Sir Winston Churchill has always been one of my heroes. His leadership talents saved the world from Hitler’s scourge, and his ability to inspire was unmatched, leading to numerous famous quotations, such as the one above often attributed to him. Given what we have all experienced since March 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, Sir Winston’s admonition certainly fits our present situation. The pandemic has significantly altered the playing field both personally and professionally for all of us. In business, we have seen both great success and, sadly, tremendous struggle. No matter which end of the spectrum we find ourselves on, we are well advised to remember Sir Winston’s words.
The pandemic delivered substantial business opportunity and success to some parts of the economy. If you are employed (or servicing) the grocery supply chain, you experienced unprecedented growth. By any measure, this needs to be considered a success story. However, as Sir Winston cautions, it’s best not to take your eye off the ball. We remain in an incredibly fluid situation that can trigger change very quickly. Not to mention the ever-present competitive environment. History has shown us that wherever business success occurs there will be a substantial urgency to join the party. We have seen this principle played out ever since the gold rush. So, if business growth has been your COVID-19 experience, keep up the good work, remain focused and continue to innovate towards future success.
If, unfortunately, you found yourself on the other side of the spectrum, experiencing substantial business stress and potentially even business failure, take heart in Sir Winston’s admonition. Failure is not final.
Just one example of the disaster brought on by COVID-19 is the barbershop/salon business. Largely operated by small owner-operators, they have been virtually shut down. If this is your story, remember you have a track record of previous success and accomplishment, you have a network to draw upon and, hopefully, the energy to continue. Perhaps most importantly, you can summon the courage to continue.
If you find yourself on the wrong side of the economic ledger, it can be very helpful to look for encouragement from those who have faced even more difficult circumstances in life and then succeeded.
One such story comes from Wilma Rudolph. Born prematurely in the 1940s, she endured an extremely difficult childhood that included pneumonia, scarlet fever and infantile paralysis caused by the polio virus, which left her disabled and wearing a leg brace. With enormous courage and incredible support from her parents, she not only overcame her disability but went on to play basketball throughout her school years and trained to become a competitive runner. Determined to succeed despite the odds, she enrolled at Tennessee State University where she was so successful, she won a spot at the 1960 Olympics. And from there she made history to become the first African American woman to ever win three gold medals in a single Olympics. One can only imagine the courage it took for Wilma Rudolph to continue. Surely there were days when it seemed impossible and yet she literally kept putting one foot in front of the other.
So, if 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic dealt you a tough blow, take heart and look for that courage deep within.