Monday, April 09, 2012

Unpleasant Revelations

Last September I went to an Arbonne training conference known as CNTC.  One of the speakers there was a man named John C. Maxwell.  He's a leadership expert and does a lot of speaking engagements where he teaches people how to become better leaders.

What he had to say intrigued me enough to ask for a few of his books for Christmas.  It's taken me ages to actually start reading them but I am reading "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" now and I'm both encouraged and disheartened by what I'm learning.

The encouraging part?  I see that I have a lot of innate leadership potential.

The disheartening part is to see how clearly I have not used it.  Any of it.  At all.  Ever.

That's a bit of an exaggeration.  I do use some of it - my ability to read people, for example, which is a strength of mine.  However, I have not trained myself to think like a leader.  I've been very unaware of areas in which I could grow personally to become a better leader.

For example, my character is not nearly as strong as I thought it was; at least not when you measure it by integrity, authenticity, and discipline (especially discipline); and respect, potential and consistency (especially consistency).

And let's be honest - who wants to read a book where they are continually learning things about themselves such as:

I have no concrete plan for personal growth.
I haven't learnt how to analyze failures and then learn from them (I analyze well enough if brooding counts...).
I don't know what all of the people closest to me value most.
I don't feel like I live in a way that builds trustworthiness, nor do I feel that I help create an environment of trust around me.
I have not been aware of my need to be a leader, even when I owned my own business.
I have been unaware of what to look for in a leader and what to emulate.
I have been expecting results on inspiration, not on practice and process.
I can create the dream and plan the course but I do not take action on either so what's the point?
So this quote cuts from Jerry West me to the core: "You can't get too much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good."  Goddammit.

I have found reading this book to be a constant struggle between facing my stark reality and being absolutely discouraged and trapped in despair, and seeing my own potential for improvement and being completely reenergized and encouraged - and I'm only on Law 9.  The good news is that I can see growth in myself from a year ago - a year ago I would have stopped at discouraged and quit reading.  I would have placed myself in a downward spiral of despair that I would have had to fight out of over the course of weeks or months, and I probably would have never gone back to the book.  Today I'm recognizing that feeling of unhappiness, of disappointment in myself, taking a deep breath and getting over it.  Learning from it.  Allowing it to be the wound that spurs healing, the wound of the spirit that makes me notice where I have to grow.  Then I pick the book up and keep reading.

As John says in the part about developing leadership skills, there are three types of people: those who naturally understand leadership, those who can be nurtured to understand leadership, and those who will never understand leadership.  I know the last one isn't me, "because these people never pick up a leadership book."

So there is encouragement to be found, and part of that is the fact that I can see these unpleasant revelations about myself and instead of stagnating in them I'm being intentional about improving myself in those specific areas.

But it's not easy to face down.

I shared some of this with S. yesterday and he just nodded.  It made sense to him and he could see it in my life.  That sucked too - when the person you love most, who loves you most, who knows you best, nods when you say that you can create a dream, plan out a course of action, but then you stop and so what does it matter really? and they nod because that's not a surprise to them because they've said so, in essence, to you many times over the last two years...argh.  That cuts like a knife.  Like a knife of truth that you just want to shut your eyes and ignore, but I can't do that if I actually want to change, and I do.

So I'll keep reading, learning the other 12 Laws of Leadership, and then I'll go on and ingest more stuff that makes me think, that challenges my status quo, that forces me to see the good, the bad, and the downright ugly truths about myself.

As long as I can see both the unpleasant and the pleasant revelations, I think I'll be able to keep doing that until I die.

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