times is what defines us.  The people who use inner strength to fight their way out of the lows, will rise above others and emerge as leaders in an organization.  The people who become the change they want in their organization regardless of how hard it is, are the leaders of tomorrow.  They simply refuse to quit, and instead continue persevering to find a way to win. 

I ask you to reflect on 2009 with me.  Ask yourself if your character was tested in a tough situation(s) when the deck was stacked against you.  In these situations, how did you respond?  Did you dig in and find a way to win regardless?  Did you roll up your sleeves and put in the extra time required for success?  Did you get to work early and stay late?  Did you go above and beyond for a customer?  Did you practice and prepare and prepare and prepare, etc.?  Did you take time to read motivational material?  Was your self-talk positive or negative?  Did you lead and set the example?  Did you continue the struggle toward the goal despite the roadblocks?  If you didn’t do things like this but instead used statements such as “should have, could have, would have” you might be headed to the club called mediocrity.  Cultivating habits of overcoming obstacles early in your career (military or business) will guarantee that you will achieve your potential, help your organization and its people reach theirs, and ensure that both avoid mediocrity. 

 As you look forward to 2010 and setting goals, remember that tribulations are tests that can be overcome with perseverance.  Demonstrating perseverance leads to proven character.  Proven character determines who you are. And who you are, more than any other thing, determines what you will achieve in your professional and personal life.

 Joel Junker

(Adapted from Roger Cameron’s January 2002 Tip of the Month)