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Two friends, a death and two births

Gustav Juul

Gustav Juul

Principal Partner

Adizes Institute

It is not long ago that I read that four out of every five people dream about a very different life than they have. They also say that they would rather have the lifestyle they dream about than money. If you asked me 20 years ago, before the first event that changed my life, if I would prefer life over money, I would have chosen money.

When I dreamt in college I dreamt about a big exciting life traveling the world and creating something, a company maybe, that would “make its mark”. It does not sound very specific because, well, it wasn’t, but also because I had a million ideas that all seemed full of potential.

Just as I was finishing University in Denmark, I created a small company that did not make it passed the first few months. I then realized that it would probably be best to be an employee for a few years to learn how a business is run. The job offers I got were analyst positions and far from “the field” which is want I wanted. Finally my uncle called me and offered me a job in his logistics agency in Mallorca, Spain. He was part of a joint venture with other agencies around the Mediterranean sea that together participated in a tender offered by the US Navy 6 th fleet. We won the project and had a contract for 10 years where I was responsible for Spain, Portugal, Morocco and later even Southern France.

Money was great, and for a while chasing all kinds of US Navy ships and US Marines exercises was a lot of fun. It is a lot of fun to be a bystander when a bunch of sailors sets foot on dry land after 2 or 3 months at sea. Trouble here I come.

Still there was a serious part to all of this. Money had to be made, services had to be rendered, flawlessly, and accidents had to be prevented. I can not tell you the amount of things I saw in by years serving the US Navy and out of luck or design, not even the smallest accident happened to a ship I supported. No sleep, no relationships, just a job very well done. These were almost seven good years.

To me quite suddenly one of my two closest friends and colleagues said he wanted out. He said that there had to be something else out there. That he didn’t want to do this for the rest of his life. To me, for someone to leave the agency, was unimaginable. With everything we had seen and gone through, we were bound for life. To him, after almost a decade … not so much.

On the last day of my friends we decided to celebrate the “idiot” that was leaving and wish him well in whatever he would be doing. I was secretly certain that he would be back within a year. Just as we were crossing the street together, headed for our favorite restaurant my other friend, the third member of our gang of three, was hit by a car and died instantly.

There was not much left of me as a person. What before excided me, became lifeless and what drove, became mechanical. Of course as time goes on, life moves forward. You never forget. And you’ll never be the same. How could you be? There are some things in life that are so big and so profound that we can’t experience them without being changed.

As much as we treasure life, I’ve also realized that we are not in control of our lives. Goals are important. Hopes and dreams are beautiful. Planning is wise. But no matter how hard we work, there are some things, maybe most things, that are totally out of our control. For the first time in my life, when one friend left and the other died, I realized that things change in life and there is not much one can do about it. Before that, I felt like there was always a way. If you wanted a car, you worked to earn the money for it. If you got in a fight with a friend, you made an effort to better communicate. If you wanted a certain job, you went out and pursued it. Suddenly I realized that, no matter what I did, I could not stop time and even less turn back time. I was helpless. And to me, that was profound. The friends were gone, and so suddenly was my perception of the stability of a job, the “family business”, the future and the taste for the money.

I realized that if I wanted to reconstruct something out of what was left I needed to change, and there was not much left of me as a person. I quit my job. My uncle, that had no children and saw me as his successor, disinherited me. I moved to China for a year and when I came back I started as a consultant in an Executive Search firm. When I think of it, I believe what ultimately helped me the most was not moving to China, but interviewing extremely successful people and understanding their lives. Understanding also how these exceptional leaders fit into the requirement my client had and what he/she could bring. It made me a very successful consultant and I saw a new career opening up before me.

I was becoming a complete person and happy again. I lead this Executive Search company in establishing offices Scandinavia and later in Mexico. Then started several businesses and this book you are reading. I finally found my calling in the Adizes Institute where I am a Partner.

The Adizes Institute is the leading Organizational Transformation. The powerful processes, tools and concepts are based on the Adizes Methodology™, which is a highly structured and pragmatic system for accelerating organizational change. This Methodology is based on the proven proposition that what makes businesses strong over the long term, what underlies their ability to improve, also in their financial performance, build and sustain competitive advantage, and become the champions of their markets, is the presence of a robust and pervasive culture of mutual trust and respect where there is minimal energy spent on politics and internal fighting, so that maximum energy can be devoted to competing in the marketplace.

I believe that anything that can work for me in my business and also can be translated to bettering myself in my personal life is something of extreme value. To me the Adizes Methodology has been just that. But again it has also been that to many public and private organizations around the world. I am thankful for Dr. Ichak Adizes to have given up his tenure at the university almost 50 years ago, to bring this extremely successful system of Organizational Transformation into the business world. I am also honored to be a Partner of the Institute as I can now truly say that I have found my calling.

Knowing where one wants to be and being in that place, which for me is the Adizes Institute, gave me strength this past Christmas to meet with my friend from back in the days of the US Navy. Almost 20 years had passed where we had not seen each other. It was surreal and awkward in many ways, but I think that we found closure in just being together for a little while. He has a good life and I do too.

Not all events that change a person need to be sudden, unexpected and traumatic and although I have had events in my life that fit that description, I think that what now changes me every day is something “uneventful”. My day to day life with my children is unexplainably simple, natural and at the same lifechanging. They change me every day to a better person,

…but that story is still being written.


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