As long as I can remember, a very dear friend and mentor of mine has hammered me with the same phrase: good cash flow hides mistakes. Throughout my life and career, I’ve found myself continually reflecting back on this seemingly simple truth. Here’s why.
Generally, my friend is referring to this from a business standpoint. The implication is fairly obvious, but no less significant. When cash is coming in, its easy to overlook mistakes or threats to your business. Those are the same threats that are going to come back to bite you the minute that wonderful cash flow slows up a bit, so we must make sure to sniff them out and address them now.
I think about this a lot with the various businesses I’m involved in. I want to make sure that these businesses – whether my own or ones that I’m advising – are prepared for the future in the sense that they can weather storms and makes themselves as stable and secure as possible.
While this phrase is clearly true from a business setting, it occurred to me that it’s even more true in our personal lives. Perhaps an error in our society is that we focus so much on business success, and so little on being successful in our personal lives. Success comes in many different forms beyond financial. When it comes to our time, we must be deliberate with how we spend it. We must allocate it in a way that serves our broader goals – whether those be financial or something else.
Of course good cash flow into our personal bank accounts can make things nice, but think of this from the broader perspective of when things are good in our lives. Yes, that can mean financially, but it can also mean from a relationship standpoint or just an overall personal well-being standpoint. When things are good, when they’re going along smoothly, it’s easy to get complacent or to avoid looking at ourselves critically. It becomes really easy to put off the things that deep in our hearts we know we need to do, because we don’t want to upset the status quo. After all, we fought to get things to a good spot, shouldn’t we enjoy things a bit? Perhaps, but that enjoyment is going to be seriously short lived if you’re not thinking about the areas where you’re deficient or need improvement.
People that are true leaders – at work and at home – are those that crave constant improvement. They don’t love the result as much as they love the process of achieving something great, the process of evolving themselves into someone that’s better than they were yesterday. And that is why we can enjoy good times a bit, but we must always be hyper-vigilant for facets of our lives that could hurt us in the future. Once we identify them, we go to work. And frankly, that hard work is where the real good times are. Don’t let your life be one that coasts along caught up in the richness of your current state, but rather one that is constantly searching for ways to improve and become a great version of yourself. That’s how you leave a mark on your family, your co-workers, and this world. That’s how you lead.