Grow or Die

Two new clients have started leadership journeys with me this week. These two strong and powerful humans from different parts of the globe have spoken the same words to me:

I am afraid.

By definition, fear is a feeling or emotion in response to a perceived danger or threat. It’s a survival instinct hardwired in our brains – only now instead of threats to our very existence (oh look, a hungry lion!), fear manifests when we imagine our ego, beliefs or self-concept is in danger of being changed – WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY THEY’VE HIRED ME.

Hooray! No lions!

I get it, but I am not afraid for them. I am a champion of their inner awesome. I am a beacon of light guiding them towards their own brilliance.

I write this for them as much as I write this for you and for myself.

As humans, as leaders, if we are not growing, we are dying.

I choose growth and I think you do, too.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way: you should be afraid. Expect it. Get used to those uncomfortable feelings. It means you’re feeling something and not simply proceeding numbly through the motions of life.

You are exactly where you need to be.

I believe that lasting changes come from a deep knowing of who you are and making choices based from your inner wisdom.

Change comes from the center, but to get there, you have to start playing outside your comfort zone, your familiar zone, the place where habitual behaviors reign. You’re now entering the land of possibility which comes with the responsibility of making conscious choices. You’ll take baby steps, make incremental 1-4% stretches that compound into exponential transformation, test out hypotheses, and begin trial periods examining if new actions and behaviors yield your desired results.

You can always go back to the way you used to be, but I imagine you won’t want to stay there very long. You won’t have to. There will be more of you to work with and from.

How’s that exactly?

Let’s talk about building capacity. Beyond the buzzwords, here’s what that really means.

You are a leader (all the time, no matter what). As a leader, you have certain skills and talents. You are known for who you are and what you do, and you’ve done a great job so far at that. Good work, you!

But now you’re feeling stuck. Dissatisfied. Like you’re missing out on opportunities. You’ve hit a ceiling of your own design. You’re not expressing yourself. You’re afraid your personality is too big, your sensitivity too limiting, you’ve been doing the same thing but now you’re less satisfied.

It’s time to shake things up.

If the spectrum of leadership is a rainbow, you’re hanging out somewhere in the yellows and greens, wishing for some red or indigo; you’ve muted your extremes to make nice and blend in. Not to say yellows and greens are bad or undesirable, they’re amazing, but you actually have access to play with all the colors if you:

a) want to

b) know what they are for you, and

c) can find them in yourself.

So let’s put the crayons away and talk about real life.

You are a CEO. In this role, you are a visionary, a mentor, a colleague. You are creative, responsible, innovative. You listen and you set direction. You empower and support.

Are you doing all of this at the same time? Yes…and no.

Great leaders are like surfers: they aware of the conditions of the ocean, they look for and anticipate obstacles and opportunities. Once standing up on the board, the surfer makes subtle and constant adjustments to ride the wave she’s on while staying connected to the ocean and the surrounding world (other surfers, the beach she’s headed towards, etc). A great leader is a race car driver reading the conditions of the road, aware of hazards and openings. The driver is in constant motion, accelerating or braking, taking risks and staying safe.

It’s obvious that we have to constantly adjust as surfers and race car drivers because doing so means we stay alive. We forget this in our day to day relationships, work, and personal development.

It’s no less important.

Chances are, when you’re stumbling through life doing the same old same old and whatever has worked before, that’s why you feel stuck. You are. We are dissatisfied when we exclude the parts of ourselves we’ve been told are too much. Capacity expansion means finding a way to include and express your whole self, and knowing how to adjust, adapt and bring forth what is needed most given your vision and your environment. You get to play with the volume of how much you use that powerful personality so that you’re not always a bull in a china shop. You get to tune into your sensitivity to speak what’s not being said.

When you can live into the depth and breadth of who you already are, creating the life you want instead of what you tolerate, you’ll be happier, you’ll feel more alive, and you’ll inspire others to do the same. That, my friend, is leadership.


Making 1%-4% incremental changes for exponential growth

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance (Steven Kotler)

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness (Jeff Olson)

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