I recall growing up that I had the impression that life would be like building a house. You start with a foundation (mostly education), then add the walls (get a job, get married, etc.), then put on the roof (have kids, get a house, etc) and then you are done.

Maybe this came from watching too many Disney cartoons and seeing that no matter what, they always seem to live happily ever after.

Having worked with countless individuals and having lived somewhat myself, I am now certain that life is a lot more like snakes and ladders than it is like building a house.

For most, it consists of calm periods interspersed with difficult times / setbacks and times of elevated joy and opportunity. Here are three simple ideas that I would like to leave you with that apply equally to our personal and professional lives:

1. Accept that you will have setbacks and failures. When they happen, don’t beat yourself up, but also don’t be too quick to point to people and things outside of your control as the cause.

Figure out your part of the problem, what you will do differently next time, and if you negatively affected someone else, admit it, apologise and move on. People routinely underestimate the very significant cost of having standards for oneself that are too high. On the other hand, people who deal productively with their own mistakes and setbacks tend to have higher potential and lead more productive lives.

2. When things are calm and coasting, don’t become complacent. Complacency sank the Titanic, caused many air disasters and can have the same effect on our lives and businesses.

Our professional and personal life does not stand still just because you keep doing the same things, and will tend deteriorate over time if our actions (or lack thereof) accumulate liabilities.

3. When things are going well, savour it, but don’t get addicted. I remember working with a CEO that said to his team “this company grows at 40% a year and we WILL keep doing that” (the growth predictably stopped eventually and he was very hard on the team).

When things are going well, make sure you recognize the people and environmental factors that helped you get there, in addition to your own actions. Ask yourself what you can do to get more of it. But don’t expect good times to last forever – this is not life and only leads to deep disappointment.

One of my favourite tunes is “Jogo Da Vida” by a locally based Brazilian Musician and friend, Celso Machado. Translated to English, this means the “game of life” and the theme is that rather than to expect a perfect life, it is better to learn to play the game.

Russel Horwitz, Principal