When Good Blooms from Gloom


Two stories in The New York Times this weekend reminded me that good often blooms from gloom.  In “Detroit Goes from Gloom to Economic Bright Spot,” Bill Vlasic writes that the American automobile manufacturers are emerging from a near-death experience as leaner, more grounded, humbler, and more long-term oriented organizations.  In a different field altogether, that of men’s professional basketball, Scottie Pippen was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame yesterday.  Read about it in “Stepping Out of Jordan’s Shadow, Pippen to Enter Hall.”   I was inspired to learn about Pippen’s remarkable climb from humble origins and how he came back from an embarrassing episode that occurred years ago when he refused to play in a crucial game. Pippen learned from his mistake then moved on to become an even better player, leader and human being.

There is real wisdom in these stories.  As human beings, we are imperfect.  Good times often puff us up and develop hubris in our character (i.e., over-confidence, arrogance and the negative aspects of pride).  This applies to organizations as well as to individuals.  Tough times, on the other hand, as hard as they may be, are opportunities to develop the humility we need to thrive over the long-term.

How does humility help us thrive?  When we are humble, we are more likely to seek, listen to and consider the opinions and ideas of others.  Facing difficulties, we are more likely to reach out to God and to our family and friends for help rather than see ourselves as self-sufficient.  In a state of humility, we are more likely to develop a number of other character strengths such as kindness, graciousness, gratitude, patience and perseverance or fortitude.

Are you going through tough times?  If so, I suggest the following:

1. Devote time each day to prayer. When I pray, I like to focus on thanking God for the many blessings in my life and I pray for the needs of others as well as for wisdom in the important decisions I must make.

2. Make a list of things for which you are grateful. My wife’s list might include M&Ms, the color red, video chatting with our daughters, reading the newspaper in her pajamas, and having survived both breast and advanced ovarian cancer.  Counting our blessings gives us perspective.  The negativism of today can influence us so that, without our even being aware, we get caught up in it (a condition that sociologists describe as “emotional contagion”).

3. Spend time each day conversing and connecting with family members, friends and colleagues at work. Find out what’s going on in their lives.  If you face important decisions, talk them over with others to gain a balanced perspective.  This is a huge energizer for me (and I’m somewhat introverted).

4. Regularly reach out to help or encourage someone in need. Serving someone else is one of the best ways to lift your own spirit and the spirit of the people around you.  Just try it and you’ll see!

I know from experience that these four simple practices can make a difference in your attitude and behavior.  They will help you persevere through tough times, after which you will most likely emerge even better than you were before.  While these practices may or may not make you economically wealthier, they will most certainly bring you a wealth of even greater value.

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