I Can’t Breathe…

One of my fellow martial artist friends came up to me after class and said, “I can’t breathe”.

Obviously, he could breathe and there was not need for paramedics or tracheotomy.  My friend said this, exasperated from the fairly strenuous workout we just had.  I found myself loudly saying, “That’s the best part!”, even though I felt the same.  It was a near-automatic response I had given, though afterward, making me wonder why I said it that way.  Thinking about it, the answer is age-old simple:

Work hard. Get to the point where you almost feel like you can’t breathe. Then, win.  The best part is getting through that really tough spot, making it past a difficult time, pushing past a limit and surviving, feeling on the edge, and coming out on the other side stronger than you were before.

In the workplace, there are those moments when it really, really just sucks.  There’s this deadline, that need, this urgent thing, that expectation, this project, that drama and so on.  Here, you get two choices: give up and die or push through and win.

While you’re in it, it really sucks.  When you come out of it is when it feels great.  The prize is accomplishment, strength, discipline, and being able to look back on the insanity and knowing that you made it after all.
That is the best part.

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For the Sake of Success…

“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  — The Dark Knight (2008)

Lately, I’ve been very interested in this idea of whether it’s possible to continue moving upwards in the leadership ranks and still keep certain principles or aspects of personal philosophy intact, or whether at some point, one must sacrifice some of them for the sake success.

I’m grateful that there are some really inspiring examples of humble, personable, and honest servant-leaders in the company for which I work.  A few of our best leaders are the very role model leaders one could ever hope to emulate.  However, it’s not always the case at every company or in every organization.  Some places move in ways that engage in ruthless politics, back-channeling, and have utterly crazy dog-eat-dog cultures.  

It’s interesting because it makes one wonder, as they say in fencing, “What’s the point?”.  What’s the point in striving for success at the cost of what really matters?  Why lead if it’s not to serve?  Why do anything if it doesn’t bring value and meaning to something greater than oneself?  

I really like Pope Francis’ discussion on The 15 Diseases of Leadership. In his talk, the Pope describes how leadership can go wrong.  It hits the mark in these reflections, of late, on the leadership journey and how to be mindful of these “diseases” that are prevalent in our success-driven society.  

Understanding these risks helps ensure one doesn’t cross over into the dark side of leadership that destroys acting on principle and makes one, often unwittingly, do things the wrong way purely…for the sake of success.  

To Win, One Must Risk Losing…

The cost of winning is the potential risk of losing.

In a match, in business, in poker, in love, in any game or any pursuit worth winning, you must risk losing to enter the game.  You must risk failing in order to win. Without the risk of loss, there is nothing to be won.

Should it be that winning is worth anything without the possibility of losing?  Should any worthwhile pursuit be truly worthwhile if not for the risk of failing?  Does one jump without risk of falling?  Does one not shoot for the stars if only to hit the moon?

If not for fear of loss, for what else might we shoot?  If nothing, then what?