We all Struggle
A few years back, my oldest son, Santino, was skiing for the first time with me. He was 7 at the time. We had enrolled him in lessons and he was learning the fundamentals. It was time to get on the chair with Dad and have some real fun!
When we load on the chair lift, we high five and he tells me excitedly; “Dad, I’m going to be better than Uncle Morgan!” He had heard countless stories of his Uncle heli-skiing in Alaska and he is making it clear to me that he wants to be the best. We high five again and I tell him another Uncle Morgan story to fuel his ambition.
We ski a few of the lower runs and we’re having a blast. “Dad, I want to do the Blue runs! Let’s do Golden Nugget and Alpine!” He has no clue what these runs are aside from the stories I’ve shared about the mountain. He just knows their bigger and faster than the runs he’s skiing now. “Heck yeah! Let’s go!”, I say to him. We ski to a different chair and he’s beaming with excitement.
He wiped out several times on the new runs. He dusted off the snow every time and we laughed them off. I could see the mountain humbling him as we knocked out a few more runs, but he kept going. Before long, his confidence is rising, and he thinks he can do a Black diamond run. I hug him and tell him we need to save that first Black run for Mom. I tell him that Mom is a better skier than Dad and he’ll need some really good tips from her, so that he can get as good as Uncle Morgan.
Every Struggle Teaches Us Something – The Gift
I learned to ski the hard way. I was 18 when I skied for the first time. My brothers thought it would be fun to put me on the chair lift, take me to the top, and watch me roll all the way down. It was fun…for them. Fortunately, I still thought I was invincible and I refused to give them the satisfaction of quitting. It was a very long day.
Although painful, I learned to ski quickly. I was in a hurry to get better. But my fundamentals were weak, and my improvement was forced as they overwhelmed me with instructions.
I had a similar struggle when I started my leadership journey. The first ten years were a lot like that first run – skiing fast and downhill. My struggle was very much like my son’s ambition to ski – I wanted to do more but I felt like I had very little control over my ability.
I had yet to learn the lesson from the Desert Shower story in Chapter 11, that More is not the Answer. Like many aspiring leaders, my ambition was running faster than my ability to develop myself. I was trying to take everything in, but nothing was sticking.
Leadership is Sharing the Gifts
When my son and I reached the top of his first blue run, the first thing we did was plan our route to the bottom. I had him follow me down and was very encouraging on the way down. He was still in full control and I skied close, so he felt safe. My skiing guided him where to go, what to avoid, where to turn, and what lied ahead.
But I only coached him on one thing on every run. The more I focused on less, the better he got.
Students of struggle do the same – they apply what they are learning to their strengths over some long periods of discomfort. Versus the rush to do as much as possible over a short period. They have figured out that the long way is the shortcut.
Flash Forward two ski seasons, and my son is doing the Black runs and is also learning to do jumps on the way down. He consistently flirts with the boundaries of his ability….and his mom’s sanity. He is now leading me down the runs he was dreaming about on that first chair. Look out Uncle Morgan!
Become a Student of Struggle
Aspiring leaders tend to over-complicate the steps they need to take to become a 2.0 version of the leader they are today.
Ask yourself the following to get started:
- What fundamental skill do I need to learn to become a better leader?
- What’s the next big step for me with this skill?
- Who’s a great guide or expert that I can learn from?
Pick one thing for every “run” you make and give it all your energy for a longer period.
Leaders that transform themselves know that you simply must work to improve on less but do it with more focus and energy. More is not the Answer.
Hail the Underdogs!