In the wake of the dramatic rescue of the miners in Chile, many of those involved are drawing lessons from the experience.  Here’s a sampling:

  • Chile’s president has vowed to review mine safety standards in the country.  He sees it as a turning point in working conditions for miners.
  • Not surprisingly, at least one miner’s wife laid down the law and said that he had to quit the hazardous job if he wanted to stay married to her.  She learned that the stress of possible disaster every day was not worth the money earned in the mines.  Maybe this is a turning point in the way they pay the bills.
  • The nephew of one rescued miner said, “In this world we worry so much about insignificant things… Maybe it’s time we all started concentrating on the vital things in life!” He’s hoping for a turning point in how everyone touched by the accident sorts out what’s central and what are just details.

No one wants to be stuck in a mine for 69 days.  No one wants to have a health scare.  No company wants a sudden downturn in business that forces re-trenching and layoffs.  These events (and sometimes their cousins, the landmark victories or windfalls) can be some of the most constructive turning points we’ll ever face.

And yet…

Don’t stop there.  All too often we “leave money on the table” when it comes to turning points.  We want to accelerate through them (especially the tough ones) and motor on to better times.  We hesitate to reflect too long on them because… let’s face it, we just don’t want to feel bad.

But it’s in just that brave, staring moment that we have to do our best work.  We have to learn not just the surface lesson (which may even be a counterfeit) but the deeper insight that can set us up for that next surge of growth.  Is some deeply held belief holding us back? Should we really tack left or right because we’ve been kidding ourselves about where we really could be great, where we could make a dent in the world?  Is a seeming failure really just the sort of bold experiment we should keep doing, even though it didn’t work out this time?

So yes, learn the lessons of your company or personal mine-shaft turning points – but for goodness sake, dig deep enough to be sure they’re the right lessons. Then take that perspective and turn it into action.