Embrace a tough environment? Why would you do that?


Ever been in a really tough spot in your career? Have you ever been forced to work in a group where the team argued most of the time? Did you get passed up for that promotion and raise? Is there distrust in the workplace culture? I’m sure we’ve all been in tough environments and our first instinct is to escape. We wish we could fast forward to the end and see how it turns out. Let me tell you a story about tough environments.

I heard a story about a man who was taking a trip with his family to some tropical islands. There was a large amount of beautiful scenery to be seen on this trip, so without hesitation, he rented a helicopter ride for a portion of the vacation. He truly wanted his family to experience the islands in all their splendor.

As the helicopter began making its way around the first island, the pilot was carefully to explain all of the things they were observing. Some things did not need explanation, like beautiful sandy beaches, forests that stretched across the middle of the island and a magnificent twin waterfall. But one thing caught the man’s eye and he couldn’t get it out of his head.

He saw what appeared to be a sandbar just off the Northside of one these sandy beaches. The sandbar, the pilot would explain, was a large coral reef. This coral was so massive that it actually protected the beach from the onslaught of powerful waves. The kind of waves surfers live for and little kids dream about. The pilot went on to explain that the resort was built there purposely to take advantage of the coral reefs protection. Through the crystal clear water, he noticed two very distinct type of coral and it puzzled him. The coral on the island side was a type that was brown and very plain looking. It almost looked dead. The coral on the oceanside was a type that was large and full of color. It looked exciting and alive. The man couldn’t figure out how two different types of coral would be perfectly separated, surely there must have been some overlap. The pilots explanation made sense.

The pilot said that the man was looking at the same type of coral on both sides of the reef. The coral on the island side was in the calm water. Without the stress of wind, waves or multiple types organisms attacking it, it enjoyed a very easy, non-eventful life. It never struggled, so there was no reason to be anything other than ordinary.

The coral on the ocean side however, had many struggles. It went through all of the life events that the island side reef never experienced. It had to grow stronger, thicker and more vibrant to survive the environment. It became a better version of the same base coral. Colorful and radiant. Able to withstand strong winds and pounding waves, day in and day out, year after year.

Both reefs were alive, but only one was full of life, where the other was stagnant. Think about your own life and ask, which coral best represents you?

Of course, we are not coral. We have a choice. Choosing the easy road, robs you of the growth experiences on the road less traveled.

1. If you find out that something is going to take too long or is too hard, and you quit, what are you really doing? What are you really saying?

2. To pass on an opportunity because it’s hard, may not serve you well. Fredrick Douglass said it a long time ago. “Without struggle, there is no progress.”

You need to place yourself in a tough environments, on purpose, in order to grow.