The trails around my house are inviting and adventurous for the running type. Several of the trails exceed 10 miles with high elevation gains into forest and massive peaks with views of Southern California that will take your breath away. I have traversed most of these trails seberal times. A few weeks before Christmas last year, my buddy and I ventured an early morning run in sub freezing temps (very rare in Southern California). The run was ultimately around 17 or 18 miles. We didn’t know exactly where we were going, and that’s how we wanted it. It was one of the best trails we have discovered to date. As a type A personality who always wants to know every little detail, I run the risk of outsmarting adventure. My buddy has all the confidence in the world that he can point us in one direction and we will discover great adventure. I have learned to trust him to take me into running ambiguity and deliver me home safely.
This ability to embrace the unknown is what separates “good” leaders from the “great”. Ken Coleman, in his new book One Question asks Jim Collins about leadership and he digs deep with his answer. The fear of the unknown paralizes the “good not great leader” as he attempts to cross the bridge to greatness. The challenge, as Collins puts it, is not that leaders are risk averse, they are ambiguity averse. This is a commen thread in today’s literature. Seth Godin in the Icarus Deception discusses the idea of “playing it safe” as out dated and destined for failure. Brene’ Brown talks about the need to be vulnerable to failure in order to succeed.
If everything is safe, nothing is safe.
Is knowing this any help?. “So what?”, you say. “Don’t be afraid of the dark anymore?”. What do we do with this information. The current pop psychology is repeating a resounding “just go out and do it” mantra. There is something to be said about the act of “doing”. Most people will “plan”, have “ideas”, “wait until a better time”, to move toward their greatness. This is just fear winning the battle.
The first step is always the hardest…then it really gets hard.
Face your fear of the unknown by experiencing it. Like a child learning to swim. You might need to start in shallow waters. This blog is my shallow water. I’m learning in a low stakes environment. As you begin to adjust to the unknown, you will feel comfortable again and the unknown will no longer be the unknown. This is yet another trap. As the child must eventually swim into deeper waters, you too, must move away from comfort in order to move toward greatness. This is a truth many people never want to hear. Greatness is not a destination. It is a constant tidal ebb and flow of moving away from comfort and into uncomfortable ambiguity. It is not just a simple “face your demons” and “meet challenges”, that would be too easy. Greatness comes with the challenge of anticipating comfort and moving away from it when everything in your nature says to embrace it.
What are you going to do TODAY to learn how to “swim” greatly into the unknown?
Rocco De Leo