There are moments of disaster, and (sometimes) years of redemption. Some individuals enjoy brief moments of fame, then crash back to reality. Stable, steady, comfortable lives end up in upheaval and crisis; and (seemingly more rarely) individuals overcome adversity, push on, resolving their challenges, and achieve enduring success.
There’s no doubt that life for us both as individuals and businesses can take significant turns for better or worse. And the stories — both immediate news items and longer-term (and often quieter) tales — remind us that both success and failure can be fleeting occurrences.
As an example, I recently met someone who’s enjoyed the best of times, the worst of times, and again the best of times. The the worst occurred when he suddenly seemed to disappear from extended family communications, until I uncovered an article in the Wall Street Journal reporting on criminal charges. His wife divorced, and he spent a few years in a U.S. federal prison. But he connected and married again, and rebuilt his business, and now his latest bout of publicity had nothing to do with criminal charges, but massive local municipal tax assessments on his mansion.
We’ve seen the Hollywood-style fall from grace of Harvey Weinstein, offset by Donald Trump’s ability to (at least so far) to overcome scandal as the US president. Meanwhile, I see a middle-aged man in the Ottawa storage facility’s office workspace each day. We’re both there because of cheap rent and rather effective service. But he’s unemployed and doesn’t have any reasonable hope of a new steady job anytime soon, as I am about to make business decisions affecting my companies’ employees.
Piecing these threads together, you can see the world has uncertainties. You can learn and apply lessons, and mitigate risk, but there are times when the unexpected happens and the stories take turns that you couldn’t originally expect.
I think the key to success — and the ability of the people in “down” situations to recover and not end up in the gutter — relates to their ability to face their circumstances, take true responsibility for their errors, and retain and adapt their talents to the circumstances they encounter. (And in many cases, they probably could have avoided trouble in the first place if they had maintained their moral and ethical code — though I don’t think the unemployed gentleman next to me has committed any moral crimes.)
The advice here from a marketing perspective: Don’t take your success for granted or assume invincibility. Yet remember there are plenty of stories of individuals who have slipped, failed (often miserably) and recovered. While most of us won’t change the world, we can all take responsibility for our own decisions.