How The Mighty Fall, And Get Back Up

In the latest book by Jim Collins, How the Mighty Fall, Collins carefully outlines how great, thriving organizations can quickly and dramatically fall from prominence.

While he spends a lot of time outlining what he calls the “Five Stages of Decline”, I was particularly motivated by his thoughts on what those who fall, and then recover, have in common.

I certainly want to understand how to avoid a fall in the first place. (Or should I say, avoid any more “falls” than I’ve already experienced!) But since it’s a given that stumbling and falling down is a necessary and inevitable experience of life…I’m motivated by examples of those who get back up and recover.

Here are some excerpts from How the Mighty Fall that I found of particular interest:

Xerox. HP. Nucor. IBM. Merck. Texas Instruments. Pitney Bowes. Nordstrom. Disney. Boeing. What do these companies have in common? Each took at least one tremendous fall at some point in its history and recovered…in every case, leaders emerged who broke the trajectory of decline and simply refused to give up on the idea of not only survival but ultimate triumph, despite the most extreme odds.

The signature of the truly great vs. the merely successful is not the absence of difficulty. It’s the ability to come back from setbacks, even cataclysmic catastrophes, strongter than before. Great nations can decline and recover. Great companies can fall and recover. Great social institutions can fall and recover. And great individuals can fall and recover. As long as you never get entirely knocked out of the game, there remains hope.

The path out of darkness begins with those exasperatingly persistent individuals who are constitutionally incapable of capitulation. It’s one thing to suffer a staggering defeat–as will likely happen to every enduring business and social enterprise and (individual) at some point in its history–and entirely another to give up on the values and aspirations that make the protracted struggle worthwhile. Failure is not so much a physical state as a state of mind; success is falling down–and getting up one more time–without end.

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