Marshall Goldsmith's picture Submitted by Marshall Goldsmith March 19, 2018 - 12:38pm

Previously published on

[Edited from Lifestorming by Marshall Goldsmith and Alan Weiss]



In 1980, Peter Drucker wrote a cutting-edge book called Managing in Turbulent Times. Today, turbulent times are the norm, so we might as well get used to them and get better at dealing with them.

Features of today’s turbulent times include:

  • No expectation of privacy
  • Immediate and irretrievable communication
  • Global applications and competition
  • Rapidly advancing technology (sometimes helpful and sometimes not)
  • Shifting demographics
  • Remote learning
  • Extensive extracurricular activities for kids
  • Huge pressure on attention spans
  • Virtual reality in business and personal pursuits

You can certainly add many more. How does one cope? How do you progress, let alone hold your position, against these headwinds? What actions can you take to continue your journey in the directions you’ve plotted?

Here is our recipe for staying your course during turbulent times (in other words, modern times):

  1. Create a support system. We’ve seen too many people fail because their closest family and friends undermined them. You need people around you who can give you honest feedback when requested, and who buy into your journey. That may mean candid discussions with a partner, vulnerability among friends, and truthfulness with yourself. These people create a constant eye in the storm. If they are not of that persuasion, they will merely exacerbate the wind gusts and rain.
  2. Understand that behavior is more important than victories. If you engage in consistently correct behavior, you’ll be successful. It’s far better to be gracious in winning and losing, for example, than to win constantly by manipulation and deceit, which will eventually do you in. You can’t cement victories into your operating system, but you can cement behaviors. They become part of your unconscious competency, your automatic habits, and stand you in good stead in all circumstances. A person who’s naturally generous will be so without thinking about it, gaining the respect of others without trying. 
  3. Seek excellence, not perfection. The futile search for perfection will kill success, because it is never achieved. No plane you’ve been on, no dinner you’ve consumed, no relationship you’ve developed, has ever been or will ever be perfect. Yet we procrastinate, delay, and postpone, holding out for an ideal that never materializes. Once you’re content with excellence, you’ll improve daily and will act daily with alacrity and intent. Your journey will speed up because you’ve accepted and embarked upon a good route, and have not waited for the (illusory) perfect route. 
  4. Learn when to fold and when to hold. There is a time in many pursuits, no matter how worthy and cherished, when you no longer throw good money after bad. Poor gamblers seem to think that they can reverse luck if they just keep playing and, when they’re ahead, don’t know when to quit. We’ve seen too many people endure bad bosses, poor relationships, unruly children, burdensome obligations, and other “necessary evils” to the point of depression. There is a time when you cannot change things, they will not get better on their own, and you need to take a sharp right turn to escape your predicament.

Using the four markers above, remember, your goal is to remain steady, maintain your equilibrium through it all, and allow your character and your presence to be paramount, guiding you through turbulent times, helping you continue on your journey, and allowing you to be at your imperfect best no matter what!