Life Is Curly

A highly successful executive and a recognized Vistage (TEC in his day) Speaker from a couple of decades ago, Renn Zaphiropolous, used to say "life is curly, don't try to straighten it out." About the same time in my career, I had the only woman of my executive group at the time become totally frustrated with the conversation. She implored the group. "Guys, stop it! Life is messy. Birth is messy, death is messy, sex is messy. Stop trying to sanitize it."

As the years go by I become more and more impressed with the wisdom of these two quotes for those who intend to lead really well. Both of these wise folks were speaking to the essential messiness of life and the necessity of addressing it head on if you are to be present in the moment (see our Operating Principle "Be present, stay in the game"). A long time favorite quote of mine is "the person who is most present to the way that it is AND the way that it isn't will emerge as the leader, regardless of their position." I have no idea who said it, (so let's say it was me. 😊)

Again, as the years pass, I see more and more bright young people getting MBAs and professional degrees with what appears to me as an unrecognized strategy of being able to fix the messiness they experienced growing up. Another favorite quote of mine is, "People get advanced degrees to avoid the experience of being human." - Author unknown.  (And yes, I can repeat this as I have one...). Later on in life, as the fixing or avoiding strategies aren't working, they may try having more money, more toys, a fancier title, or a new spouse. Today the fashionable phrase to acknowledge the situation seems to be "it's complicated."

So what are some of the costs of trying to avoid the messiness?

1) Not being present to what's going on for the people around you.

2) Making bad decisions about the people and relationships that surround you. 

3) Not being able to have truly productive interactions.

4) Being delusional in your leadership.

5) Seeing others as the source of all the problems you confront - being a victim.

6) Failing to step in when difficult conversations are required.

7) Failing to develop effective powerful strategic plans because you didn't understand the ground where you stand in the present.

8) Being in stress and suffering yourself - you can fool your head but you can't fool your heart and gut.

If you are finding yourself in any of the above predicaments, increasing joy, satisfaction and effectiveness in your life, leadership, and for those around you will take real courage on your part. You will have to take risks, be vulnerable and confront your own demons and limiting beliefs. The journey will seem perilous and the outcomes will be extraordinarily worth it!

Here are some ideas to help you on your journey:

1) Study speaking and writing by Dr. Brene Brown, a University of Houston Shame Researcher, who defines courage as, "Tell the story of who you are with your whole heart."

2) See our 2130 Partners work on the "Productive Dialogue Zone" in our leadership book, "Accelerate."

3) Get coaching and participate in personal development programs.

4) For many more ideas and strategies, connect with one of our 2130 Partners.