Ever feel so done, depleted, and empty that you wonder if you can show up, never mind lead? Well, join the damn club…
We all feel this way (or those of us interested in telling the truth are), and that is because leadership, like life, is a marathon, not a sprint.
Some years ago, I ran a marathon, pretty unprepared: some miles more grueling than others, especially mile 2 through 26.2. How I felt during that November day in NYC is how many executives feel when they are at the negotiation table, navigating the boardroom, thinking about how to lead their 9000 employees through COVID, or dealing with hurricanes of challenges at home like parenting, marriage, bill paying, and sick loved ones. When life feels more tsunami than easy flow, my words are often “Lord have mercy, will it never end?”
To add salt to the wound, as leaders we are often unprepared to run the race, which means we find ourselves worn slap out, as they say in the South. I might not have prepared for the marathon, but it prepared me. I couldn’t even … and yet I did. I ran that marathon to get in touch with that badass warrior who loves fiercely, fights for her tribe, and now makes self-affirming decisions while urging others to do the same.
Marathons, of all kinds, are designed to be tough, so we understand the importance of doing life alongside those who call us to be our best and to connect more deeply to the God that gave us the gift of running the race set before us.
I had nothing left during the last 3 miles; I was painfully aware it was not about the marathon but about self-discovery and doubling down on the rising-up, not the tapping-out.
Here are a few pieces of wisdom I have learned from the many marathons I have run, one literally, and many more figuratively:
Doing self-discovery means there are no short-cuts or detours. Everything comes back to the path we are privileged to run. We were sent here to do it. Connect deeply with yourself and the path you are called to travel.
What we invest in when things are going our way, is what we pull from during the tough day. Invest well. Develop spiritual practices. Anchor yourself in the God of your Understanding. And I hate to break it to you, but your money, likes, and outside solutions are not God. Tie yourself to the only Real Thing, my dear people. You will need it.
To recover means doing emotional and spiritual work-outs so we can own our stuff instead of it owning us; it is the most courageous work you will ever do. Find ways to strengthen the muscles of honesty, resilience, empathy, willingness, and acceptance. This emotional-spiritual-fitness will carry you up the hills you think you can’t climb.
None of us benefit from people falsely cheering us on if they can’t and don’t admit they have struggled and have been depleted. The quality of your life mirrors the quality of your connections; wisely choose the ones who cheer you on and run with you.
While I truly know that life is joyful and beautiful, it also breaks us wide open with grief, sadness, fear. Being honest about how shitty parts of life can be, makes us more authentic. Life is not a 21-gun-salute to positivity even for those of us who do truly believe the glass is half-full.
Run toward the energy that renews. Be discerning, because everything and everyone either adds to or takes away from your energy. The quality of energy within us and around us either drains or depletes us. … seriously. Fuel up carefully.
Self-discovery is not for the faint-hearted, neither is running a marathon and yet it is so rewarding.
He was promoted into a much bigger job and worked smarter while empowering his people more. I have also seen executives revamp their cultures, enhance engagement, carve out time to meditate, and realize that what is stressing them out is not the problem once they invest in themselves consistently.
So … accept that there will be days that feel like a living hell, invest in those things that are like a glass of cool water during the brutal heat, anchor yourself in Who will carry you forward, and do not, in a million years, underestimate the fuel of self-discovery.
Join us: do what so many leaders are now doing as we move away from outdated leadership models and imperfectly connect with self-discovery. As you join in this race you will know it is never, ever, ever about the marathon but about You, God, and the joy of connection which does so much, for so many.