Confronting tough emotions leads to character development

fear-of-emotionsYesterday, I wrote about the unlikely connection between Inside Out and Keeping up with the Kardashians. Difficult emotions are part of life – and how we handle them says a lot about our character.

In my career as a game designer and startup coach, I’ve worked with dozens of teams who aspire to build something innovative and new. In every situation, we’ve confronted a difficult design situation – a “dark night of the soul” – where we’re faced with a harsh reality, and need to pull together as a team and wrestle with tough, hard-to-solve problems.

In story-telling terms, these situations are ripe for character development. How a protagonist handles tough challenges is deeply revealing – and often transformative.  She can become a hero by rising to difficult challenges – or a disappointment by running away from them.

This past year, I’ve coached 18 startup teams – all of whom faced touch design situations. Happily, most teams pushed through their challenge, confronted the tough problem, and accelerated their development efforts. Sadly, a few teams shied away from their core challenges, and sought solace in “the old ways of doing things.”

A willingness to confront and push through difficult challenges is a key trait that separates Wannabes from Ninjas. By coaching entrepreneurs worldwide, I’ve learned that pushing through challenges is what actually transforms a Wannabe INTO a Ninja. That’s character development — product-style.