In my younger days, after majoring in computer science and mathematics at a university in South Africa, I found myself, after a brief career on the technical side in mainframe computing, working as a sales rep for a large multi-national computer company selling mainframe computer solutions to corporate clients. I was earning a huge income but, whilst the working environment supported growth in business skills, it didn’t really encourage growth in principles and values. I became frustrated and dis-satisfied with the concept of working long hours day after day, just for the money, without the essence of my character being challenged on a continuous basis.
From an early age I had always sort out ways to improve and get better at whatever it was I was doing – from sport to my personal and professional life – but I found myself being sucked along in a career path that was intensely money focused that could potentially become soul destroying if I didn’t change direction. I made a conscious decision to figure out the characteristics of a challenging environment that were conducive to personal growth and development.
When I began my trading journey and then later creating Share Wealth Systems, my objectives included putting my corporate and other experiences, skills and knowledge to good use to create an environment that stimulated deep personal thinking about core values, in an ongoing manner, for all those that became involved with my journey. What I have discovered is that actively investing in the financial markets is one of, if not the, best mediums for challenging personal growth.
The focus areas I identified and have since adapted that stimulate growth are:
Have a purpose
Purpose drives everything, every waking moment, but especially when the path becomes rocky and almost unnavigable. Purpose motivates and inspires “when all those about you are losing their heads and blaming it on you.”
Purpose sees and finds a way ahead when all around you are telling you that all is lost. Purpose is the wellspring of hope, the inspiration source to innovate and create, the energy source to persevere and endure with the tough tasks, the source of focus to sweat your big stuff, the source of strength to “hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will that says to your heart and nerve and sinew: ‘Hold On!’ ”.
In the ‘first world’ suburbs of relative affluence we all too often avoid searching for our purpose because it’s difficult and touchy stuff especially when our perceived basic needs are supposedly taken care of and, what’s more, there is a new app to download while I attend to the small things that have hi-jacked my life.
The need to learn from the experiences of others
In the late 1990’s I visited my father’s eldest brother at an old age home in South Africa. He was the only living brother of four. We shared some family stories of the kind that only seem to be touched on when one instinctively knows, without saying so, that this will highly likely be the last time together. Just before I left, Uncle Stan showed me a hand written note that contained a quote that he had lived his successful life by, passed onto him by my grandfather: “Smart people learn from their own mistakes but wise people learn also from other peoples’ mistakes.”
Whilst it is possible to learn and grow in isolation, it is far more efficient and productive to learn from mentors and teachers who have already trodden the same path. Taking from the accomplishments of a mentor hastens the learning curve and helps avoid some of the pitfalls and perils along the way. It also provides support during the tough times to know that someone else has been there before and like them, if you persevere, you will pull through.
However, most cannot bring themselves to learn from the experiences of others because of personal ego and pride.
To grow inwardly you must look outwardly
Purpose must be others-centered, not self-centered. When you focus on what you need to do for others, then what you need to do to and for yourself to achieve this focus will merely become a stepping stone along the way to take you beyond your current self.
Outward looking provides perspective, the bigger picture if you like, rather than just seeing your own little tiny world.
Outward looking breeds gratefulness for what you have rather than envy and frustration for what you don’t have or have lost. It breeds empathy and humbleness.
Outward looking overcomes the magnifying of your own personal issues in such a profound way that it solves them through seeing other ways, opportunities and hope.
Continual challenges are a part of life
In every area of our lives we are continually challenged. There is no ‘status quo’. We don’t learn when all is ‘plain sailing’ and we are comfortably wrapped up in our comfort zone; we only grow in a meaningful way when in the cauldron of pressure, when who we are is stress tested outside of what is easy for us to do.
You may have read the old anonymous English proverb before: “A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner.” I have used it many times over the years in presentations. But you may not have read the continuation of this piece: “The storms of adversity, like those of the ocean, rouse the faculties and excite the invention prudence skill and fortitude of the voyager.”
We need challenges to blossom and flourish. Just as in nature the windward side of a reef which struggles against strong currents and bashing waves develops strength and grows full of colour compared to the leeward side which is sheltered from the challenges of the open ocean and is dull and weak from the debris of the windward side.
“If your vision doesn’t scare you it is not big enough.” Angus Buchan.
Maintain a forward focus
What happened yesterday is history. We need to learn and adapt from our experiences – our successes and our mistakes – but not dwell on them.
There is only one way to overcome the scars and regrets of the past and that is forgiveness. Forgive yourself and others. Forgiveness clears the eyes to allow forward looking to enable recognising current and future opportunities without one’s vision being clouded by past failures and emotional hurts.
It is more important to learn how to conquer the next challenge, than to worry about the last one.
Do the ‘right’ thing
All too often we are tempted to purposely do the ‘wrong’ thing, to take a short cut, to break a rule, to misrepresent, to be quick to anger and slow to listen.
Of course, this requires a neutral definition of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ which is almost impossible in this world of biases. However, there will be many times that we do know the difference and it is at these times that we need to grow and resist the temptation. If we are unsure we should put some effort into research to discern ‘right’ from ‘wrong, as best that we can.
The more times that we are tested to do the ‘right’ thing and actually resist doing the ‘wrong’ thing the more we will improve our processes, values and principles; that is, the more we will grow.