I recently became fascinated with reading the works of classic Stoic writers and philosophers. We can literally tap into experience from antiquity. Read–why make the hard fought mistakes in life that can be avoided through some mild curiosity? Secretary of Defense James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis said of reading, “It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead”. He felt that reading and understanding history allowed him to overcome tough situations, using the insight he gained to avoid wasting the lives of the Marines under his command. Leverage reading for your own betterment!
I recall a time where I first learned the value of empowering others. I was a teenager in charge of 250 martial arts students aged 5-18. My friend and I were responsible for ensuring they were all being prepared for their next ranks and being developed properly. Each class had about 7 to 8 different ranks and each had very different requirements they needed to learn. When I first began, I wanted everything to be perfect and thought I was the only one who could teach them. I would give everyone some “busy work” and then work with one group. Have them practice and move to the next. This worked, but when I saw a young student teaching his peer how to do something, I realized had it all wrong. I was wasting a valuable resource…others. When I learned to empower them, they learned to lead. Instead of one leader…we had 250!
My dad once told me that if my job was to shovel poo (he chose a different word), then to be the best shoveler on the crew. The goal is not to one up the team, but to push the team to new heights. When we work harder, those around us do too. When we surpass the capacity of our work, we often get promoted. Then we need to start the cycle over. Raise our game and the game of those around us will also increase. We raise others up by setting the example.
This notion scares me. In so many areas of my life, I know where I want to be in 3, 5, 10 years but am not perfect about executing my plan. Sometimes I see the lack of effort come to fruition in my personal and professional life. I see the thing I ignored all of a sudden come back to bite me or the conclusion was not as planned. However, when I am deliberate about the plan and what my next step is, I am still not perfect, but I am not disappointed either. Plan, Do, Next is a great strategy to help me arrive where I am trying to go.
I have never found this to NOT be true. The problem is not typically the other person, it is my ego being closed off to listening with curiosity. I care so much about showing what I know that I fail to listen to what others can teach me. I don’t know why either, because, I am an avid learner. Over the next day, ask questions of others to learn something they know first before you offer something you know.
We live in a changing world. The norms that our parents were raised with have drastically changed. There is no longer the stay-at-home mom mentality or the work for the same company and get the gold watch standard anymore. We live in a time where social norms are constantly being challenged and the way we structure our careers is still on the drawing board. For those unwilling to look to the future, this is scary. Those looking for the opportunities in this are going to pave the path for those following behind us. Thoughts?
Why is it so hard to show compassion sometimes? When it is someone I care about deeply, it is very easy to care about their feelings. However, when it is someone who is a bit annoying, it is more of a challenge to have true compassion for their problems. For me, I do my best to imagine it is my child or sibling who is going through this and then try to employ the same measures I would for them.
Whenever I have been rigid in my ways, things have not worked out that well. I remember being so egotistical that I had painted myself into a corner and left myself no way out. Of course, I had made the wrong call, but made it even worse by being so set in my ways that I the only option was to fail or succeed in isolation. I have had to learn to be open to other options and opinions. Ironically, I am more successful now and even when I fail…there is a team beside me.
As a retired service member, this day means a lot. It is the day we celebrate our willingness to fight a mighty empire to be independent of tyranny. The brave founding fathers were willing to sign their own death certificate as they committed treason against the crown. They were able to inspire the colonies to fight for a free nation. That is the foundation of our DNA as Americans: standing for what we believe. As a leader in the service today, we need to do the same for our teams. We don’t need to fight for independence; rather, we need to be willing to put our necks on the line for our team when they need it and not focus only on getting a strat.
Happy Fourth of July to all of my brothers and sisters in arms!