The best stories don’t start with the line, “Everything went exactly as I planned.”
Not only is it unrealistic, it’s boring.
If there’s no adversity, no challenges, no wackadoodle people to deal with, you’re not left with much of a story. You’re left with a statement. One that most people can’t relate to.
People do relate to the hero archetype. Think of every hero in every story you have ever heard – they needed to overcome some shortcoming to save the day. It’s a story we watch unfold over and over again. We relate to the hero and want to be the person who saves the day.
So, let me ask you this question – when was the last time you gave yourself an opportunity to overcome a career challenge?If you’re not open to adversity you’re missing out on developing important leadership skills. Click To Tweet
“Going through adversity you learn a lot about yourself – figure out how to react and move in situations.” Seattle Seahawks Cornerback Richard Sherman told me. “[You learn] how you affect others and how you can affect other situations.”
That comment came from a conversation Sherman and I had last year while I was preparing to write my latest book The Influential Conversationalist. He drew a quick comparison to how playing sports at any level develops leadership traits.
“Playing sports hardens you mentally in some ways and helps you deal with [adversity], because you deal with the lows,” Sherman explained. “If your team lost the game, or they’ve lost every game, you deal with how to cope with that in your everyday life. Then you deal with the other side: in winning a whole bunch of games, and making a game winning shot, and being successful. You understand that’s not final. That’s not definitive and you should treat them the same.”
“I think sports is a good parallel to life,” he continued, “and the unexpected things, and the adversity that can come during your lifetime and how you react to that. Every time you reach adversity you can choose to react a certain way, and how you react defines your path.”
Nearly 12 months after that conversation, Sherman is dealing with his own adversity. He ruptured his Achilles tendon in the Seahawks win against Arizona. His season is done and he faces a long recovery.
After the game, I walked over to give Sherman a hug. Both of us choked back tears as he said, “Jen, you know I’m gonna come back from this.”
Sherman is facing adversity, preparing to overcome challenges and play the hero in his own story.
You should be giving yourself a chance to do the same. You might not want to face adversity or acknowledge you’re going to be anything but brilliant at work. Trust me (and Sherman). You need to fail. You need to have the opportunity to make mistakes, develop a way to bounce back and become better as a result.
I recommend finding ways to fail as part of a career development strategy. It’s in Chapter 6 of The Influential Conversationalist and available as a free download right here. You’ll get practical advice from the Seahawks and ways to identify your next biggest career opportunity.
You’ll also be in position to tell an interesting story and become the hero of your own career.
Jen Mueller is The Influential Conversationalist, as well as the radio sideline reporter for the Seattle Seahawks. Jen founded Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and teaches business professionals how to make sports conversations useful in business. Hire Jen for an outside-the-box approach to business communication Jen@TalkSportytoMe.com