Whirling Dervishes by Jean Baptiste Vanmour, c. 1720-1737 (Rijksmuseum - public domain CC 1.0)
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
The span of the last ten days in my household has been a whirlwind, and I’m just catching my breath.
We had a first communion, two birthdays, and a high school graduation. Doctors advise avoiding that much cake intake in such a short period of time.
As we completed each event, we were immediately prepping for the next; only now do I find I have a chance to reflect on each of them. One incident during that span made me realize something important about leadership.
As the graduates exited the auditorium, my son and a group of his friends lit their celebratory cigars (evidently this is a tradition at their school). My son is a very sociable sort, so as he puffed on his cigar, he flitted from group to group to pose for photos.
When he was with us, I warned him to take it easy on the cigar — if you smoke it too quickly, it can affect you. He poo-pooed the notion with that all-knowing attitude that only a graduating high school senior can muster.
By the time he finished with his photos some 20 minutes later, his cigar was down to a stub. And he was down too, sitting on a ledge near the edge of the plaza, leaning over and trying to keep the world from slipping out from beneath him.
The lesson for the day: cigars are meant to be savored rather than quickly consumed.
And so it goes with major accomplishments. We need time to enjoy them afterward as well as in the moment. We need time to reflect.
The pace we’re all on these days can seem frenetic, even on the best days. From a perpetually clogged inbox that can dictate our every action, to calendars that are filled with so many meetings we have scant time to do any actual work, the rigors of work life take a toll.
Kahlil Gibran perfectly captures why our busyness and logorrhea may be a blockade to reflection in his classic work The Prophet:
“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, your thinking is half murdered.
For thought is a bird of space, that in a case of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.
There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.
The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.
And there are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a truth which they themselves do not understand.
And there are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in words.
We seem to be always running to one thing or another—and in some cases, running from ourselves.”
As leaders, we’re expected to give feedback to our team constantly. Feedback is what helps people become aware of their behaviors and how those behaviors are affecting others around them. What they choose to do with the feedback is up to them.
But when you’re always busy managing others, trying to run your team and keep up with the latest developments in your company and in your industry, it can be hard to find the time you need for you.
Taking the time for yourself first, whether you’re a freelancer or managing a team of people, is essential.
When you know yourself, you’re better positioned to help others.
And isn't that what leadership is all about?
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.
- While shame can be humiliating, there’s something to learn from it as you go From Shame to Self-Awareness.
- When setting your goals, you’ll want to be aware of The Best Leadership Advice of All Time.
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