After just about every meaningful relationship in my life bit the dust, I woke up to a few painstakingly common denominators that were consistently tarnishing the effect I was having on people.
Growing up within the confines of team sports, I would commonly hear this phrase uttered from my coaches: “The only way we lose this game is if we beat ourselves.” Unable to make sense of the context as an aloof thirteen-year old at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the rhetoric until adulthood — where the competition is you and you alone.
Do you ever start to say something you know you shouldn’t, but cannot help to say it anyway? How about a specific relationship breaking down again, despite employing an array of differing strategies? I’m talking about the times where it seems no matter what you do, history has no choice but to repeat itself.
We all revere great leaders. There’s a certain poise, a certain distinguishable trait we cannot quite put our finger on that defines each one. In short, extraordinary leaders have a presence about them. An aura they exude. Something many of us have often dreamed of for ourselves. So we finally climb the ladder or start the business, and see the title at the cusp of our desk. Unsure of exactly what our specific leadership style is going to consist of, we ponder to ourselves, “Now what?”
Such as in life, our beliefs about our organization shape the way it’s viewed. As time goes by running the company, we develop a story about it. This narrative becomes a foundation for what is and isn’t possible to achieve within our business. The unspoken and unchallenged assumptions, deeply rooted in our frame of reference, are responsible for the majority of the decisions we make every day. Every action and event that unfolds thereafter becomes further evidence to prop up a specific argument about whatever we’re focused on at the time — either success or failure.
It’s been said the most valuable commodity is information. It’s been said there is no supplement for experience. From the time we’re toddlers to our last dying breath, much of life is centered around the acquisition of knowledge. Sacrifice after sacrifice is made in contribution to the all-out assault known as surmounting our own ignorance. As a life-long learner, I have been in this seat before. What I failed to realize, however, is the experience or information gathered isn’t the most important element. It’s the context in which the learning takes place.
Dating back as far as written record can reach, we’ve been analyzing what it takes to effectively lead. Whether it be an expedition, a revolution, a movement, we continue to rack our brains on what the most effective leaders are composed of. Arbitrary qualities often come to mind, such as strength, vision, drive, discipline, boldness, enthusiasm, dominance, awareness, and the like. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these options to serve as a map for identifying the one to spearhead a project, I think we can dig a little deeper to the derivative of what produces these qualities in the first place.
I’ll be the first to admit that being happy is one of the things I’ve failed to do consistently throughout my professional career. Since I began working full-time, my agenda in business was to push myself further along the road to perceived success. Things like what I was earning, what title I had, and how my resume was being shaped were the primary measuring sticks of what I deemed “worth my time.” However, with these checkpoints charting the course for me, I was always left feeling empty. Like something was missing. Never truly fulfilled or proud of my profession apart from when a pay increase or title change was recently enacted.
There comes a point in a man’s life where he stops judging his work by the circumstances that surround it and begins surveying his character development as a by-product of the work he puts in.
I had lofty goals back in my early twenties — nothing more than surface-level desires but when I shared with others what I was after, I made sure it sounded promising.