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Blog 140: Love The Hard Stuff

This blog is inspired by something that Dan Fleyshman said the other week. For those of you who don’t know Dan – and I’m going to guess that that is most of you let me give you the highlights.

Dan is the youngest founder of a publicly-traded company in history – at 19 years old he licensed his apparel company for 9.5 million dollars, and he hasn’t stopped there. He is a self-identified serial entrepreneur. You can find a link to Dan in the notes for this blog.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dan when we both spoke at a Speakeasy event last November hosted by Steve Sims. Steve wrote the book BLUEFISHING, which you have probably heard of especially at this time of year because it makes a lot of “best books I read this year” lists.

I’ve been paying attention to Dan since I met him and the other day, I watched a video of Dan’s, and he said something that inspired me. Again.

I’m going to paraphrase – Essentially, he said that he loves to go to work but only on the hard stuff. He said “I don’t want to hear about great news or profits or news about something else that has gone out the way, I want to hear about the problems. I want to hear about problems with leases, or supply issues. I want to hear about the hard stuff, I’m in love with the hard stuff.”

We tend to measure value and performance by what happens when everything is working p

erfectly. When there is no HARD STUFF. When we are top of our game and everything goes our way. Yet how people, organizations, companies, LEADERS, and everything else performs on their best day doesn’t teach us much.

Dan wouldn’t be Dan if all he was able to do was show up when it was easy.

A better indicator of anything’s worth is how it performs when things are hard, or even better when they are falling apart.

My dad summed this up quite nicely for me one day, without varnish, when I was in my late teens. “Son,” he said “When your house is full of food and your cupboard is full of booze, you have all the friends you need. When you have nothing, it’s those same two guys who keep showing up anyway who are the only two real friends you ever had.”

True friends are not fair weather and neither is anything else of value. You want to be able to rely on it. There can be no question. Although Dan didn’t say it this way, he could have said “Everyone who works for me or with me knows that they can count on me.”

I’ve noticed though that we tend to measure the value of something by how it performs under its best conditions.

Every financial advisor is a genius in a bull market.

Every CEO looks like a savant when their company is crushing their competition because they have something figured out that nobody else does.

Products and services are only as good as the help you get when they don’t work. How great is my car? When it is running like a top? Fantastic! What about when it’s broken down? Then my car is only as good as the person who answers the phone at the service desk and how they respond.

Leaders are measured (or should be …) by how they handle a crisis.

This is simple, or at least should be. Did they hide from it? Did they try to assign blame? Do they ignore information, do they sideline experts, or do they communicate clearly and assure everyone that they’ll make it better for everyone no matter what? Did the “Buck stop with them” or not?

The answer should be obvious, if you have to think about it or rationalize it then you already know they didn’t get it done.

When the marketplace shifts or there is disruption such as what we are living through today, does the CEO double down on a failing business model? Do they wilt under the heat of new competition or do they rise to the challenge and lead their people and fortunes out of the wilderness?

What about investors? Everyone is in for the long run so long as the market goes up every day.

Raising kids, having a happy marriage it’s all the same. Success rests on how you respond to the stuff that you’d rather avoid.

When it’s easy its easy, days and events blend into each other. But when you have a crisis, how you respond and what you say and how you handle yourself will be remembered forever.

You’re only as good as your worst day.

Not because what you do the rest of the time doesn’t matter, but because what you do on your worst day is impossible to fake. On your worst day, you reveal whether you’ve been planning for possible failure, and how prepared you are to tackle it.

Your plans and preparation – or your lack of any of it – show how much you care about the people who depend on you, and how you feel about the importance and necessity of your work.

Learn to love the hard stuff, it’s the only stuff that matters.

Be well,


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