Rule #4: Find your Stuff or It Will Find You

Last Updated: November 16, 2020

You might not think you have any painful stuff, but trust me it’s there. When we’re ignoring it and relaxing, it’s downstairs in the basement lifting weights and getting stronger. You might not think you have any painful stuff … you might think you have it under control. But that is how it is with self-deceit. We don’t know what we don’t know.

So trust me when I say…

Find Your Stuff Or It Will Find You

Your stuff (and my stuff) is waiting for a time to saddle up and say, “I am in charge now.” I’m talking about that moment when it shows up as a temptation that is just so yummy it creates a “hold my iced-tea and watch this” kind-of-a-trainwreck. I’ve been there, and many leaders I work with can testify to these derailer moments, too.

Our stuff is multi-talented; it knows where our vulnerability is and how to get us. Our stuff will convince us we are right … or worthless … that we are an imposter or king-of-the-world. It will tell us we have nothing to worry about … or that we have lots to worry about.

It will urge us to hustle for approval or give our ego a big dose of “atta-boy”. It will convince us that our lack of empathy is justified because “who in the world behaves that way or says that horrible thing?”

Whatever our vulnerability is, it will go for it and fuel it. It is ruthless, cunning, and baffling. It will control our decisions, twist our thinking, and justify one more lie, one more lashing out, one more indiscretion, one more validation, one big drink, one more “who will know?”

Finding My Stuff

I recognize the power of this as I walk alongside my husband, who is deteriorating from Alzheimer’s, the great thief. As the disease was doing its damage and stealing his cognitive reality, he was deeply aware (at times) of what he left undone.

As the thief did its work and communication became difficult, there remained a few moments of jaw-dropping emotional and spiritual clarity. If my husband with the relentless disease that steals everything wanted to clear the decks and own his stuff, what could possibly be the downside for the rest of us? Don’t you think it makes sense to shine the light on our stuff and do our emotional work now before we hit bottom?

Owning Your Stuff

Whatever we do not own about ourselves will get stronger and win. The very fact that we can put lipstick on our ugly stuff and think it is beautiful, demonstrates how deceitful our stuff is.

Our stuff will keep us in the victim seat or strengthen our inner-bully.

It will convince us we deserve the latest attack or that we are right to attack. It will win every day in little ways until it takes over like kudzu, silently, slowly, and completely…


We acknowledge it, own it, talk about it with a trusted person. And then … heal it by doing our emotional and spiritual work, connecting deeply with ourselves, finding the God of our Understanding, running hard toward our tribe, and living from our fiercest, most loving stuff.

The Power of Finding Your Stuff

One night as a summer storm rolled in, I sat on my porch with two clients and their spouses. One of them said, “This storm reminds me of what we went through. How the darkest times led to the sweetest times. How both of us had to really dig deep into ourselves and make a lot of changes. And that without the stormy times, we actually would not be sitting on this porch right now, celebrating not just personal success but a deep and profound leadership transformation that shifted our culture and the entire organization.”

And here’s the truth…

There will be some who don’t sign up to go deep within, own mistakes, do things differently, make amends, and love big with grace. Finding Your Stuff is hard.

And here’s another truth…

As leaders interested in self-discovery and deep connection, we choose to do it, struggle and all, because we know this is the work that makes all the difference in the world.

Connection Tip: Write down three things about yourself that you think are downstairs in the basement working out with weights and getting stronger. Reflect on some ways you can start to reduce the hold they have on you.

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