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Editor's Note: Tame Your Lion

I like learning about people, past and present, and enjoy reading their memoirs and biographies. 

One person I have learned a little more about recently is Winston Churchill, a historic figure and writer. He had experienced enough of life’s challenges and failures to learn something about its successes. 

“You must put your head into the lion’s mouth if the performance is to be a success,” he said on Feb. 19, 1900, while in South Africa. That was long before he became the United Kingdom’s prime minister and joined forces with the Allied powers to fight Hitler’s Third Reich. But by 1900 Churchill already knew something about what it was like to be in the lion’s mouth, and over the ensuing decades he would be scared by its teeth more than once. 

In late 1899, for instance, 25-year-old Winston, while working as a foriegn correspondent for the London Morning Post, escaped after being taken prisoner during the Boer War in South Africa. When he scaled the fence while guards weren’t looking, he didn’t have any map with him, didn’t speak the local language, and barely had any food. Some 300 miles of enemy territory lay before him. Despite the odds – or perhaps in spite of them – Churchill believed he could somehow navigate the landscape safely and reach freedom on the other side of it. 

He made it, of course, and that indomitable spirit served him well again when he helped lead the allies to victory during World War II. 

Churchill achieved success because he knew about failure. Even when confronted with the dark aspects of failure, however, such as being held captive in a foreign land, he persevered, sometimes clawing and grasping, to achieve the successes he knew was in his power to reach. 

Today’s successful business leaders may never experience the challenges that Churchill tackled, but they have their own lions to confront.

A few of those lions are discussed in this issue: trends in the finance world as banks and other institutions adjust in an age of digital identities and online security; efforts of businesses, schools and architect and engineering companies to make buildings more safe in an age of mass violence; and tax law changes that affect a particular business sector and changes to retirement savings laws. 

I’m not sure what their bite will be for you in the new year, but I’m confident success can be achieved with each of them in 2020. 

No matter your lion, often the scariest part is willingly putting your head into its mouth, not knowing the outcome. But you just might find the lion is tamer than you thought, its bite not so tough.

In case you’re feeling too ambitious, Churchill also said: “It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.”

Don’t be discouraged if you find your lion bites. It’s not fatal, and you just put another link in the chain of your success. My advice is to continue to confront the lion and tame it yourself. 

I am rooting for your success. 

Prairie Business Editor Andrew Weeks may be reached at aweeks@prairiebusinessmagazine.com or 701-780-1276. Also, find him on Twitter @PB_AndrewWeeks.