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Healthy Leadership is Hard

Alan Andersen

Somewhere along the line, a notion that life should be easy has crept into our societal mindset. I for one like that idea or at least I thought I liked it.

Uh, yeah, Alan! What's not to like?  Easy living is the good life.

Years ago I would have probably agreed with that thought. However, the older I get the more I find that there are really only two things that are quite attractive to me (well, three things if I include my bride in this conversation, but it's not Valentines Day yet so I'll table that until an appropriate time).

The first, and maybe the most attractive trait is Humility. The second attractive (and important) trait is Perseverance.

This is especially true when I see or hear a story about triumph in the face of hardship. You know, when all odds are against someone and yet somehow, by some miracle they beat the odds! Apparently, I am not alone in this inclination.

Take for instance a modern example of this in the New York Times Best Seller "I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond" by Michael Oher. Maybe you're more familiar with the 300 million dollar plus grossing movie of this triumphant story simply called "The Blind Side" with Tim McGraw and Sandra Bullock.

My point is this, in the history of the world, it has never been easier to live an "easy life" than right here and right now. However, just because something is easy that doesn't make it right, or healthy for that matter. Instead, what is typically right and usually difficult is going the extra mile or not cutting corners. 

Look at it this way, you can embrace the hardship of mediocrity. However, will you be left wondering what you would have become, could have accomplished, or should have attempted? I know I would.

Or you can embrace the hardship of growing pains. Knowing full well that some of the greatest satisfaction you've ever experienced was when you persevered. And this leads us to...

Principle Number Four: Healthy Leadership is Hard

In Tribe by Sebastian Junger, the author shares his unique findings on humanity and perseverance in the midst of difficulty.

“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It's time for that to end.”

To be clear I am not saying that we should only work harder and not smarter! I am all for accelerating the healthy growth process and I love when we can "cut to the chase". However, I believe our society has forgotten that as humans we are either growing or dying. Period.

When you're growing, you're likely going to experience growing pains and you're equally likely to experience clarity and true meaning.  

Practical Application

Let's fight the urge to give up or give in when things get difficult. Let's remember that people can be at their best when life's circumstances are at its worst. Let's close by looking at the three ways that you can strengthen your inner resolve to embrace hardship and persevere, especially as a healthy leader!

  1. Uncover Your True North. 
    • Question: When was the last time that you wrote down (or reviewed) your personal purpose, values, vision, and mission for your life? If not within the last 3 months, get to it! (Consider this exercise quarterly)
    • If you don't know where or how to begin this exercise email me and I will help.
  2. Read.* Especially books by old, dead people that have had books around for decades or centuries!
  3. Embrace Community. Gather trusted advisors that will be candid and encouraging.
    • Question: When was the last time that you invited someone to tell you how they perceive your character, competence, and capacity to be? (Consider this exercise quarterly)

At the end of the day, if something seems "too easy" then let that be a red flag to at least consider an alternative option. Please don't be a glutton for punishment or invite unnecessary hardship. However, there is a reason that the rule of thumb that "you get what you pay (physically, mentally, spiritually, relationally, etc) for" is generally true in each area of life. Let's close with this...

What in your life do you cherish that came easy to you?

For me, the answer is nothing. There is not one thing that I genuinely cherish that did not come at significant cost or that I did not have to work my butt off for. That includes my bride of more than 12 years, my children, my friends and family, the home that we live in, even the trivial gadgets I truly enjoy (think anything Mac which are over priced yet I gladly pay the price for), etc. So again I ask...

What in your life do you cherish that came easy to you?

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

*When I say "read" I am including audio books in that term. For perspective, 3 of the 5 or 6 books I work through a month are via audio.

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