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The Work Will Teach You

The Work Will Teach You

Last year I met with a young man in his mid ’30s who want to be a business consultant similar to what I do. I was happy to help him and asked him what he’d been doing to become a consultant. He said that he has been working on his business financial plan, as well as a business name and card. He had completed several courses to be certified to do the work.  He was now focused on a website, brochure,  and wanted me to help him with proposal writing because if he had all this done,  he felt he might be ready to go. So I  ask “ so besides proposal writing ideas, what questions to do you have for me? He said,” How do I learn how to consult?” I said, “ Find one client and start working with them, and the work will teach you.” He seemed disappointed with my answer. I added , “Let me know when you get a client, and I’ll be happy to help you make your work successful .” I have not heard back from him.   

In my consulting work these days, I talk with too many top-level managers who are mentally pacing the aisles and counting the days, hoping for the answer on how to make it through this stress filled time. “ When things get back to normal or something close to it –  then we’ll do something,” they say.  They are clinging to a vision of a safe station where  “ the pressure is off, and we can think again” and hoping that somebody, smarter or more certified than they are,  will give them the answer they need.

On the other hand,  there have been some leaders and their teams who have decided that this shelter-in-place environment is their norm, and it most probably will be the norm for a good long while. But they didn’t just accept this reality; they took this reality as a challenge. A challenge that they believe they are called to figure it out. They have decided  to  just jump in, have fun, and let the work of trying something new teach them their answers.  A few examples are of things theses types of teams have experimented with are:

  • Holding highly interactive team events online with everyone setting in a room together 6 feet apart
  • Bringing in socially distanced ice cream truck each week in their parking lot
  • Walking around as a masked team and applauding employees being essential
  • Asking everyone to master a new skill by year-end and share their goal with a co-worker and
  • One group asked everyone in the organization to read this poem:   

The Station, by Robert Hastings – a reminder that the joy of life is the journey and not the destination.

Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows, we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing and flags waving. And once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled, and so many pieces of our lives will finally be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering … waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.

However, sooner or later, we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

“When we reach the station that will be it!” we cry. Translated, it means, “When I’m 18, that will be it! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it! When I win a promotion, that will be it! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it!( When Covid 19 is cured)  I shall live happily ever after!”

Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.

“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

Journal Entry: What decision do you need to make about how you look at this current situation?  What will you do to make the most of this one station journey in your leadership and life?


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