“Why do you want to visit Europe?” asked a colleague several months before our trip commenced. “I want to see old stuff” was my unsophisticated response. In May 2015, Cheryl and I enjoyed a whirlwind trip for a belated 30th Wedding Anniversary. We visited 11 cities in 33 days and I indeed achieved my goal.
“What’s the fascination?” you may ask. Well, nothing seems to last anymore. Whitegoods, furniture, electronics, even houses today seem to be drawn toward a life-sucking vortex; a black hole of ever-diminishing existence. I wanted to see things that were old; built to last. The Wailing Wall, the Colosseum, St Peter’s Basilica – ah, they were amazing! Even a major fail like the leaning tower of Pisa has lasted longer than our best modern buildings. I even doubt that the efforts of millions of tourists holding up the tower over the years had much to do with that!
In their landmark work “Built to Last” Collins and Porras studied hundreds of businesses to determine what positioned the few for greatness and longevity. What I found fascinating about their findings was that many ran counter to today’s purported key success factors. I guess that’s why most businesses don’t survive beyond a generation. Rather than pinning their hopes on a charismatic, visionary leader, the “Built to Last” businesses seemed to share some common business DNA that enabled them to thrive and survive. Like the leaning tower of Pisa, most started out as failures, learnt humility and resilience and only then, became great.
Each of the “Built to Last” businesses had a reason for being that transcended their quarterly financial statements and an obsession with shareholder returns. Whether it was to serve customers, engage employees, take risks or be innovative, their core ideologies inspired people to get on board and support greatness.
Another thing they all did well was to preserve their core ideology while stimulating change. They never forgot their roots or compromised their core beliefs and values. Simultaneously, they drove improvement and change with passion and vigour. Very interesting – this coalescence of contrarieties (control versus freedom). I’m sure it will pop up again.
Most of us don’t run large businesses. We may be self-employed, a regular employee or a working mum. We may even be retired and sailing around Greek islands. Whichever it is, we are in the business of building something. Whether it’s our own business, our family, our relationships or ourselves, we need to ask: are we living for the next payday, the next thrill or something more lasting? Are we building a house of straw or a legacy that will stand the test of time?
Extreme consumerism and the media seem to be conspiring against humanity. Like the Terminator flying robots, they attempt to hunt us down and imprison us with self-obsession and debt. It may feel as though you are alone in this struggle. But there will always remain a remnant. Where is John Connor (JC)? While JC is alive, there is always hope.