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31 flavors of life, love, and leadership

“You know what? I think you’re right.”

Isn’t there something incredibly magical, addictive, and seductive on lots of levels when someone says that to us?

Buoyed by success and probably a big chunk of ego, too, we want to do it again and again. Right? I know I sure did.

Then, along comes the person who resists our efforts. Someone who pushes just as hard as we do in presenting their ideas as the right ones.

So, we double down, confident that if we keep at them, someday we’ll prevail, and they’ll see things our way.

At least that’s how I used to see it.

After yet another disagreeable conversation with a determined resistor, I took a frustrated step back. Nothing was working, so I needed to see with beginner’s eyes.

As I thought back over my exchanges with this individual, I didn’t like what I saw. About myself. I’d come across as disrespectful and egotistical.

I used to think that changing people’s beliefs was part of being a leader who made a difference. I don’t think that way anymore and that’s a very liberating place to be.

Approaching life, love, and leadership like it’s an ice cream parlor offering at least 31 flavors—and maybe more—has made my life richer.

The journey to my liberation was difficult. Anger, tears, frustration, too much chocolate consumption, misguided persistence, self-righteousness, disagreeable words, and lost friends littered the path.

Losing friends was the worst. I liked those people. I missed the fun times with them, the sharing and how they made my life better because they were a “different flavor.” That’s something I didn’t realize until they were gone.

As much as I like anything chocolate, a steady diet of it would be unsatisfying. There’s no tingle of anticipation of something new. There’s no comfort zone growing aha moments. There’s no new thoughts that invite exploration of the unknown. That steady diet of just me and chocolate, while comforting and comfortable, isn’t making me a better person or helping me make a difference.

It took me too long to learn that making a difference depends on differences.

I had a lot to learn. I had to:

  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  • Stop trying to change someone’s beliefs and start acknowledging and respecting their right to have different views.
  • Go give respect to get respect.
  • Tolerate to be tolerated.
  • Let go of certainty to find fulfillment.
  • Concede that my blind spots and hot buttons were indications of my weaknesses, not my strengths.

Most complex problems have multiple solutions. To solve them, we have to learn to pause and consider the big picture and the context of the moment. Some days, focusing on results is the right thing to do; on other days, nurturing relationships is what moves things forward. Other times, it’s teamwork that carries us across the finish line; other times it’s the autonomy of the solitary contributor. Some days, the right answer is my way; and on others, it’s your way.

Making room in our heads and hearts for lots of “flavors” of life, love, and leadership makes us sometimes uncomfortable but, in the end, it makes us compassionate.

Successful, too.

Maybe not by the “who has the most toys” definition but certainly by the yardstick of having character.

Today, when someone criticizes another for their beliefs, I don’t pile on like I used to. Instead, I honor and respect their right to think and believe differently and hope that they’ll do the same for me.

While it’s still sometimes hard to do, I’ve finally learned to be the water.

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong. ~Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher



Image source before quote added: Pixabay