Photo Courtesy of nuttakit,

Wind at Your Back

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.

Featured image courtesy of nuttakit at

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5 thoughts on “Wind at Your Back

  1. I am out here in Idaho along the banks of the beautiful Snake River and there is a multi-mile paved trail along the river beckoning me to put on my running shoes and enjoy it. I hate running. All my life, if it didn’t have an engine, or I wasn’t wearing hockey skates, I stayed away from it. But now at 54 that attitude just isn’t cutting it anymore and my mid-section tells me to RUN! Good for you Daniel. How are you doing on the safety-razor shaving routine you started some time ago? I went back to it ’cause disposables are just too darn expensive. Cheers!

  2. This is the problem with metaphor: people fixate on the story and the point falls away. :-)

    Actually, I did a little study once. I was all grumpy about people using sermon illustrations because, after all, “Jesus taught in parables.” If you know how Mark 4 works, you know that Jesus taught in parables to keep people from knowing what he was talking about.

    Well, my little experiment was this: any time someone told me about a story or joke a preacher told in a sermon I would ask them, “What was the point of it?”

    I did this for about six months. No one could ever tell me!

    But here it is. And if you gents need to go running now, that’s awesome. Just don’t forget to encourage the folks around you after you get back!

  3. Hello, Daniel,

    We have fruit-producing wind at our backs when guided by and walking in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25; John 3:8).

    My wife Susan and I continue to bicycle together several times a week as we approach our 30th wedding anniversary in June.


  4. I find that I have to try to catch people doing well and not doing wrong.
    It is so ingrained to point out to people where they have messed up.
    It is all I see in others because honestly it is all I see in myself.

    I know in creating certain types of cultures as a leader I try to be the wind at my friends back in the church.
    Meaning, it is hard to do this all the time with every attribute, but when we collaboratively decide on a certain virtue we want to see in our church community (integrity or honesty) we all celebrate that and thereby create a new culture through consistent wind at the back of our friends.
    And as a leader I model that encouragement.

    Good thought!

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