Some Days, We Get Real

Let’s be real for a moment.  This sh!t is hard. 

Which sh!t?  All the sh!t. 

Be honest.  Am I right?

Some days, the world tells us that we should have it all together.  But the reality is, we usually don’t.  I’m not being hard on myself (or yourself).  It’s just the truth.  I fail at six impossible things before breakfast.  Everyone intentionally stretching every day does.

And, those days or periods where you start to think maybe you have cracked the code and figured it all out (whatever it is) are usually the days right before you realize in a big way that you haven’t.  Skiing effortlessly down the mountain, then looking sideways and realizing how close you are to the edge.  The panic of looking over and seeing the drop.  The wobble before you center yourself and glide on.

So, why don’t we just start there?  Channel beginner’s mind, embrace imperfectionism and accept that this is all a journey.  There will be the hard and there will be the magnificent.  And, often, the magnificent will have its roots in the hard.  It’s all integrated.  The struggle of climbing the mountain and the elation of reaching the peak. 

My family has a thing we do called the “4 Gs.”  Giving Help – Who did you help?  Getting Real – What was your biggest challenge and how did you deal with it?  Glowing Reflection – What was the best part of your day?  Gratitude – What are you grateful for?  We go through the prompts at the end of the day over dinner.  Each one has its reason for being and its treasures.  But, I think my favorite is “Getting Real.” 

What I love about “Getting Real” is it gives us an opportunity to normalize hard.  And dealing with hard.  Going through the cycles of frustration and fear when you’re in the unknown or things don’t go the way you want them to.  Experiencing the glory of persevering.  We embrace our hard.  Our imperfect.  Our angst.  Our disappointment.  We bring each other along for the ride through it all.  And, when we do eventually have our triumphs, we know what it took.  We saw what was overcome.  And that makes the victory and the celebration so much more meaningful.

At times in my career, I have found myself wondering about Getting Real’s place in the professional context and if, as a leader, I need to present at all times as invulnerable.  If I should (this word – always a red flag!).  When I hear the term “Executive Presence,” for example, I hear “Totally in control.  The one with the answers.  Unwavering confidence and bravado personified.”  So, what is the impact of being real in that context?  Will I prove out the imposter syndrome?  Will I leave my business partners or my team feeling unstable? 

Yet, I’ve most admired the leaders I admire most when they’ve shown vulnerability.  Admitted it’s hard for them too.  That they don’t have all the answers.  Yet…  Asked for help when they need it.  Let show their imperfection. 

What I found in their vulnerable moments was both a deep respect for their courage and strength and also a little bud of possibility that I, ever imperfect, could achieve big dreams too.

I always wilted a bit in the professional panels with perfect-presenting people. Appearing to have it all together. Sharing flawless stories of how it all was seemingly meant to be. Waltzing from one win to another with a golden light shining brightly on them. Rather than the inspiration that was so often intended, I felt discouragement. The delta between their effortless dance and my tortured two-step, a bridge too far.

Knowing everyone has their hard, though, and that we’re all fighting and learning through it.  That is where I find inspiration.  It feels doable (whatever it is). 

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