We were sitting together over dinner and the primary topic of discussion was how to write a three to five year strategic plan in the midst of turbulent times and the rise of complex adaptive problems over which the organization had no control. In particular, we were exploring how a leader can cope with the stress of uncertainty and the overwhelming number of operational details that keep surfacing.
After an hour and a half of exploring different scenarios and possibilities, I turned to the senior executive and shared the following:
“Remember during the 2018 Spring From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable when I talked about leaders being brave and bold in spite of all that is happening around them?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Good. At the end of my presentation on this subject, I quoted Charles Swindoll who wrote ‘Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody's looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you're misunderstood.’
When I reflect on this quote, I realize that this is a time period when we are going to have to be faithful to the mission of the organization. It is a time period when we are going to have to have courage to move forward. And when we may have to endure pain, but not be defined by it.
In my journey, I have learned that playing the long game is a powerful choice. While I may not be able to control all that is happening around me, I can stay centered and realize that everything will work out in the end. I’ve learned this by doing something that many do not consider to be a normal business practice, namely I choose to go and visit with the elders in my life.
Routinely, I like to sit down with people in their 80’s and 90’s and visit with them over a cup of coffee or a meal. I enjoy listening to their stories, reflections and insights. These are the people who were born in the 1920’s and 1930’s. They personally knew people who were born in the 1800’s and fought in World War I. Many of them also fought in World War II, the Korean War, or supported the troops from home. They lived through the Dustbowl and the Great Depression.
What they share are not memories or stories found in a book. These are the people who actually lived through some of the most difficult and challenging times in the history of our country. And as a result, they can share wisdom and valuable lessons learned from it all.
And do you know what I have learned from my times with these elders? One simple but powerful insight: Don’t worry so much. It will all work out in the end. Some day someone is going to look back on this time period and call it the ‘good old times.’ It all comes down to perspective, patience and faith.”
This week, play the long game and visit with the elders in your life. They always have some pearls of wisdom to share.