For good or for bad, all of us have had certain things infused into our past. Those things are our foundations. These are the circumstances, experiences, and influences that affected us from our birth through our preadulthood. Most of those things, by definition, are things over which we had no control—and there’s the rub. Some people almost revel in blaming their foundations for their present problems. Some people continue to feel bound by their foundations if they were negative. Some people fail to appreciate their foundations if they were positive.
I see a better way to deal with our foundations. All of us have both good and bad aspects to our foundations. The key to success with handling our foundations is to appreciate and capitalize on both the good and the bad aspects.
For those good aspects of your foundations, you can focus on the gratitude you should have for the benefits that came your way over which you had no control. Look for greater opportunities to let those good aspects of your foundations inform your professional life. That can only enhance your performance and your persona, things your clients and colleagues will all appreciate.
For those bad aspects of your foundations, reflect first upon life lessons they taught you. Yes, I realize those bad aspects might involve tremendous personal pain. Nevertheless, by reflecting upon the bigger picture, you can always find some positive lessons that arise out of that total situation. Look for ways in which you understand better how to handle certain situations, speak to certain kinds of people, manifest greater sensitivity, or deliver a sharper mental edge in tough decisions.
It is all too easy for each of us to give up. The higher path is to strive for the excellence you can produce. That can and will happen as you apply this key to appreciate and capitalize on both the good and the bad aspects of your foundations. That is exactly what Anne Beiler, founder of the multimillion-dollar pretzel chain, chose to do. Regardless of what she or anyone else thought about her foundations, Beiler was not about to miss her potential (Dinah Eng, “Soft Pretzels out of Hard Times” Fortune, July 23, 2013, pp. 23–26):
“My parents were horse-and-buggy Amish, and I grew up on a 100-acre farm in Lancaster, Pa. . . We had eight kids in our family, and we were able to have electricity to milk the cows and use in the house for necessities, but no TV or radio. . . . I never went to college. But the structure I grew up with was planted so deep that when it came to doing business, I knew how to be disciplined, create teamwork, and persevere. It set me up to be an entrepreneur and a successful franchiser.” (p. 24)
Beiler chose to appreciate and capitalize on both the good and the bad aspects of her foundations. The good news is you can do the same thing today. Please do not miss that opportunity!