Thirty-plus years into my career, and I have been reflecting recently on the place of business in life. What really matters? Is it success? Or is it happiness? Do I have to choose one or the other? Why are we here on Earth, anyway? And the most befuddling question: How, in this age of enlightenment, did Adam Sandler ever become popular?

Deep thoughts for a man who flunked ninth-grade algebra and eked out of college with a lackluster 2.7 GPA.

But age and experience create knowledge and wisdom (one would hope). For me, the world has become less black and white. Less “I am right, and they are wrong.” More shades of gray have come into focus.

I like to think this is a good thing, although it can be disconcerting from time to time when I encounter pundits — paid or amateur — who possess an amazing sense of certainty.

I am certain, however, about one thing: the importance of growth. To me, the contrast between growth and the alternative has sharpened, and in this area, I feel blessed with clarity.

When it comes to choosing business growth, I have heard many comments over the years that depict the decision to grow as the unhealthy option. I’d hear things like:

“I would rather be happy than rich.”

“Family is the most important thing in my life. Work isn’t.”

“Having a work/life balance is huge for me, and certainly more important than working myself to death.”

It can often feel as though making the decision to grow is a decision to be unhappy, alone, and unhealthy. But I believe the opposite to be true.

It is my experience that those who choose to stay the same or rationalize a lack of growth with excuses disguised as virtues really have a hard time finding personal fulfillment.

Here is what I believe to be true. A business is either growing or it’s dying. Stagnation does not exist as a state in the universe. This idea includes both your business and yourself as a leader, by the way. You are either personally growing, developing a richness in character and self-awareness, and confronting and overcoming tough personal issues, or you are being left behind to defend your declining leadership with comments like:

“Customers are holding on to their money.”

“The weather just hasn’t been on my side lately.”

“All of my competitors are just as slow as we are.”

“You just can’t find good people these days.”

Trust me when I say that running a business that isn’t growing is hard — really, really hard. You might cut costs and staff positions here and there or lose people and rationalize their loss by amplifying their weaknesses. A lack of growth means operating from a point of scarcity, knowing that if you give to one person, it means you have to take from another (maybe even yourself).

Rationalizing poor performance is really just a defense mechanism — a way for “leaders” to feel better about themselves. Not good. Not fun. It’s hard work. I know because I have been there, and I have made all those excuses as a way of justifying my condition.

And as I remember it, I didn’t have much of a work/life balance either. The unease that I felt while overseeing a business in decline never left me, even when I was with my family, “enjoying” a peaceful day at home. During those times, I just didn’t find that I was happy; my work/life balance had vertigo.

Thirty years later, I have come to realize that the work it takes to remain the same is harder than the work it takes to grow.

There. I said it. The hard work of growing is actually easier than the harder work of staying the same. I would make this case for personal growth too.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about some of the ways that Nexstar is working to help businesses to get back on track.

Over the years, we’ve made a commitment to helping businesses in our industry grow. We do that through training and coaching our members on solid business fundamentals. Then, we coach them through process development and implementation — the blocking and tackling in a business. We are, after all, a best practices organization. We will always put our focus here first.

But to grow a business, you have to also grow the leaders and the people in the business. This is why we have heightened our focus on personal development and leadership training.

We believe growth does not happen by accident. It is about being intentional. For a business, that means developing an actionable business plan. For an individual, it’s about creating a personal development plan.

Here at Nexstar, we encourage people to be intentional with both. When you are growing both as a leader and as a business, the feeling of momentum is contagious. It is felt by your employees, your customers, and the community. You can see it in the faces of the managers — pride, accomplishment, and a sense of worth.

From growth comes a heightened sense of optimism. It creates confidence.

From growth, you derive energy and a capacity to give.

From growth, all good things can flow.

Publication date: 12/3/2018

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