By Paul Reilly

Before answering, consider this story.

In 1907, Bill Klann was working for a Detroit ice company. Hard work and low pay, but he was happy to have a job. However, Bill was laid off later that year. Out of work and out of patience, Bill reached out to his previous employer—an automobile factory. It was harder work for less money, but again, he was happy to have a job. For several years, Bill worked hard and was the model employee. Bill’s boss assigned him a special project to speed up production.

In 1913, Bill visited a slaughterhouse in Chicago. He watched the workers systematically dismember hogs and cattle as they went down the line. An unpleasant experience for some, but Bill found it inspiring. He thought to himself, “If you can take something apart this way, then you can put something together this way.” Bill quickly rushed back to present his idea. Bill’s employer, Ford, eventually bought in to the assembly-line idea. The assembly line significantly lowered the price of their Model T and doubled its market share.

What a great success story. Like any success, we often marvel over the achievement but overlook the external factors that led to the success. Two significant events also contributed to Bill’s success. And those two events have one thing in common…tough times.

  • In 1907, there was a run on one of the nation’s largest banks which led to a recession. Bill was fired from the ice company because of the economic fallout from that recession. If there was no recession, Bill never would have been fired.
  •  In 1913, Ford assigned Bill to improve productivity. This campaign was during the recession of 1913-1914. Ford was facing tough times and looking for ways to reduce costs. If there had been no recession, would Bill have been tasked with this cost-cutting project?

Without tough times, there would be no assembly line.

Tough times are filled with uncertainty, but they are also filled with opportunity. Uncertainty often clouds our vision to see a brighter future. That’s why some will wait for tough times to pass before taking action. Their response to tough times is to pause and wait for better times. Have you ever met a successful person who waited their way to success? No. When you fall on tough times, you either wait it out, or you gut it out. The choice is yours.

Tough times are frustrating. There is no denying that tough times are painful. In life, we’re taught to avoid pain. To avoid the pain of tough times, people give up. But that is a mistake. The pain in tough times acts as a catalyst for positive change. When tough times knock you down, you either give up, or you stand up. Again, the choice is yours.

Tough times are inevitable in business and life. How you manage the valley of tough times determines your peak in the good times. As you experience tough times, don’t pause, press on. In tough times, your action might not always deliver the desired results, but take action anyway. Whether you see it or not, you’re moving in the right direction. And although your progress is not always visible, it is always meaningful.

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