Come Together in the Struggle!

Napoleon Hill once famously said, “Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” I will follow that quote with another quote by Chadwick Bosemen, he said, “The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”  In essence, while good intentions, excitement, and a will-to-work together as a community are quite necessary, ultimately it is coming together in a common struggle that usually yields the greatest transformation.

Few communities understand the struggles they face. Change is typically viewed as unsettling.  It is downright disruptive to the average person who usually prefers certainty over change.   Unfortunately, most companies and communities are ill equipped to cope with major disruption.  In fact, most when faced with disruption and the need to change, tend to double down on old-fashioned thinking and put-up protective walls hoping the disruption will pass them by.  In today’s economic and business climate, this is a sure path to irrelevance and destruction.

While at times things may appear normal, we are in the most economically disruptive period in our lifetime. This disruption isn’t just a local or national issue, it is worldwide making it unique to most of us.  We are struggling with the remnants or aftermath of a pandemic which brought supply chain issues, revenue declines, shoppers opting to stay home and businesses reeling from all the above.  At the same time, information is available to us in seconds.  We can shop from our couch and communicate with friends around the globe in seconds.  These competing realities bring us both the “best” and “worst” of times.

Struggling against economic disruption is not easy, few are up to the challenge. Many are surprised to hear that 87% of Fortune 500 companies in 1955 no longer exist today, in large part due to failing to deal with disruptive forces.  Today, the disruptive forces weighing heavily on communities and businesses are only in the beginning stages, this disruption will intensify.  E-commerce will increase, wages will accelerate, shortages will continue, and inflation will remain a challenge.  Companies and communities have fewer resources to call upon while potential disruptions continue to mount.

When faced with disruptive struggles, what should communities do?  First, they must recognize the struggles they face. One of the biggest reasons those Fortune 500 companies are no longer around is that they remained faithful, clinging to their previously successful business models.  They failed to take seriously or fully understand the true danger or struggle they faced until it was too late.

To overcome disruptive forces, companies and communities must switch from slow and plodding approaches to transformation and revitalization of their company or community to certain and swift action.  They must come together, outlining the cause of the disruption.  They must determine if they should fight the disruption or should they marshal the forces of the disruption to their advantage.  Both can be effective.  At times a combination of the two approaches could be the answer.

One thing is certain, doing what has been done in the past will not work.  It will be more about not getting it exactly right all the time but being less wrong than you were before.  Mastering new techniques and innovations isn’t about getting it perfect or right the first time, remember, perfect is the enemy of great. The trick is moving quickly on many fronts knowing that if you fail on one of those fronts, you will fail quickly, cheaply and move on learning from your mistakes.

Those resistant to change are the biggest roadblocks to success.  Many don’t have the DNA of change and will always resist.  Seek for those in your community willing to boldly lead change. They are the only ones that will provide hope. Look for those leaders seeking new paths and directions, they at least understand the severity of the situation.  It is a race against time, the clock determining winners and losers in the new economic business climate has already started. If your community hasn’t left the starting blocks, do so, it isn’t too late, yet.

As always, balance is still the key, there are many traditional approaches to issues that are still viable options.  Often, it will be a few of traditional methods sprinkled in or combined with new approaches that spell success. The message most important to understand is that now is not the time to meander.  Now is the time to unite in a common struggle and using the struggle to unite and move forward with a winning strategy.

John Newby is a nationally recognized Columnist, Publisher, Community, Business, Media, Strategic Consultant & Speaker. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column is enjoyed by 60+ communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists community and business leaders in building synergies that create vibrant communities. He can be reached at:

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