Whether or not you observe Lent, the 40-day season between Ash Wednesday and Easter, you can understand the profound reality of life that it represents. Lent, from a word meaning “spring,” is a celebration of death and resurrection.
To get through a difficult and painful situation, our first instinct is to deny it’s happening, and to resist dealing with it.
But without winter, we can’t have spring. Without darkness, light can’t shine through. We cannot, as business people and as humans, avoid all darkness. It's an inevitable fact of life.
The best strategy is to embrace the darkness.
Too many horses spoil the city
The largest city in the world in 1894 was drowning in manure. Literally.
More than 50,000 horses transported people and goods around London each day. Imagine for a second: A horse can produce between 15-35 pounds of manure per day. Add to that urine, disease and putrefying equine carcasses on the streets.
The ‘Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894’ seemed to have no solution. The best minds weighed in, but the problem was only getting worse.
We know what happened next. Henry Ford.
Horse drawn buses were replaced by buses and electric trams. The manure crisis was over.
Something has to die whether we like it or not
If you asked the horse and buggy drivers to choose cars, they’d have resisted, as coal miners today are resisting the inevitable death of their industry. But we can't keep the problem alive and still have it solved.
Embracing the darkness helps us transcend the problem.
When we spy a problem on the horizon, we can pretend it’s not coming toward us for only so long. Netflix saw digital streaming in time to change its business model. Blockbuster did not. Uber knows driverless cars are the future and so it is developing one, in a race against Google. It is embracing the darkness by developing a Plan B.
Marketing expert Seth Godin says when we are in a “dip,” we are smart to quit when there is no way forward. That frees us to go in a different direction.
And sometimes there is no way to pivot so if we want to survive we must move forward and endure the consequences.
‘Why me?’ is a waste of time
When a challenge comes our way, we have a choice: Lamenting “why me?” or making peace with reality. The only way past a problem is often through the heart of it. The more you try to walk around something, the more tired you get. It’s easier and faster to just face it head on.
Death is a change that we cannot avoid. I like to think that death itself does not exist, that in fact we simply change form.
The paradox of transcendence is when we finally let go of something we think is indispensable, that our lives would be meaningless without, can be when we find the solution that we could never see before. The thing you resist can also be, miraculously, the thing that saves you, by bringing light into the situation.
It can be the time when we find ourselves.
Whatever problem you have, somebody else has solved it already. Sometimes you spend a great deal of time trying to reinvent the wheel when it’s already being produced.
Consider the message of Lent
Returning to the Lenten theme, Jesus’ followers were in despair when he said he was leaving them. They argued and pleaded with him not to go. When he died, they thought that was the end of his teachings. But as we now know, Jesus’ influence has changed the world.
And if you believe in the story of resurrection, his followers did get to see Jesus again, in a restored, perfect state. If you don't, consider it simply an allegory.
Sacrifice yourself for something greater, whether in your spiritual life or for a dream of building something on earth, and you will find yourself. That truth is eternal.
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