About a year and a half ago, I started running. I’ve never liked running, truthfully. So I also started biking on off days, as a sort of treat to myself for being so good and running on the others.
One reason I don’t like running is that exercise has never been an escape for me. Setting my body in motion has never helped me leave behind anxieties or depression or frustrations.
Running intensifies my moods.
A couple months ago I was bursting with excited energy about some work prospects for the coming year or two. I went out and ran over 7 miles in less than 50 minutes while my son was at a baseball practice.
A few months ago I was completely discouraged by a conversation at work at it took me 23 minutes to run the 2.6 mile loop I use on weekday mornings.
With all that on the table, and add to it that I’ve never been a big athlete, whenever I’m plodding along I assume that the problem is me. My mind isn’t in the right place. My body is tired.
But sometimes I turn a corner, or round the median to start biking toward home, and I discover that I wasn’t the problem at all.
Some days, I mumble with frustration as the app tells me that I’m inching my bike along the Great Coast Highway at a paltry 14 miles per hour, only to turn back toward home, feel the pedals fly, and hear to my delight that I’m clocking in at 22 mph.
Those are the days when, sometimes without even realizing it, I have had to compel my legs to grind against their will because of the wind.
The crap keeping me from flying isn’t always internal. It’s not always my failure.
The power enabling me to soar isn’t always from within. It’s not always my achievement.
Often, when I grind out one half of my run or ride and glide through the other, I realize that the wind is real, and that it is metaphor.
I do my best work when the wind is at my back.
I do my best work when I am working with people who see the value in the work I do, encourage me in it, and contribute to it. I do better the things I feel I’m best at, and I do better the things that I do not think are my strengths.
What I do and how I do it isn’t always about my achievement or always about my failure.
I struggle to work when I am working with people who are only and always critical. I can’t do well what I do best when I need to collaborate with nay-sayers or people who distrust.
What I do and how I do it isn’t always about my ability or my incompetence.
This reality of life–it is sometimes the wind, and we can be that wind for each other, either for or against–can also be a call to action.
We can be the encouragers (even without being uncritical) who put the wind at the backs of our family, friends, and colleagues, so that they can do best what they do well, and even soar where they might normally flop.
Or, we can be the nags, the criticizers, the judges, the policing force who live to point out problems and failings, refusing to see any future other than one in which people become clones to us or else do everything wrong.
This is the essence of good leadership: we help give to the people around us the power to thrive as only they can.
We realize that it is not all about their achievement, and not all about their potential failure, but about the power each of us has to help each other soar.
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