There are moments in life when we need to follow the path, no matter how narrow, difficult, or dimly lit. We hit on that yesterday when we talked about "Staying The Course".
How do we handle the times when we have to chart a new course in life where there doesn't seem to be any path whatsoever?
That's another level of leadership altogether.
It requires a vision that no one else may see but you. But acting on vision alone is like trying to fill a bucket full of water with a hole in the bottom. It'll work initially, but we'll be out of resources eventually. And usually faster than we'd think.
Creating a new path requires the one-two punch of preparation and work.
Preparation is seeing the forest for the trees. Seeing the big picture before we ever paint a single brush stroke. This is where we begin with the end in mind. When we can see the final scene before taking our first step, we'll be better prepared to make sure our journey is carved out in a way that will help us get there.
We are well-served when we create a process for our progress.
It gives us something to measure our movement towards our desired destination.
Are we moving towards our ultimate goal, or just randomly moving in general? The former is progress. The latter is ineffective busyness.
We'll be less likely to become distracted by naysayers, doubters, and arm-chair quarterback opinions when we stick to our vision and the due diligence of our preparation. We'll know how to stay open to feedback from trusted sources, and ignore the preferences from the doubters. That's the difference between a critique and a critic.
Doing our homework ahead of time will help us avoid confusion along the way.
Find a rhythm you can walk to, and accountability that will keep you on track. Your drumbeat doesn't need to excite everyone, just the ones who believe in your vision. And having a crew of back-up singers who are there for you will help you stay on key.
Great leaders don't forge new paths by singing in whatever key they want whenever they want. They hear a song in their head, and they sing it over and over and over to anyone within ear shot. It's consistent. It's clear. It's in the same key every time. That attracts others who join in and support that vision...that song. They sing the harmonies, and lay down powerful choruses of support behind the lead singer...aka...their leader.
If you get part way into your journey and learn something new that informs you that your original plan was off a bit, adjust. Don't bury your head in the sand and act like you had to be perfect out of the gate all the way to the end. Stop the song and get back on key. Your followers will thank you. They'll admire the transparency and humility within you.
Great leaders that experience success will all tell you about the bumps and bruises they picked up a long the way. The key is they didn't quit. They got back up. They learned from their failures. They kept pressing on in the direction they knew to be their calling.
So when it's time to move in the direction of your calling, soak up this small reminder:
Do the hard work of preparation to create a path that will help you reach your destination. Map it out ahead of time. Check your coordinates as you go. Make sure the team of people closest to you knows what those coordinates are as well. Receive constructive feedback from those who understand your heart, vision, passion, and calling.
Were you waiting for a step by step guide on how to blaze your trail?
By now, I hope you realize that wasn't my attempt.
That would be a bit disingenuous.
I don't know your calling.
I don't know your heart.
I do know that the handful of reminders here will help you put the right people around you, start with a clear expectation of where you are headed to, and the encouragement to create the path that you are called to.
One last note...
Enjoy the journey my friend.
The destination is nice, but the lessons that last a lifetime are learned along the way.
They can't see the forest for the trees.
Have you ever heard that phrase before? It's likely you have. The point being that someone is so wrapped up in the details of something immediately in front of them that they cannot see the big picture all around them.
Now picture this...
Someone is walking along a path in the woods. The path is narrow and winding. The trees that line it are thick and dense. The person traveling on it can only make out the next few feet ahead of them at a time because of the lack of light. Each turn is a risk, because they can't see what will come next. They might be fine, or they might come face to face with a challenge that seems insurmountable.
The longer the journey takes the more frustrated the traveller becomes. Their eyes start to wander from the path to the trees next to them. They wonder what might happen if they start to create a new path. They begin to push back on the brush next to them. At first the steps away from the path that is worn before them are exciting. They are convinced that if they push straight through the brush, branches, and thorns long enough, they'll be better off.
Have you ever been there?
And then this...
Straight paths are often the illusion that leads us away from our destination.
When we can't see the forest for the trees we miss the gift of the path.
While we may not be able to see around every corner, it doesn't mean we should take matters into our own hands. Dimly lit is still lit. The view of a few feet is still better than complete darkness.
The big picture?
Staying the course isn't always easy, but if we want to make it our destination it's necessary. We think we can take matters into our own hands, when by doing so our strength runs out. We become lost. We get so far off the path, that doubling back to reset our course is a reminder of lost time, resources, and pride swallowed.
We could avoid having to double-back if we stayed all-in.
Are there times when we have to chart a new course in life where there doesn't seem to be any path whatsoever?
That's a story for another day.
We are talking about the known calling to follow the path we are on, and stay the course. To trade the presumptive preferences we fall in love with for the vision we said we would stay committed to. It won't always be easy. Some days will be extremely hard.
See the forest for the trees before you take the first steps of your journey.
There is a destination on the other side.
Taking matters into your own hands when you are tired will take you to a place where you are lost, exhausted, and crawling back to the point you left your path.
