top of page

To COMPLAIN or to OBTAIN - That is the Question

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they cant find them, make them.- I love this excellent quote penned by George Bernard Shaw.

How does this thinking link with the ambiguous and often tremendously difficult circumstances the ‘new economy’ challenges us with on a daily basis? There are a few sub questions that flow from a macro question such as this one.

1. What is our role in resolving or embedding circumstances that may arise and challenge us to our very core?

2. Are circumstances to be overcome, destroyed or can they be used as ignition material for the next great thing?

3. How does personal resolve and adaptability work to help us in difficult circumstances?


QUESTION 1: Numerous interesting studies have asked the questions related to our involvement with our experience of external stimuli and what our role in the outcomes will be. One of the most famous contributors in this area of research must be Viktor Frankl author of Man’s search for meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. Frankl, Viktor (1959). Man's Search for Meaning. ISBN 9780807014295.

In his book Frankl describes the ambiguity and difficulty of the concentration camp experience he lived through during the Second World War, which was marked by hyper competition for survival, high ambiguity and a general disengagement, by inmates.

According to Frankl people would pass through 3 distinct stages when faced with the reality of this difficult circumstance:

(1) Shock during the initial admission phase to the camp, (2) apathy after becoming accustomed to camp existence, in which the inmate values only that which helps himself and his friends survive, and (3) reactions of depersonalization, moral deformity, bitterness, and disillusionment if he survives and is liberated.

Frankl’s answer to these stark realities faced by the prisoners was that people who used the following formula did a lot better at coping with the circumstances that they faced. “ Identify a purpose in life [work] to feel positively about, and then immersively imagine an outcome.” According to Frankl the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. Frankl concluded that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living, life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering.

How can this type of methodology help us deal better with the circumstances we are faced with on a daily basis – endless KPI’s, harsh economic realities and never ending deadlines? The key lies in never being deceived into believing that we are not in control of our destiny nor our meaning – we are always in control it is a choice.


QUESTION 2: Many people see challenges and difficult circumstances as things to be conquered and destroyed. Using a euro-centric paradigm of conquer and subdue to ‘overcome’ and triumph. Strangely many years ago as a student martial artist I learnt that in fact a negative external stimuli commonly known as a strike or punch could be the start of something quite amazing – and by that I am not referring to a black eye!

In my mind I was always ready to accept and deal with a punch to the face – but it was after quiet contemplation and much training that I learnt in fact the energy that starts with the negative stimuli (punch/kick/staff blow) if channeled correctly will aid you in defending and creating a solution to the current problem. In Kung Fu this is known as the art of tactically yielding. What does this mean?

In essence and without becoming too esoteric it involves timing and weight shifting to achieve a result. Following a technique to enhance blending in a smooth and graceful way to neutralize the attacking force allowing you to take advantage can be done with timing and technique, amazingly without yielding to the force.

So what in our current circumstances can we use to ‘power us up’ what seemingly terrible energy can we artfully use to start our new adventure or energise us to our next opportunity? What weight shifting and technique can we use in our work lives to make and think breakthrough results. The counter intuitive nature of this philosophy is sometimes difficult to grasp but once you have avoided a punch to the face and used the resultant energy to your own benefit you will agree with me.


QUESTION 3: So far we have spoken about mindset as well as the need to maneuver with technique. What I want to touch on briefly here is the concept of generative possibility. What do I mean by generative possibility? In a nutshell when referring to generative processes I am encompassing a raft of behaviors that aid and enhance personal creativity and resolve. Why is necessity the mother of invention? Simply put when you need to figure something out bad enough you usually do!

The key here is to short circuit this process of suffering that leads to the breakthrough by fostering a generative internal eco system within yourself. Generativity involves using simple techniques to increase the viability of creative problem solving. To take a leaf out of feedback loops for instance. How many people freeze when faced with difficult circumstances due to the perception that there is a lot to lose? Using feedback loop methodology sometimes employed by serial entrepreneurs can be one of the ways we mitigate and resolve our thinking to move forward in the face of challenging circumstances. Nature and life are full of feedback loops and the idea in business to use them to quickly gain feedback of the real situation and adjust course to bring equilibrium is a powerful lesson we can learn from nature. See: for an explanation of feedback loops in nature – you can extrapolate this methodology for your specific circumstances as well.

So in conclusion what are we saying? To OBTAIN –

1. We need to manage our own minds and visualize the future we want to see and create internal energy around it

2. We need to learn how to use the negative energy emanating from a situation or circumstance to our benefit almost like an ignition tool, and -

3. We need to create a generative possibility within our lives where we harness the power of feedback loops to speed up creative processes and act with decisiveness.

NOW go and OBTAIN!


bottom of page