Today is December 12 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “have you ever had someone light a fire under your ass?” American businessman and entrepreneur Walt Disney noted “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me….You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
While most of the Navigate the Chaos posts focus on what you can do, this is one reflection that allows you to stop and realize how you can use what happened to you as a strategy to move forward. It is unfortunate but sometimes, for reasons known and unknown, there are those that light a fire under your ass. How you respond can determine your ability to navigate the chaos. The challenge will be for you to decide how you want to use that fire. Do you want it to feed the flames of your dreams or, will you allow the fire to burn down your dreams? The choice is yours.
As Polly Rodriguez, 30, CEO of Unbound recalled in an interview “I got fired from my last startup via Google hangout in a Starbucks on my way to a doctor’s appointment. Like I literally had to get out of the cab and walk into a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi so that I could be let go. So, that didn’t feel great, but it ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened to me. At first it was terrifying, but then it was liberating to realize that I had a fresh start. Change is hard, and sometimes you need someone to light the fire under your ass to get to work.”
Nancy Koehn noted one unintended consequence of getting your ass kicked in her "Real Leaders Are Forged in Crisis" Harvard Business Review article when she wrote "real leaders are not born; the ability to help others triumph over adversity is not written into their genetic code. They are, instead, made. They are forged in crisis. Leaders become ‘real’ whey they practice a few key behaviors that gird and inspire people through difficult times."
Stories abound from now famous people who had someone light a fire up their ass. One example is Oprah Winfrey who was also fired early on in her career. A producer at Baltimore's WJZ-TV told Winfrey, then an evening news reporter, that she was "unfit for television news." He did offer her a consolation prize, however: a place on “People Are Talking,” a daytime TV show that Winfrey initially saw as a demotion ... until it took off and started her career in earnest.
As Jen Hubley Luckwaldt wrote in her November 20, 2019, article "5 Famous People Who Were Fired Before Becoming Successful," wrote “Before you accept your recent setback as an accurate assessment of your abilities, keep in mind that we live in a world in which Walt Disney was once fired for not being creative enough.” Luckwaldt goes on to detail how the Kansas City Star fired Disney in his early 20s. He then went on to launch Laugh-o-gram Studios, which went bankrupt in 1923. Only when Disney moved to Hollywood with his brother Roy and founded The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio did he find success with a new character, Mickey Mouse.
Winfrey and Disney responded to way so many people who had a fire lit under their ass responded, they moved on and created their destiny. They had the option to feel sorry for themselves. They had the option to close the world off and do nothing. They had the option to blame others for their life situation. But they choose another strategy. That is the key to understanding what to do when someone lights a fire up your ass. Listen to the universe. What is it saying to you? Is it saying to feel sorry for yourself, close off the world, or blame others? Hopefully not. If you hear the universe whisper in your ear ‘now that a fire has been lit under your ass, go create your destiny and the life you envision,’ then go do that. You have the option, after all, of choosing how to respond. It is up to you.
How do you respond when someone lights a fire under your ass?
Do you realize how the adversity in your life strengthened you?
Do you agree with the research finding that real leaders are not born and are instead, made?
How often do you remind yourself that leaders are forged in crisis?