Some Days, We Do Hard Things

As Glennon Doyle so brilliantly says, “We can do hard things.”  But…how?

And, there are so many hard things. 

Having the hard conversation.  Making the tough decision.  Deciding on your next career move.  Navigating a challenging health or relationship situation.  Not knowing how any of it will go.  Knowing only the hard and the uncertainty.

I do not have a road map.  I do have some thoughts on the speed limit.

In my life, I’ve found a lot of comfort and wisdom in what I’ve now come to refer to as my guiding haiku.

“O Snail
Climb Mount Fuji
But slowly, slowly”
– Kobayashi Issa

I love it because it grounds me when I am impatient to “get there” (which is often…).  This image is my reminder that things take the time they’re going to take.  The snail is not going to get there faster simply by wanting it more.  By its relentless hustle. 

In fact, slow can be good.  It’s hard to see that sometimes in our fast-fast-fast, more-more-more culture, but it’s true.  Some hard things warrant thoughtful consideration and going through the stages.  And that’s okay too. 

I like to think of steady forward progress.  Trusting the journey and moving intentionally through it.  Awake and aware.  Present as well as persistent.  As much as we often just want to get the hard thing over with, there is richness in being there for it.  All of it.  Every micro-moment is important and special in its own way.  And, the signs are not always easy to spot – you must choose to pay attention.  For this reason and so many others, it isn’t just the peak and sweeping vista that matter.  Follow the path one step at a time and look to see the silver linings along the way.

Sometimes, hard things are yours to do alone.  Most of the time, I highly recommend asking for help.  In either case, the important thing is to embrace vulnerability and be brave.  If you look closely, in leadership and in life, you are usually surrounded in some way by a team that brings different expertise and perspective.  Use it!  Trust yourself and AIM to build trust with others.  There’s a reason we say “two heads are better than one.”  Yet, even when asking for help and working with others, it’s important to leave space for solitary reflection. Put all the ingredients in the pot and stir, yes.  But, then, walk away and let things simmer on your own.

Also, it’s important to recognize that some days, it’s just not the time.  Not yet.  Some hard things take time to process.  The “right answer” might not be clear right away.  Just like in law, sometimes in life, some issues need to ripen for decision.  

When I was trying to make an important health decision last fall, I had to relentlessly remind myself of this.  I had built out a plan to gather the information I believed would empower my best decision-making (second opinions, additional tests, reading up on my situation).  From there, it was about trusting that following the plan (even though I desperately wanted a shortcut) would lead me to the right answer.  And it did.

Same in business.  Some hard things are not split-second decisions.  There’s a process.

I started a meeting the other day by saying “I don’t know what the answer is, but I think we need to discuss and think about how we’re going to think about this.”  While my inner critic was skeptical, that was the important truth of the matter and owning it and the vulnerability that comes with it is an important part of the journey.  Doing so also gives others permission to do the same.

In my experience, we get the best results when each of us owns what we bring and what we still need and then comes together openly, as a team, primed to do our best thinking.  Versus showing up with a need to assert an answer with false certainty.

I remember the one study group I attended in law school (I did things a little differently, even then).  One of the guys in my group did most of the talking and seemed to know the material cold.  Nothing but confidence and didn’t hesitate to tell us so.  But, some of the things he was saying didn’t mesh with my recollection of what I’d read.  As I did so often then, I assumed I must be wrong and somehow deficient, so I kept quiet.  Yet, when I got home and checked, I realized I was actually correct.  

In that moment, I confirmed two things.  One, I was fine sitting study groups out.  And, two, I didn’t benefit from situations where people pretended to know more than they did.  Give me a room full of humble people who own the limits of their knowledge, want to think and learn, are open and curious, and are coming together to co-create solutions any day!

Sometimes it starts with thinking about thinking.  Figuring out what steps and information would be helpful in making the hard decision or doing the hard thing. Taking the time to consider different perspectives.

And then, it is putting one foot in front of the other.  If you’re lucky, arm in arm with a trusted teammate or two.

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