There you are, still standing (or, sitting, while you read this). After all you’ve been through, you’re still standing.
You’ve been working at this for a long time. Maybe years. You’ve had more challenges than you can remember; more setbacks, more disappointments, more resistance than you expected.
And yet, the dream didn’t die. To the contrary, your vision—your idea—has become sharper, burned hotter, and it’s now within reach. The reality of unexpected problems, unsuccessful strategies, unfunded promises, and unfaithful friends, have left you bruised, tired and close to quitting. But you haven’t quit.
You took a day, a week, a month and pondered the deeper things. You wondered why? You looked for someone else to take the lead. You fantasized about going back to a simpler life as a rancher or bus driver or bartender, but you didn’t give up. You couldn’t.
Why? Why haven’t you tossed in the towel? (A decision, by the way, reserved for the trainer, not the fighter.) Let me challenge you to take stock and answer that question. Why are you still standing? Live with that thought for a while. You may be surprised at what you discover.
Permit me to guide you for a moment as you explore.
First, you aren’t doing this for the money. Money is nice, but that’s not why you are still standing. If you were all about the ever-increasing paycheck, you would have stopped reading at the beginning of the second paragraph. You know full well that you can earn money in much easier ways than this. Getting money doesn’t quench your thirst. So, it’s not the money.
Second, you aren’t still at this for the fame. It’s nice to be recognized but you learned early on that being truly known, understood, and appreciated—even loved—by a few far outweighs the fleeting and fickle fun of fame.
Third, you’re not in this adventure (and still standing) because your are “good at it.” It’s obvious to us that your natural talents, sharp wit, keen intellect, and sparkling personality come easily, naturally, smoothly. No, you are not in this because you like the effortless path. You don’t deliberately choose the hard one either. But, when you look back, everything you’ve done has been hard, nearly impossible, at first—and, perhaps it remained so for a very long time. So no, you don’t do this because you are always in your sweet spot, doing what you already know and what comes naturally.
Why, then, are you still standing? Still engaged?
After some time, you may arrive at the terrifyingly simple realization that generations of transformational leaders have come to before you: You are compelled.
In a frustrated season you may have exclaimed, “Well, what else would I do!” But it’s deeper than that. You’re not trapped. You’re not out of options. You are compelled. Something inside you has always said, “It’s you.” It’s as though that inner voice has a smiling face, a gentle tone, that relentlessly nudges you: It’s you. It’s this. It’s now. Keep going.
And so you do. You get up, drink a cup of dark coffee, take a deep breath, lace up your emotional boots, and get back in the fight. You can’t quit.
Thank You. Because of your leadership, we are better off. Because you keep going, we avoid an unseen disaster, capture an unexpected opportunity, and rise out of poverty just a little more. Because you haven’t given up, our future is better than it would have been, our children healthier, our society less toxic, our souls less afraid. Thank you.
And, we will never know that these things happened because you, and your team, did not give up. We will never see your name in lights, never watch a blockbuster movie about you, never sing a hymn written by you. But you led us nonetheless.
I’m sipping some Old Forester 1910 Old Fine Whisky as I write this and think about you. In 1910 (waaaay before I was born, for the record), a fire nearly destroyed the Old Forester Company. A few barrels were saved and the bourbon poured into undamaged casks to continue the aging process. The result was amazing. The glass I’m enjoying right now is built on the same accidental wisdom of a few people who started their adventure in 1897. They just didn’t give up. They couldn’t. And, now I’m enjoying the fruit of their labor.
I know, bourbon is just a drink, and your work isn’t that trivial, (Sacrilege! Bourbon is far from trivial! Just saying…) but, you are compelled just like they were. Sipping this wonderful drink makes me think of you. It’s the same with you, isn’t it? You may be blackened by the smoke of adversity, sweaty with disappointment, tearful from loss, but you haven’t quit. You’re still leading. You’re still living, laughing, loving. And, you will be tomorrow, too.
So, why are you still standing? Because you have to. Here’s to you!
If you are reading these Leadership Letters as they arrive in your email, and can’t wait for the next blog post, or if you want (a lot) more check out my latest book, The 5 Disciplines of High Performance Teams here on Amazon.
And, if you get tired of reading, you can follow some of my random observations, including this theme, on The Dr De Hicks Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts in iTunes or PodBean or Google Podcasts (and a bunch of other places, too.)