One of my colleagues, George Shamblin, recently wrote a blog titled, “A Lesson from Bison.” It had a wonderful illustration about cattle and bison:
The state of Colorado is divided almost exactly in half. In the western part of the state, you’ll find the Rocky Mountains. Towards the east is the Great Plains. Taken together, Colorado is one of the few places on earth where cattle and bison roam freely together. However, when a looming storm approaches, a significant distinction occurs between how each species reacts.
When cattle see a storm coming out of the west, they head east, trying to run away from it. Predictably, the storm eventually catches up to them. As they continue running east and the storm continues to travel east, all they’re doing is prolonging their time in the storm.
Bison, on the other hand, will do the exact opposite. When storms approach, they never run away from them. They run directly to and through them head-on. Their time within the storm is, therefore, significantly reduced. When faced with troubles, we respond more like cows than bison. I believe there’s a lesson in there for sure.
A question we all should consider is; “Do I run toward my problems or away from them?”
It has been almost thirty years since I read words from Jack Welch that had a real impact on my life. Welch took General Electric, a faltering home appliance company, and transformed it into one of the most successful conglomerates in the world. He retired in 2001, and since then the company has declined dramatically.
Welch became GE’s youngest CEO in 1982. As he sought to transform the company, he embraced a certain guiding principle that drove everything. These words really resonated with me:
“The key trait of a vital, dynamic corporation is looking reality (the truth) straight in the eye, and then acting on it with as much speed as possible.”
Welch says when he became CEO, he inherited a lot of great things, but facing the truth, particularly as it relates to problems, was not one of the company’s strengths. They had too much superficial congeniality and unrealistic optimism. This made candor extremely difficult to come by.
What I learned from Welch is that if you want to be a healthy person, have a healthy relationship or be a healthy organization, you have to run toward your problems and not away from them.
In his book The 12 Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson says if you want chaos in your life, don’t deal with your problems. Let them linger, pretend they don’t exist, or just ignore them.
People seem to have the belief that maybe if they don’t deal with the problem, maybe it will just go away. Unfortunately, a problem never just goes away. It slowly grows worse and often begins to compound in intensity. One day it busts forth in a way you can no longer ignore. The end result is generally chaos and misery.
If you have any problems or struggles you are not confronting, I challenge you to follow the instructions of Jack Welch.
“Look reality in the eye and act upon it with as much speed as you can.” It will keep chaos and misery out of your life. It is a key to living a healthy life.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.