I’m a bit of a biography nut and was intrigued by an article on Bruce Springsteen in a recent Vanity Fair article. In it he stated that, ““You have to create the show anew, and find it anew, on a nightly basis,” Springsteen said. “And sometimes,” he concluded, laughing, “it takes me longer than I thought it would.” Later on in the article, he says, “I’ve always felt a lot in common with Sisyphus. I’m always rolling that rock, man. One way or another, I’m always rolling that rock.”
I was struck by the connections to creativity and leadership in what he said. Our creativity gets expressed when we continue to push that rock uphill. In my case, just because I may have created a blog I really liked yesterday (or many other previous days!), doesn’t mean I don’t have to go through my creative process again and find some inspiration. While my creative process might become familiar to me, I don’t know that it’s gotten any easier. Some days that rock is pretty heavy!
And this is certainly true of leadership as well. We need to show up every day and find the inspiration and best parts of ourselves. Just because we made a difference one day doesn’t mean we don’t need to do the same the next day. We have to recreate our passion and commitment for leadership every day. And that, too, can feel like pushing a big rock uphill.
Today’s blog is inspired by a recent book, The Best Advice in Six Words, an inspiring and provocative book full of advice from famous and not so famous authors.
The holiday season can be full of unpleasant memories, high expectations and emotional stress. Take a break from that backpack.
Embrace what is possible from there. (Second 6 word advice
In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) work environment, the potential for pain can be high despite the best intentions of good leaders and the actions of misguided or unprepared leaders. Stuff happens, it’s not addressed and people start to carry around a heavy load of pain and frustration.
For me the way through that is an inner journey of forgiveness which sets us free and is completely in our control. Forgiveness is a choice to recognize that those who have hurt us are human, they make mistakes, and that hanging onto our anger and sense of “what’s fair” just keeps us stuck.
Reconciliation, while powerful, is a nice to have but because it involves communication between people is messy and complicated. Often it’s simply not possible because one party isn’t willing to do so. And if you reconcile without forgiveness you live in anticipation of the next “hurt”, an uneasy and fragile space to occupy.
Waiting for an I’m sorry or for someone to hold the offender accountable, or to reconcile with someone who’s not willing or able sucks the life out of us. Forgiveness, while indeed challenging, breathes life into us.
And it is a choice we can make at any time.
For those readers who may have been counting, today is day 30 of my 30-day challenge to blog everyday. While I am planning to write much more about what I learned, today I am reflecting on the interesting connection between time and creativity.
A lot of days I struggled to blog. I was too busy with “real work”, tired and uninspired. I said on many days, “I can’t do this.” Ordinarily I would have stopped there and waited for another day.
But the challenge to blog everyday got me pushing through the confusion, anxiety and insecurity that I have nothing to say and am not capable of drawing anything. While praying might be too strong a word, being truly open and receptive to inspiration is something I hope to remember moving forward.
That, and pushing through when it seems like I can’t.
Zombie Walks have been happening across Canada these past few days and today there was one in Victoria. So not to miss an opportunity to connect anything to leadership, and thanks to my husband Dave’s pearl of insight:
Leaders need to plan for the inevitable disaster (like preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse) and then improvise, improvise, improvise.
Sounds like a plan for life.
A common coaching question is “what would it take to say yes to [fill in the blank]? In my particular case, it was saying yes to a book. I have wanted to write a book since I became a high school English teacher at 24. I thought it would be a novel, and then as the years wore on and I changed careers many times, I thought it would be something non-fiction, probably around leadership or teams. I have come up with many book titles and even drawn up outlines for books but have never quite got there until now.
So what did it take for me to say yes to a book? A few rather interesting discoveries, thanks to the conversations with my brilliant book coach, Danielle Pope, my equally as brilliant husband, Dave Whittington and my equally as brilliant friend, Claire Abbott:
- That the book was writing me, not the other way around. When I started the book, I had a vague idea about what I was going to say, but mainly the idea just wouldn’t go away. I needed to give it some time and energy and learn about the book by writing it.
- As an adult educator, I think and am energized by developing and facilitating learning. So the first draft of my book was actually an e-learning course, followed by a one day workshop. That was a major “ah-ha” for me and fundamentally shifted my energy about writing.
- Related to the above, that a book could start small (a 7 day e-learning course) and evolve into a full length book.
- That writing a book is different from any other type of work I do and I couldn’t do it at my desk! I was too distracted by “real work” and couldn’t focus. I actually had to go to another environment to turn the e-learning course into the first draft of a book.
- That finding my voice for the book meant overcoming several inner demons related to the last time I wrote something substantial, my PhD dissertation.
- That I had to give myself permission to write the first draft as if no one else would ever read it. Until I made that discovery, I edited almost everything I wrote or stared at a blank page.
- That I cannot write in dribs and drabs as recommended by lots of people. I could not get up early and write a few hours a day. I needed to delve into the book and make it my sole focus for a period of time.
- And the most challenging discovery of all … I had to say no to paid work. I set aside weeks in my calendar and then would get calls to do work and would take the work. The hardest thing I have ever done is prioritize the book. I had to tell myself that writing a book was as important as my “real work” and actually invest time and money (as I went away to The Haven on Gabriola Island, a great place to write by the way.) I realized that saying no was an absolutely critical part of getting this book written, and while this was the biggest no, there were others.
And so, whatever your dream might be, I encourage you to find a few folks who will continue to ask “What would it take to say yes to ….?”
Oh and I almost forgot … the book is called How to Forgive your Boss and should be published this fall. Contact me or watch this space for how you can get your copy!