Maximize Life with Maximova’s Lessons (Part I)

MAXIMOVA

Ekaterina Sergeevna Maximova (1939 – 2009) was a Soviet and Russian ballerina of international renown. In the next few blogs, I will share a few inspiring lessons I gained from a book in which she spoke of herself and her life.

May we all be inspired by Maximova to honour those around us and to honour ourselves in our talents and our abilities, despite trials and difficulties, and despite the people around us and the circumstances we are in.

This is particularly important as we seek to lead where we are planted.

LESSON #1: KNOW WHAT IS TRULY IMPORTANT IN LIFE (HINT: IT’S NOT MONEY OR FAME)

“To many people the life of a stage artist appears to be exceptional and wonderful, full of triumphs and the adoration of fans.

Yes, it is true I experienced moments of genuine happiness time and again, but there were also failures, mistakes and disappointments.

What, then, was the most important thing for me?  Looking back on the years that have passed, I can say that my happiness consists in being alive, in loving and having real friends as well as an occupation to which I am devoted with all my heart.

LESSON #2: BE SATISFIED WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, BUT NEVER BE SATISFIED WITH WHAT YOU HAVE DONE

“My life has always been filled up with dancing, with ballet, and I would not exchange that for any other profession.  I am also a greedy person, for like all artists I am never satisfied with what I have done.”

LESSON #3: ACKNOWLEDGE AND APPRECIATE THOSE WHO HAVE SACRIFIED FOR YOU AND/OR WHO HAVE SOWN IN YOUR LIFE

“When I was born in 1939, Mama gave up her job, but her paid maternity leave soon came to an end and we started running out of money to live on, so when I was just nine months old she had to go and look for work again.

She managed to find a job at the Moscow Conservatory, namely on the staff of the Conservatory’s newspaper, which had quite a large print run.  She also did a lot of work at home in the evenings and at night. Indeed, one of my most cherished childhood memories is this:  still half asleep, I opened my eyes and saw Mama sitting there, bent over some papers and working.  It was dead quiet, the room was dark except for the soft yellow glow of her table lamp, and all this made me feel so calm, so cosy and protected…

Mama has always been at my side.  I have all my life been under her wing.  My life was hers too:  she took part in everything and she probably had to sacrifice a lot of things for my sake because very often she ended up doing not what she actually wanted to, but what was necessary for me.

By taking upon herself most of our household chores and worries, she gave me the opportunity to dedicate myself fully to my profession.  

Mama not only looks after the house, but also takes care of the archive of material about my work and is even willing to talk to journalists on my behalf.  Amazingly, she somehow manages to find time for everything!

Mama started taking me to the theatre very early on, both to plays and to musical productions. I liked going to the theatre very much, and so not letting me attend a performance was the punishment I most dreaded as a girl.

And to this very day she still regards me as a child:  ‘You’re far too lightly dressed… You haven’t finished your tea… It’s time you went to bed…'”

WHY ORGANIZATIONS MISS THEIR KODAK MOMENTS

Kodak

Most people probably know about the demise of Kodak because it stuck with camera film and failed to adjust to the digital world.

But this is not a case where Kodak was surprised by digitisation.

A group of consultant-types had met the CEO of Kodak and voiced their concerns about Kodak being overtaken by the digital camera. They told the CEO 4 or 5 things he could and should do.

The CEO’s response, remarkably, was: “Kodak is a company that does not take risks.”

To the CEO, moving into the digital world was taking a risk, when in fact staying where he was and not moving into the digital world was the biggest risk of all, which he took.

It is illustration of the fatal failure of organisations, “fatal” as meaning the company dies.

The fatal failure of organizations is the result of one of three reasons:

  • A failure to learn from the past
  • A failure to adapt to the present
  • A failure to anticipate the future

The most frequent cause of failure is the last: a failure to think about and prepare for the future, because the company is concerned only doing a good job of what it is currently doing.

Technology has and will continue to disintermediate and change virtually every business activity as we know it today.  Businesses that do not seriously think imaginatively about its future will be sidelined and shrink, sometimes slowly and sometimes catastrophically.

So CEOs beware and be warned.

The antidote to anxiety is alertness. 

The antidote to failure is thinking about the future.  

And not just thinking, but taking action!

Dr Goh Keng Swee, Singapore first Deputy Prime Minister, used to say as he led the build-up of the Singapore Armed Forces: “The only way to avoid making mistakes is not to do anything. And that, in the final analysis, will be the ultimate mistake.”