If you find yourself in that moment, resist the urge to let your pride win. Run back. Walk back. Crawl back. Do whatever you can to get back on your path. Learn from the detour, and use it as a reminder. Don't let the lure of straight lines convince you that just because your journey gets narrow, winding, and dark that you should leave it.
If the road you are on is well lit and wide, it's likely it's an overcrowded path.
If the road ahead seems lonely, it might just be that you are leading.
Leading doesn't always have cheerleading along the way.
See the big picture.
Stay the course.
Trust the vision.
And when you do come out of the other side?
Celebrate the focus it took to reach your destination, and rest up.
There are more roads to travel.
And can I make one last observation?
Look for the narrow ones.
"...it MAY BE that..."
The narrow roads lead to the biggest opportunities.
More on that tomorrow.
When we react, we sow seeds that produce weeds.
When we respond, we sow seeds that produce good fruit.
Reacting is based on immediate circumstances.
Responding is based on a much larger picture.
Reacting is defensive.
Responding is calculated.
"In one ear and out the other".
We've all heard that phrase.
Reacting is "in one ear, and out our mouth".
It happens when we take something personally, and jump on those words immediately. It loses sight of the meaningful relationship we have, or could have, with the person we are interacting with. It wants to win an argument so badly, it loses focus, perspective, and sight of what matters the most.
Responding is "in both ears, and paused".
It's when we look at the other person and admit that if we keep going, we'll be somewhere neither of us wants to be. It's the time to crack a joke if we can, own our part of the situation, and come to a mutual understanding that we care more for each other than lobbing verbal grenades at each other's heart.
Sometimes...far from it.
Every single time.
But what about the times when we are absolutely right and they need to know it?!
"...it MAY BE that..."
An investment in grace now will reap a harvest of trust later.
That seems to me to be worth far more than any immediate "win".
Weeds vs. Fruit.
One sprouts up quicker, but has no lasting value.
Reacting vs. Responding.
Sow seeds that produce the fruit found in healthy relationships and you'll provide nourishment for everyone involved. Sow seeds that produce weeds, and what looks like a good idea in the short-term will wither over time.
The old adage is true...
We reap what we sow.
Respond > React.
Healthy relationships > Proving a point.
Conversations > Confrontations.
Most Valuable Player is our first thought.
It's an award or recognition received by one individual for their value to their team.
In order to be in a position for that consideration, I think we need to look deeper.
An award is the fruit.
But for fruit to be on the vine, there must be roots that create it.
#TheMVPLife roots are:
Mental. Verbal. Physical.
To be mentally aware, and verbally articulate, so that they are physically able.
Athletically, Academically, and Socially.
The strongest players understand that their value isn't found in simply what they do in their sport alone. It's how they approach their academics. It's involvement in relationship building and community service both locally and globally.
All that being said, there is something I find very interesting that gets overlooked in the conversation surrounding MVP's. It's part of the DNA of the player that gets "it", has "it", and leads others because of their "it".
Here "it" is:
They know they are Value Able (valuable) because they don't seek VALIDation.
They don't need anyone to tell them they are valid.
They know WHO they are. They are comfortable with WHO they are. They don't crave or need anyone else's validation of WHO they are. They approach every second of everything they tackle as the person they are.
That common characteristic seems to be prevalent in most MVP candidates.
Validation is a trap that trips up the most well-intentioned person. That is true regardless if we are talking about sports, or any other venture in life.
So the next time you have a student-athlete, employee, kid at home, colleague, etc...that seems distracted by the award, help them dig deeper to make sure the roots are healthy that create the fruit they desire.
If they are, they won't need anyone's validation.
The award will be an honor, but not a necessity.
They know and understand that being declared the MVP is a nicety, not a necessity.
If someone you know is seeking the award as validation of their game?
Walk with them so they learn their value based on WHO they are, not what they receive. Help them understand they are VALUE-ABLE based on their "WHO". That will help them understand they don't need VALIDATION based on someone else's opinion.
"...it MAY BE that..."
The best gift we can give our student-athletes isn't one award to one person. It's the every day reminder to all of them that they are unique, gifted, talented, and well able. That they have a specific calling on their lives. That it is our greatest joy to help them realize that, find it, and celebrate them when they do.
We may hand out one MVP award at the end of any given season.
We can hand out the seeds that create that fruit in every interaction, every day.
What the player does with them will determine what grows from them.
And one last thing for the coaches out there...
Don't leave them to farm the land by themselves.
Every great farmer had a mentor.
That's our job.
Stories of success are grown from seeds of struggle.
We talked about that early on in #TheMaybeClock:
"Maybe" our struggles are our strength.
That read will help you teach more effectively, and reach a level of leadership those that follow you will be excited to hear about. I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I believe with all my heart that the lesson in that blog is a game-changer. It has been for me as I've wrestled with it, worked on it, and now teach from it.
I want to add a bonus thought to that post here today.
