Leadership Competencies

Life is not a straight line

Last summer I was in Seattle for the wedding of a nephew.  I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of my best friends in life whom I have known since high school, Jim McNally.  Jim has had a good life, a successful career, and is an icon in his community where he served as an educator and senior administrator for most of his career.  He has enjoyed what one might consider a good life.

We talked about the good times, happy memories and old friends. It was the usual banter between those who have experienced significant parts of their lives together. It felt good to spend the time and share the current moment with him.

Then, as is usual with people over 50, we talked about the loss of our parents and other family members and friends. We complained of aches and pains. We reflected about the extraordinary health difficulties a couple of our school mates were currently having. We were both touched by grief and sadness and loss.

“Life is not a straight line,” were the words that Jim softly spoke. He delivered them calmly and carefully like a polished actor or the experienced educator that he is.  He let the words settle and sink in.

Our life plan

We all grow up with great life plans. We pick our schools, our careers, look for the right spouse and plan to have perfectly healthy, intelligent, good looking and successful children. Our plan includes financial success and most probably some admiration from at least the local community. And in our biggest dreams, we are famous at some level and have several celebrities’ phone numbers and contact information on our personal phones.

Real life happens

But of course, life is full of difficulties. Bad things happen to good people. Car accidents, wild fires, floods, tornadoes and economic downturns really are a part of everyday life.  Even people who seem to lead charmed lives (like the ones in our life plan) have some sort of personal difficulties, challenges and adversity.

It’s how we deal

My good friend and fellow Vistage Chair, Rick Itzkowich told me one day,  “Bad things happen to everybody. What matters is how we deal with those bad things.”  He was right.

Attitude matters

Attitude is everything.  Attitude separates the great employee from a mediocre one. Our “best” friends always bring light into our lives. We like to be around positive people. A positive attitude helps us all overcome and get through the tough moments in life.

Celebrate the good

Be the positive light. Shine brightly for your employees and family. Find gratitude.   Count your blessings and celebrate the good events, times and people in your life.  Surround yourself with employees and friends who bring that positive energy with them wherever they go, especially in the dark times we all have.

No, life is not a straight line – but it can be very good, even with a bump or two.

Now please excuse me, I have to go and count my blessings.

Category: Leadership Competencies

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About the Author: Michael Malone

Michael Malone has spent more than 41 years in the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve. He has been a CEO and senior executive in several technology companies, and has been a Vistage Chair since 2005. You can learn more about becoming …

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  1. Dave Kramer

    February 21, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Thanks, Mike. This is very much on point for keeping the long view in mind. We get wrapped up in the daily priorities and forget that lifetime resilience is the ultimate key.

  2. Lawrence Venable

    April 7, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    I don’t agree. Attitude is not everything, it’s only about 90 percent.

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