Why you need enemies

Why you need enemies

Our instinct is to avoid making enemies; to have everyone be our friend and ally.  But we’ll fail.

Everyone has enemies: the Dalai Lama, The Pope even Jesus had enemies.

In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson documents how, even among learned scientific minds, fierce rivalries have dominated much of scientific progress from biologists upset over the proper classification of the chrysanthemum, to geologists who battled over the age of the earth or who discovered which dinosaur.

And then it’s as simple as some people may not like your face.

But if enemies are like death and taxes why is that a good thing?  Here’s why:

Life would be boring without them

Without  obstacles to desire we would easily get what we want.  If you think that’s a good thing, think some more.  It’s a recipe for boredom and stagnation.

It’s the fight for what we want—the overcoming—that creates interest and excitement.  It’s why we go to the movies and read fiction.

It helps you identify the ‘crazies’

People get their underpants in a bunch over the most innocuous things.  Take a deep dive into the comments below any TED video you consider wise, insightful, beautiful or inspirational and you’ll see  how people polarise on almost any statement, or position.

Many people can’t even take a joke.  Take North Korea’s reaction to “The Interview.

Seeing these reactions can alert you to where the “crazies’ are and you can take steps to avoid or prepare for them.

They signal you’re on to something big

More importantly though, when you take a stand and enemies appear it’s often a signal that you’re on to something big.  No judgement on right or wrong, just that you’re challenging something that some people care about.

The stronger your stand against any position, the more enemies you will produce from those invested in the status quo.  Ask JFK, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Mandela.  (If you get an answer, let me know.)

They develop muscle

Obstacles in all their forms especially human enemies help you grow as a person and a leader.

The people who try to thwart your intentions have much to teach you about yourself: about how you react to adversity, failure, and loss of dignity.  They are like a mirror because what you react against and dislike in others often reveal the same weaknesses within yourself.

Whether it’s the bank denying your loan application, or your boss giving the promotion to someone else, your ‘enemies’ will give you the practice to overcome adversity, setback and failure.

The alternative is staying small

The only way to avoid not having enemies is to bottle up your ambitions, and avoid trying to make a difference.  Even then you’ll fail.  People with no ambitions tend to make up for it by gossiping about everyone else, especially those who do have goals and dreams. But if you’re reading this you’re unlikely to be in this group.

So don’t wish away your enemies.  Be thankful.  They are there to make your goals more challenging, and to help develop your capacities to influence, negotiate, build alliances etc.

Your enemies also provide the opportunity to experience the love, joy and relatedness that comes from transforming them into friends and allies.

You’ll do that through the strength of your convictions, your integrity and dedication—by chasing your ambition and not taking things personally.

The tragedy of real-life drama

The tragedy of real-life drama

We like drama in books and movies because it excites and creates tension and conflict that gets quickly resolved.  We know how it turns out by the time we put the book down, or walk out of the theatre.  Thank God, because it’s stressful to stay in drama states for extended periods of time. WhichContinue Reading

Happiness at work should not be your goal

Happiness at work should not be your goal

Happy good, unhappy bad.  Not too many people will challenge that. But being not happy doesn’t mean you’re unhappy. There are other non-happy emotional states that reward and fulfil the spirit. People who love their jobs are often focused, aggressive, challenged, curious, anxious, attentive, reflective, perturbed, inspired, stressed, thoughtful, vigilant and zealous.  Distinctly not happy. WhyContinue Reading

Do you do important work?

Do you do important work?

There was a scene in “The Imitation Game” when the protagonist  —as baddies started to destroy his work—exclaimed, “You will never understand the importance of what I am creating here.” And as they continued wreaking havoc around him it was clear they didn’t.   Poor sap. But it made me think of the main reasonContinue Reading

Why we must all be entrepreneurs

Why we must all be entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are the marines of business. Figuratively speaking, they take the beachhead, and incur the heaviest casualties. Entrepreneurs have the “no guts, no glory” swag necessary to risk their money, time and reputation on a dream, and because so many fail, we think that only the naturally gifted could do what it takes to reapContinue Reading

Ten signs of a bad boss

Ten signs of a bad boss

Many bad bosses are nice people, but they all create unnecessary cost in high staff turnover and inefficiency.  Motivation enough to get rid of them. But from a purely human perspective, bad bosses give work a bad name.  They fuel negative work conversations and provide ‘evidence’ that work cannot be enjoyable and productive. Bad bossesContinue Reading

A 2015 wish

A 2015 wish

As we leave 2014 wondering what the world will be like without Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Attenborough, and Maya Angelou; what would motivate young men to shoot a child or cut a man’s head off; how the technology exists to find my iPhone but not a 100 ton plane with hundreds of peopleContinue Reading