We've all felt them...literally in our face, figuratively in our heart.
If we are being honest we don't like them very much. We don't appreciate them holding us back from where we are trying to go, or holding us up from making the time we wanted to make on our journey.
Headwinds at their fiercest become the very thing that lift us to new levels.
Airplanes lift off because of the drag of the wind pushing down on them. They race down the runway. They increase their speed. They look for the headwind and fly right into it so that they can go "wheels up". Pilots know headwinds are their source of strength. In the same way, we can allow emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, and relational struggles to make us stronger.
Easier said than done, right?
I totally agree.
If we'll embrace the struggle we've gone through, learn from it, and teach from it?
Like we talked about before...
"...it MAY BE that..."
Our struggles can be our strength.
"...it MAY BE that..."
That is how we can go "wheels up" in every area of our life.
How does that sound?
A well-known approach to arriving at a public function.
It used to mean a few minutes later than the start time, so as not to make it hard on the organizer of the event by getting there too early. And whether some want to admit it or not, so that people would be "seen" as they arrived by more people. It scratched the itch of being more visible.
But here is where it's starting to get interesting.
I think we are more interested in being seen one way at a distance, than actually engaging in any conversation of substance. Of really getting to know others, and let them know us.
Why do we like to arrive "fashionably late"?
Because it's more comfortable for us. Because if we get there first, we'll be on the spot. We'll have to talk more, share more, listen more, and let people in closer to our world.
It's easier to mingle in short spurts in a crowded room, than sit down and connect.
So we find ourselves coming a little late, and leaving a little early.
Really think about it.
When is the last time you were so engaged in a conversation that you forgot what time it was? Who were you sitting with? Where were you? Why were you there? What were the topic(s) you were talking about, laughing so hard you cried, and hanging on every word of the person you were with?
I'd bet those are the people that you know the best, and know you the deepest.
If we really want a more engaged world that values relationships...
"...it MAY BE that..."
We need to arrive a little earlier, and stay a little later.
Last night we talked about the difference between being closed-minded and having a structured vision. Tonight we're going to build on that thought.
There is a difference between a critic and a critique.
A critic likes to lie in wait and tear down a person, presentation, or organization.
A critique comes from a trusted source who knows the vision within the person, for the presentation, and of the organization.
Ignoring a critic leaves you with the time to hear out a critique.
Critics convince people who should never stop, to quit.
Critiques are sources of wisdom that allow us to become better versions of ourselves.
The next time you are bothered by the words you are hearing remember this...
"...it MAY BE that..."
You need to determine if they come from a critic or someone you trust.
Ignore the former and leverage the latter.
That's the difference between quitting and getting better.
The difference between a critic and a critique.
There is a difference between being closed-minded and having a structured vision.
Being closed-minded doesn't want to listen to anyone for any reason. It rejects all ideas and feels threatened by the suggestions of others.
Having a structured vision is more than happy to, and often is excited to hear ideas from other people.
Trouble kicks in when those sharing their idea find that the people listening don't act on their idea, or don't see it as a fit, because it doesn't align with the structured vision that is in place.
"...it MAY BE that..."
When we listen to the heart behind it, we can better understand the vision for it.
And once we do that, we'll resist thinking someone is being exclusionary and narrow-minded, and instead doing what they are doing based on an honorable conviction they have at a heart-level.
Vision creates a clear path.
Opinion alone puts obstacles on them.
When we run our opinions through the filter of a vision, we make progress because we keep the path to progress clear.
Understanding this is a huge key to staying ON course, and staying THE course.
Perfection isn't a destination, it's a distraction.
The freedom to fail creates an environment where success can take off.
It's a small shift in perspective that can yield powerful results.
"MAYBE it will work, "MAYBE" it won't.
There's only one way to know.
And if it doesn't?
Welcome to progress.
There is a difference between questioning why vs. asking a question to learn why.
When we open a conversation by questioning someone, we are bringing judgement. In short, whether we realize it or not we are questioning their judgement. That doesn't tend to open up healthy conversations as much as create the potential for unwanted confrontations.
It goes like this:
"I'm not sure why you did this."
"I'm not sure why you would make that decision."
"I'm not sure you thought of whatever I'm about to tell you, but once I do I'll feel better for having cleared this up for you."
The opposite approach sounds more like this:
"Can you tell me more so I can learn the heart behind the decision that was made?"
"Can you share with me the heart behind the decisions made so that I have a better understanding of the bigger picture?"
"Thank you for your heart to lead. Can you tell me more about the vision behind your decision, so that when others ask about the direction we've taken I have all of the information for a great conversation."
Often times those closest to the situation have the most relevant information.
We need to take a posture to learn more than a posture to prove a point.
In my experience, I get it right when I listen twice as much as I speak.
Decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
"it MAY BE that..."
Less trying to prove a point, more of a willingness to learn.
It's about honoring relationships.
We'll pick that thought up tomorrow.