Posted on Jun 2nd 2016
Getting old really sucks. Running is my stress relief. It is also my feeble and losing battle with time. My 45 min running route gives me a 2 mile reprieve onto the soft sand along the beach. With summertime upon us, kids dart in and out of the water with too much joy in their eyes to pay any attention to anyone or anything moving along the beach. My first few encounters were very startling. On a collision course, I kept thinking they will surely see me and we can both make course corrections. But regardless of distance or how close we got to each other, collision was inevitable unless I stopped or went around. With perfect blinders, they made up their mind and could only see the waves beckoning them. Nothing else existed in their siren call with such visceral joy that I can no longer remember or relate to with my passing years.
Over time and after a number of these encounters, inconvenience lead to wonderment. I began to see parallels in my life and work. My children have long left the nest. But I can remember a number of times when one or all were so hell bent on a course and could not pay attention to rational thought or consequences. In retrospect, not all were as life and death as they seemed then. But determined to protect them from our mistakes and bad experiences, we (parents) had to do everything in our powers to help them see past their blinders. Often we can only see the potential pain without appreciating the joy or experience we are denying them. The same is true at work. Experience is an asset and a liability. Experience improves our field of vision and allows us to scan more of our physical and emotional surroundings. Experience gives us the ability to see beyond the now and to develop scenarios for possible outcomes and consequences. It becomes a liability when we can only see through blind spots and completely miss what is in front of us. Experience can make us super conservative and cowardly. Unfortunately age and experience are synonymous. But let’s face it. We don’t know everything. While we are all different, most share the same aversion to repeated pain. That aversion projects our worst fears into all of our interactions; personal and professional. As if that wasn’t hard enough, many of us have a constant inner struggle with crippling doubt turning to our own worst critic for advice.
In life and at work, we need to value visionaries inside ourselves and outside, with all of blinder warts. Let them storm the beaches and enrich all of our lives. Sure, there is so much devil in the details. But it is just a matter of perspective. We can invest our experience and energy to prove why some may fail, or to help them become successful. It’s not a Zen play on words. It’s a fundamental role and mind shift to get out of the way, to try to see what they see and to invest into success not failure. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” applies to presidents as it does to all other functions. It has taken me a very long time to appreciate my executive function—not to create walls to protect company interest or employees from their own actions, but rather to find and tap into our creativity floodgate—and more importantly, how to play a supporting role when called upon.
I still run the same beach, but with a different perspective. I’m learning to appreciate and revel in the joy of these kids. Perhaps one day I will finally see what they see, put my pride aside and follow them into the water.
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