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When bad is good

Nik Govier spoke at the PRCA 2018 National Conference. She's shared a summary of her presentation on When Wrong is Right below.

We live in crazy times – a madman is the leader of the free world and Brexit is messing with all our minds.  If that’s the macro view, even from a micro perspective things are pretty warped. Projects that have been set in stone suddenly get cancelled and certainty seems to exist nowhere. So this seemed like a good topic to talk about in the context of Embracing Change.

For 20 minutes a few Friday’s ago I spent some time talking about some examples from history and my own personal history of when things on paper that looked bad in fact turned out to be great. The message within it all being that if you lean into the negative you can often end up in a better place than you’d been before.

Did you know that in the 1940s the one and only Lego factory in Denmark burnt down. Disaster? You’d think so, but from the ashes Ole (Lego's inventor) reinvented his business, switching from wood to plastic – and the rest is history. 

The modern pacemaker was invented by accident. Its creator kept failing on what he was trying to do and it took a long time for him to give up on that dream and realise that he’d inadvertently created something bigger. How many millions of lives have been saved because of him and his failure? 

And what about Walt Disney – bankrupt in his early 20s with $40 to his name. He paused, reassessed, and set off for LA with his meagre belongings and a star was born.

My personal favourite is Steve Jobs. He built Apple from nothing but in his late 20s had it ripped from him following a boardroom coup. He was publicly and personally humiliated. He took some time out and created two new business: Pixar and NeXT. NeXT was eventually brought by Apple and he ended up back on top. At the time it must have seemed like the end of the world, but what followed was actually a period of incredible creativity in which he learnt lessons that he’d never forget.

I’m dyslexic. For years I inadvertently hid this, so was undiagnosed and miscategorised as being stupid and lazy. Turns out I’m neither. As well as now seeing my dyslexia as a great asset (I can see things that others can’t), it’s also where my drive came from. I’ve spent my adult years proving those that doubted me, wrong. The disability was the making of me.

What’s the secret to dealing with adversity? I think it’s about combining grit, creativity, and self-belief. But it’s also about allowing yourself time to grieve. Sometimes we need to shout, scream, and rant. Get it out of your system but then lean into the problem. Where can we go now? What’s changed in the world? Could / should we be doing something different? Should we be looking at this from a totally different perspective? That disaster might just turn out to be the best thing that happened to you. 

View Nik's slides, and all the updates from the 2018 National Conference, here.