A few days ago, I was sitting with the CEO of a medium-sized manufacturing company talking through our 2018 strategic roadmap, when he asked an interesting question, “Why have so many of my best decisions been the ones few others understand at first?”
I smiled, and reflected on his question for myself. Memories flooded in:
As a child, I was prohibited from playing organized sports. My father believed any distraction from academics would harm my college chances. I started living on my own at 14, and decided I wanted to wrestle. Three years later, I skipped my senior year of high school to attend the #1-ranked academic college in the U.S… because I was good at wrestling.
When I was 28 years old, I turned down a million-dollar-a-year consulting offer to do writing and volunteer work in South and Central America. Friends and family believed I’d lost my mind. Four people even referred me to their therapists. Three years later, from Peru, I co-founded Avanoo. Today, those people tell me they never had a doubt.
Last year, my wife and I sat in a doctor’s office, and were told – after too many losses – that we shouldn’t try to get pregnant anymore. Due to a one-in-millions chromosomal abnormality I’d inherited, the odds were near-impossible. My wife didn’t agree. On September 2, 2017 our daughter Luna Bela Jacobs was born.
I thought about the person in front of me – a genuinely good man. I’ve worked with him for years, and I know his spirit. He wants to make a difference in his employees’ lives. But sometimes it’s difficult for him… because making a difference often means taking risks.
“Would you mind if I share with you as a person rather than as an expert?” I asked.
“That’s what I want,” he said. “I want to know what you think.”
“When we believe so much in something that we’re willing to live with a father’s disappointment, or a friend group disappearing, or an expert smirking at our naivete… then we are willing to do what it takes to beat the odds. And I’d take will over odds any day!”
The CEO smiled and nodded. “I agree,” he said. Then we continued our planning.
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