"The Man, The Mission, The Passion" Husband, Father, Attorney, CPA, Steward Leader, Entrepreneur, MBA, Author, Builder, HBS OPM 25 Class, Mentor, Teacher

Turning Adversity into Advantage

never stop learning

I am still humbled by how often I stumble, how frequently I fall short of my aspirations. Somehow I’d expected that as time passed, it would become easier, that with the coming of silver in my hair, wisdom would more automatically translate into behavior. Alas, life continues to require vigilance and effort: just as getting and staying physically fit is an ongoing process, so too is spiritual fitness. Doing as well we know is a challenge we face daily.

When I do encounter adversity, I endeavor to transform it into advantage by re-framing, asking myself several powerful questions: “How can I use this to grow? What can I learn from this? What does this tell me about myself, about the accuracy of my world view?”

I recently was showing off a project I had worked very hard on over an extended period of time and of which I was very proud. Someone pointed out what I felt was a rather minor unfinished trim issue (on the INSIDE of a cabinet)! I explained that I was aware of it, I just had not gotten around to it. They continued on about how they would deal with it, offering me unwanted advice (I already had a plan in mind) which felt like criticism. I attempted to stop them a second time, reminding them that this was the weekend after Hurricane Irma and to say the least, I had other priorities and I’d deal with it when I could. Somehow that wasn’t enough and they continued to give me their input on what they thought I should do. At that point, after my third attempt, I turned and left the room.

Later, I asked myself “What was the lesson in this experience?” The person genuinely wanted to be helpful BUT they weren’t; growing, developing, mentoring people is a major portion of my job. What could I learn from this situation to make me a better coach/teacher?

While somewhat different rules exist in a social situation than in business (respect is due in both, however in business it is understood that feedback/inspection/review is expected as part of the process/role), I felt the deepest learning opportunity for me was to use this to remember how sensitive the human soul is; how invested we can get in our efforts, how vital it is to choose the right time to give feedback (often the instant moment when emotions are high is the WORST time to try to teach) AND then pick the right amount of feedback (to give more input than the person is open to absorbing is foolish and ineffective, more likely to backfire and create resistance).

Closing Quotes:

“O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us. It would from many a blunder save us.” – Robert Burns

“Questions provide the key to unlocking our unlimited potential. The quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions.” – Tony Robbins

“The main difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way you react, the way you use them.” – Proverb

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier

Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?


Sam Zell (founder of two largest American REITs; Equity Office and Equity Residential) was recently interviewed and asked if his children had followed him into real estate. Sam replied “None of them are in the business. I don’t make widgets. I’m in the risk-taking business. That’s not something you pass on.”

While you can always “move the needle” i.e. teach some of the skills and traits of entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurship is certainly more a matter of EQ than IQ and EQ can be learned, I lean more to the “entrepreneurs are more born than made” school.

Entrepreneurs are DRIVEN individuals with a motivating vision combined with the practical common sense to acquire or seek out the skills and ability necessary to make their dream come true plus the persistence/grit to persevere through daunting roadblocks and discouraging obstacles all the while remaining open and flexible about other ways to the mountaintop.

Quite the list of attributes. Most folks don’t want it bad enough, however an entrepreneur’s emotional make-up leaves them no other choice. I was restless as a young man and chaffed at the restrictions of hierarchy; it wasn’t why I was put on this earth. I often quasi-joke that I started investing because I couldn’t hold a job; the truth is I could, I can do whatever I have to, it’s just that my soul cried out against the restriction of external structure and yearned for the freedom (and I was willing to accept the rigors, long hours, and risk) of being on my own, seeing what I could create. Ah, Joy!

Closing Quotes:

“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” – Guy Kawasaki (“It’s not about ideas. Ideas are easy. It’s about making ideas happen. That’s the hard part.” – NSC)

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs

“If you’re not a risk taker, you should get the hell out of business.” – Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier


Two Phrases Successful People Avoid

think positive

Words are powerful! The words you choose send strong messages to the world about who you are and what you are about. Just as important, your words impact YOU! While positive words generally reflect positive thoughts, it is a feedback loop that works multiple ways: Positive words can generate positive energy both in yourself and in others.

I’ll try” v. “I’m Committed” – I’ll try are two words that can undermine you before you even start. At worst you are perceived as laying the ground work for excusing failure before you even begin, at best you are expressing a lack of confidence in your ability to execute. Where there is a will, there is a way.

“It can’t be done” or “It’s impossiblev. “It will be challenging” – My favorite response is “If you had a Million Dollars (or Billion if you like) would you have a better chance of success?” The answer is generally more positive and I go on to say “Then it’s not impossible, you’ve just got to find a way to do it more economically!” Another approach is to ask about the overarching goal and seek other paths to getting there; all too often folks get locked on about a particular solution that other routes to the goal are overlooked or it turns out that 80% success is quite possible and will suffice just fine, just no one ever asked.

Closing Quotes:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead, 1901-1978

“Believing in negative thoughts is the single greatest obstruction to success.” – Charles F. Glassman, The Breakthrough That Will Change Your Life

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” – Colin Powell

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier