So many times, it happens too fast
You change your passion for glory
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive
Eye of the Tiger - by Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik, 1982
The other day I was jogging when this song came on. I’ve probably heard this song 500 times and the second verse never stuck out to me.
Not only does verse two of Eye of the Tiger foreshadow the plot of Rocky movies 2, 3, 4, and 5– in many ways it captures the dichotomy many in leadership feel.
We are driven by passion. And in the course of becoming proficient and gaining expertise towards that passion we receive a certain level of recognition… what Sullivan/Peterik label “glory.“ Conversely, once you achieve “glory” the role changes unexpectedly. You stop pursuing the goal and start defending your place. It’s one thing to be the punk kid pursuing the dream. It’s another role altogether to be the defending champion.
Getting there and staying there are two different fights. Passion and glory are a two-way street. Both have their perks, but you can’t exchange one for the other.
Here’s what I know: The pursuit of a goal and the moment of achieving the goal are actually way more fun than having to defend your position. Like Rocky Balboa, if you stop pursuing your next goal the two-way street get out-of-whack and you end up old and cranky towards your wife.
The last seven weeks I’ve had laser focus on one thing: Be ready for September 1st.
Buy office equipment. Set-up a home office. Lease part-time office space. Create financial systems. Set-up a business infrastructure. Write business plans. Write marketing plans. Lay the groundwork to build a customer base. Write proposals. Sign contracts. Get consulting. And a whole lot more stuff like that.
This has been my life. And I’m exhausted. Last night was another day when I started at 7:00 am and went until 1:00 am with only a few breaks in the middle. It will be like this until Labor Day weekend when I finally get to disconnect and reward myself.
Here’s an observation I’ve made during this season: When you’re starting something from scratch you have laser-like focus and unlimited energy because you can grasp the big picture all at once. What’s next is what is right now.
The flipside is: Existing organizations have a unique ability to lose focus at the exact wrong time.
What’s next takes priority over what’s right now and visa versa. A big project is coming up and right before it happens a key decision-maker goes on vacation. Your biggest sales opportunity of the year? You missed it because you scheduled an internal meeting instead. On and on. Mental errors cost you in an existing business because you can’t see the whole organization anymore.
It’s like observing an island from a plane before you land, when you’re at 30,000 feet you can see the whole thing. But when you land you can only see what’s in front of you.
In life, just like in business, the difference between success and failure in life is razor thin. Watch any sporting championship and you’ll see it. A single mental mistake at the wrong can cost you a championship, or a deal, or whatever your measurable is for success. That same mental mistake a thousand times during the season never hurt you before. But in the wrong moment? You’re dreams are wiped away.
When those moments come. Be intent.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Pretty up-to-the-minute for something written in 1859, right?
Each generation believes it has created it’s own extremes. In fact, it’s an age-old trap that has just been carried forward. The sin of our forefathers still destroys us.
The litmus tests of extremists are in full effect today and are just as unproductive as ever. Their bi-product is never progress, only pain.
- You’re either an evangelical conservative or a mainline liberal, chose a side.
- You’re pro-LGBT or your anti-LGBT, which is it?
- You’re either pro-union or anti-union, take your pick.
- You’re a tea party love or a hater.
As if the middle ground were the enemy. As if being reasonable and understanding all sides of issues were not possible. As if compromise and working things out were akin to selling your soul to the other side.
In truth, Jesus asks us to reject the ignoble extremes to live in the noble tense middle.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Photo by Marcus S. via Flickr (Creative Commons)
I think outside the box.
I’m told that a lot. And I guess it’s true. I mean, if people tell me it’s true at some point it is true.
Adam McLane is a man who thinks outside of the box.
When I hear that I think outside of the box I’m always thinking…
- What if we’re working on the wrong box?
- What if I’m in the wrong box?
- What if our box is too small, too big, or too made of cardboard?
- Why does the box have to be shaped like a box? I mean, is there a person who decided that boxes have to be cube-like? Can’t we build a box around who we are and not start with a box-shaped box?
- How did we get in this box in the first place and why are we all just here wanting to get out of it in this meeting? Why don’t we just open the box and leave?
- When did all of this crap get in the box? I think someone is using the box as a recycle bin.
- Will lunch be served in the box? Because I’m getting hungry.
What if there is no box?
What if the box is just a metaphor for feeling trapped by our problems?
Literally, there is no box. It’s a metaphor. The box isn’t real. You don’t need to think outside of it because the box doesn’t really exist.
The box is your problem.
Having your company, brand, ministry, organization “in the box” is the end of creativity, joy, and freedom. When faced with your next dilemna you don’t just need to think outside of the box. You need to get outside of the box. Why?
Because the box is suffocating you.
- It’s stealing the creativity you had as a 6 year old with a box of chalk, an empty sidewalk, and an endless summer.
- It’s stealing the joy you had when you first started at this company.
- It’s stealing the freedom you experienced as a kid who was just getting started, the one who wanted to conquer the world, and change things.
Haven’t you seen Toy Story 3? The whole point of the movie is don’t get put in the box.
This is the story of Corporal Sidney Manning of Butler County, Alabama
July 28th, 1918 - Near Breuvannes, France
When his platoon commander and platoon sergeant had both become casualties soon after the beginning of an assault on strongly fortified heights overlooking the Ourcq River, Cpl. Manning took command of his platoon, which was near the center of the attacking line. Though himself severely wounded he led forward the 35 men remaining in the platoon and finally succeeded in gaining a foothold on the enemy’s position, during which time he had received more wounds and all but 7 of his men had fallen. Directing the consolidation of the position, he held off a large body of the enemy only 50 yards away by fire from his automatic rifle. He declined to take cover until his line had been entirely consolidated with the line of the platoon on the front when he dragged himself to shelter, suffering from 9 wounds in all parts of the body.
You aren’t a leader because of your rank, Corporal Manning had none.
You aren’t a leader because you went to school, he only went to basic training. You aren’t a leader because you write a book on leadership. Or because an organization calls you its leader. Or because your daddy was a leader. Or because you aspire to be a leader.
You are a leader when you take people where they would otherwise not go alone.
When the plan falls apart. When the bad news comes. When fear takes hold. When the enemy is advancing. When there is no where to go but the scary, dangerous place. When what needs to get done is dangerous.
Only then will you find out who the leader is. He or she looks you in the eye and says, “I will take you where we need to go.”
That’s a leader.
Accept no imitation.
Photo by Mikel Manitius via Flickr (Creative Commons)
When chaos arrives on the scene panic changes everything.
Every person has a freak out mode. Rumors spin out of control. People are jumping ship. Like Jonah, there’s a moment when the sailors cast lots to figure out who angered God. Fingers are pointed. Cuss words are muttered under their breathe. Biting words aren’t far behind. Everyone is doing whatever they can to fix the situation. Yet at the same time, in the back of their minds, they don’t know if they are making things better or making things worse.
Photo by Ira Machefsky via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Some situations turn the best of us into hyenas with a bad case of fleas.
It’s one thing to steer a ship on open seas on a calm day. That’s easy and anyone can do that. But it takes a captain to calmy guide the ship into harbor on a windy day with high waves. When the crew freaks out the captain takes over.
That’s when you discover who the leader is.
One day the panic button will go off.
Chaos will appear.
And then you’ll know.
The last couple of weeks have been stressful. Work stuff piled up as an ever growing to-do list was at war with two very firm deadlines. Stress built, tension built, and I was an emotional wreck. One day last week I started working at 6:00 am and largely sat in the same place steadily working until 10:00 pm. And I didn’t feel any closer to being done than I did before.
I’ve learned that one of the ways I relax is to spend time in our garden. Life can be going a million miles per hour and it all slows when I crouch or kneel next to a bed of vegetables.
The chores of having a garden are fairly simply and repetitive. Fertilize the soil. Plant things at the right time. Water when its dry. Pull weeds. Harvest. Repeat.
The back-to-basics simplicity is what brings me so much joy. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are merely the by-product of the primary benefit.
Each weed I pull it releases a little bit of tension. In the past couple of weeks, the warmer weather arriving forced me to water more… which resulted in weeds springing up everywhere. That was perfect! Because I had plenty of tension, frustration, and anxiety to pull out with each weed as well.
Pulling weeds has a strong tie to my life with Jesus, too.
Here are a few things I’m reminded of as I weed my garden:
- You can’t just weed once per week.It’s better to weed a little bit each day.
- Weeds like fertile soil just as much as crop producing plants. Where there is growth there will be weeds.
- Sometimes you have to be gentle when you pull out a weed. It’s roots my be intertwined with roots of a good plant.
- Some weeds have thorns and smell bad. But others are pretty and you’re tempted to keep them. Don’t.
- Bugs eat your fruits and vegetables. For some reason they leave weeds alone.
- Even the best gardeners pull weeds. You never get above it… you just get better at it. And some just get better at hiding the evidence.
- Weeding the garden is work. It’s an easy skill but it is always going to get you dirty and always going to make you sweat.
What are some other parallels between taking care of your garden and your walk with Christ?