Gradually. Then Suddenly.
Don’t be a peacekeeper. It won’t do anything for you or for those with whom you are keeping the peace. Successful people are not peacekeepers.
It seems like a good sentiment – “Can’t we all just get along?” Peacekeepers invest a lot of energy into just that, keeping the peace. The idea is that if you can keep the lid on, there is going to be fewer problems, less dissension and more time spent on being productive.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Peacekeepers fool themselves into thinking that if there is no present external evidence of a problem, there is no problem. Or if there IS a problem, just give it some time and space, and it will go away. Time heals all wounds, etc.
We take this approach all the time by not dealing with high maintenance clients, uncooperative or non-responsive employees whom we’ve allowed to become indispensable, or business partners who are going a direction we don’t want to go.
To deal with these we employ one of two strategies:
1) The Random Hope Strategy – I plan to deal with it, but I’m waiting for the right time. I’m hoping the right opportunity will arise that will bring it up for me.
2) Time Heals All Wounds Strategy – I’m afraid that dealing with it now will create more problems, and things usually just work themselves out with addressing them.
Both of these strategies usually result in something much different than we hoped.
Border Skirmishes vs. World War
The real problem with these strategies is that our unwillingness to have a border skirmish eventually turns into a world war. That little thing we didn’t want to address piles up on top of a dozen other small things and eventually the whole thing spins out of control. We could have managed it when it was small, but by time it’s world war the best we can do is try to ride it out and survive it.
We need to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. There is a very big difference.
Peacekeepers vs. Peacemakers
Peacekeepers avoid small issues until they blow up into world wars. Peacemakers are willing to deal with little things as they arise and as a result, they avoid the long-term intransigent issues that cripple us and our businesses.
Peacekeepers function reactively – waiting until an issue blows up on its own to deal with it; usually when it’s too late. Peacemakers function proactively – confronting small issues without emotion and before they become world wars.
All Successful People are Peacemakers
My Irish friend, John Heenan says, “A person’s success is directly tied to the number of difficult conversations they are willing to have.”
In Ernest Hemingways book, “The Sun Also Rises”, two characters have a very revealing conversation.
“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
Peacekeepers lose control gradually, then suddenly. Peacemakers do just the opposite, they create success gradually by attacking small problems when they arise, not “later”. Later never comes.
A few years ago I invested the time and money to fly across the U.S. simply to end a business relationship. I could have simply faded away, or just talked to the person on the phone. But this difficult conversation was necessary for full closure and to leave no room for the issue to grow into something bigger. I fought the border skirmish to ensure there would be no world war.
Too often we see only the last stage of success in someone’s life, and we think they were “suddenly” lucky. The fact is that their willingness to deal with things all along the road create the gradual accumulation of good decisions that pile up and become what appears to be sudden success.
We don’t fail suddenly or succeed suddenly. Both roads are worn very gradually by a commitment to either peacekeeping, which eventually leads to failure, or peacemaking, which eventually leads to success.
Don’t wait until it all happens to you. He who makes the rules wins. Take control of your business and your future and become a peacemakers.
Life is too short to be little. Play big – be a peacemaker.