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2012: The Year of the Courageous

2012: The Year of the Courageous Leslie Kossoff

I tend to keep away from doing the “New Year Predictions” thing – but this year I’m making an exception. I’ve decided to make one prediction for next year: 2012 is The Year of the Courageous.

What got me thinking about it – and naming it that way – was reading the transcript and seeing the video of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech to the graduating class at Barnard College.

Speaking to an all-woman class, the topic she took on – and with which I agree – is that the next generation of women need to make different and better decisions as future leaders than their predecessors.

The speech was inspiring. But it was even more than that – and it’s the “more” that led me to think about the courage it will take now more than ever, for both men and women to succeed in creating the life and career they want.

Late in the speech, when she talked about the obstacles women put in their own way because they convince themselves that they won’t succeed even before those obstacles appear, her advice was:

“Do not leave before you leave. Do not lean back; lean in.”

That’s when 2012 became, for me, The Year of the Courageous.

Why now? Why is 2012 different? Simple. It’s because, after having gone through the past few years – which are like no others the world has seen in generations – you have to get beyond your and others’ fears. You have to believe that you can succeed – and then act in accordance with that belief.

The Myth of Better Times

I began my executive advisory business after what was known as “Black Monday” in 1987. Everyone told me that it was the worst possible time to choose to leave a comfy senior position in corporate America to go out on my own. That my dream of being an entrepreneur was all well and good – but that I should wait until times were “better” to begin living that dream.

I didn’t listen. To my way of thinking, starting out when things couldn’t have been worse couldn’t have been a better decision. After all, if the odds were completely stacked against me, I’d know whether I had what it took to create the business I envisioned.

Almost 25 years and innumerable economic cycles later, I still say it was the right decision. I have travelled the world and worked with executives and entrepreneurs who simultaneously challenged me (as I was challenging them) and gave me the joy of seeing their and my success.

It’s no different now. This year I co-founded an e-publishing business – when everyone continues to tell me to wait and see how the global economy pans out. Or how the Big Boy publishing houses adapt to all things ‘e.’ Or for any number of other reasons they put forward in what they say are my best interests.

But, if you look closely, what you see in those well-intentioned thoughts are two things. First, everything they note of concern is out of my control. I can't do anything about any of it.

Second, they are expressing their fears. Not mine.

So the answer is no. Don’t wait. There’s no such thing as a “better” time – because, no matter what the economic cycle, there are always obstacles to success. There are even more reasons we and others give ourselves to fail - or worse, to not even try.

That’s why what Ms. Sandberg said struck such a chord for me. That’s the underlying message she gave to all those women just as they are starting their professional lives:

Don’t be scared. Don’t convince yourself – or let anyone else convince you – that you won’t succeed. Don’t stop yourself before you ever start.

2012 is going to be a difficult year. There’s no getting around it. But, for the courageous - women and men, both - it will be a year when you see yourself as you want to be – in many cases, possibly more than you thought you could be.

Be brave. Pursue and fulfill your dreams. There’s no better time than now.

Tags: China , EU , financial crisis , regulation , sovereign debt , Spain , UK , US
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