As I write this on September 10, I think about how life trains you by presenting opportunities to grow. Generally, you recognize them because during those times, you are placed outside of your comfort zone, under normal circumstances, or are totally thrown off your normalcy parameters, in extreme cases. When these opportunities are embraced, you become more resourceful. If you seek these opportunities, which you can do in the seemingly regular or routine times of your life, you force yourself to become more resilient. In the cases when you are unexpectedly thrown off, you become more than resourceful, you forge character, willpower and determination. You are transformed. These two training scenarios occur naturally, the first by choice, the second by destiny. They both help select successful survivors, in the latter case, when destiny intervenes, or successful entrepreneurs, when embraced by choice. In my mind, this is what explains to me the close relationship between entrepreneurs and survivors. They are only separated by a few notches in the character traits continuum.
A year ago, today, I was picking up the pieces and confronting the difficulties left in the aftermath of hurricane Irma’s pass through South Florida. After decades of storms and multiple hits, I had reached the point of resourcefulness where the issues I had to deal with on September 10 where in all fairness no more than a nuisance. We knew it was coming, we had been through many before, we were ready. In the great scheme of things, 10 days without power, knowing with certainty that you have all you need because you planned it that way, and that normalcy would return soon, helped reason and optimism prevail.
Seventeen years ago, today, life was very good, I had just been visited by my sister from NYC and my brother and his family from overseas, and we had spent some great times down in the Florida Keys. None of us knew or could have planned for what was to be the most defining day of our lives up to then, only a few hours away in the future.
As I fielded calls the morning of September 11, 2001 from my parents, siblings, relatives and friends with no answers, a big portion of our current character was being transformed in the process. The events of that day partitioned our lives into two volumes, where we only had expected one for the long run. My sister made it out of 1 WTC around 10 am, but we did not find out until close to 11 am, after both towers had fallen. The uncertainty, the surprise, the chaotic unreasonableness brought in by destiny germinated the seeds of what we all were to become later that day, for the rest of our lives.
In the worst case, faced with situations such as these, and hopefully not for long, we become traumatized and diminished by the sense of powerlessness. In the best case, and most certainly in the long run, we become better at distilling the true sense of who and why we are, what and who we value, and why we do the things we do and lead the lives we live. We become experts at deciding how we invest our time, who we associate with, which battles are worth picking, and what we teach our sons and daughters. In our given families and in our chosen communities, we master banding together to build the future.
I was taught early on that there are those that love and build, and then there are others that hate and destroy. Transformed by choice or by destiny, entrepreneurs and survivors are builders. In your life project, choose correctly with a bright future in mind.