Another is “this too shall pass”, which I was reminded of today around the same recent personal setback that had me write yesterday’s post.
Today I share the fable behind the phrase, which has origins in Sufi and Hebrew folklore. It feels like deep wisdom to me, a word I oft define as “something concise that, once you hear it, you feel you have always known it”. I sense that this phrase, in different forms and languages, is as old as humanity.
I hope this story anchors it for you and you can carry this as a totem for times you need resilience.
“One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it.”
“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied Benaiah,
“I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?” “It has magic powers,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.
Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.
He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity.
“Well, my friend,” said Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!” As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.”
At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.”
If you play it safe in life, you can normally create a simple and comfortable life for yourself, achieving what you aim for, as long as you keep your aim relatively low.
If, however, you are someone brave enough to seek to achieve your absolute personal best and to make your own greatest possible “dent in the universe”, inevitably you will run into obstacles, challenges, disappointments.
This post is for those brave individuals who aim high, and also for those who lead others
What I am here to remind you is that you will hit hurdles, run into walls, fall down holes. Some will hurt, some will hurt a lot.
One morning I woke up to an email with some news that really hurt. The reality is it was really rough news, and it would have been all too easy to fall into a spiral of doubt, of “woulda, shoulda, coulda” self-flagellation.
This was a personal area of a deal falling through, but in business it could be a major deal going down, someone you thought was ideal for a hire turning down the job, receiving a resignation letter from a star team member where you had no idea they were unhappy (happened to me once in my career, it still smarts that I missed this!) etc.
I’m not saying that I was totally calm and zen-like in this recent case. I wasn’t. It was rough.
However, one resilience tool I had that was helpful was the simple phrase every Scottish mother and grandmother teaches their children, You see, the Scots are Stoics by nature too !
That phrase is the subject line of this email and the picture above, which readily translates to : “What’s for you will not go by you”
If you were expecting something to happen and it doesn’t, and if you did everything you could, honoured your values and ethics, it simply wasn’t meant to happen.
I realise in running a search on this site of the term “resilience”, counting this one, I have now written at least ten posts talking about this in different ways.
The higher you aim, the more likely that you will have some setbacks along the way. They can either defeat you, or you can learn from them and rise every higher. Part of being able to do the latter is to recognise you will have setbacks and to build practices, structures, support well before you need them.
Please do read some of the posts you will see from that link above, and take notes on what resilience tools you use. Please also share any with me by commeting on this post, by twitter, email, whatever medium you choose. I’ll absolutely review anything I receive and look to share with others in future posts.
Thank you, and remember, “Whit’s Fur Ye’ll No Go By Ye” !
On April 26th, I was at Gleneagles for a truly inspirational and world-class day at the Entrepreneurial Scotland annual conference, themed “Global Mindset, Scottish Heart”.
The conference was opened by my friend, the truly inspirational Mark Beaumont, who just over a year ago utterly smashed the round the world cycling record, taking it down 40% to under the mythical “Around the World in 80 Days” level.
Mark taught us a two part lesson.
Mark spoke of two individuals who have asked him for support in breaking another round the world record. He asked them both, separately, “how fast do you think you can do it ?”. They both answered “well, the record is x days, I’ll beat that”. His response to each of them was simple. “Then, you will fail”.
You see, they had ignored Mark’s first lesson.
That first lesson is to become really clear on who you are and how much you are capable of, to find your own personal best. He speaks from experience. He had stretched himself to the absolute limit in prior endurance adventures. I’d also add that it is a true privilege to have got to know Mark over a number of years. He is truly a massively self-aware and humble leader, and an old soul. An old head on young shoulders would be another phrase. Inspirational !
Knowing who he is and what his ultimate capability was, Mark then set that 80 days target.
The second part of the lesson is then to design and build a plan and then execute it, as if you truly are going to achieve your full potential, your own “80 days”. there will be times when you are at the limit, and you need to stop thinking and simply execute a well thought out plan that you know you can deliver on. To go on automatic pilot when needed.
A famous quote from Mike Tyson is “everyone has a plan, until you get punched in the face”. If I may extend that from what Mark taught us, “everyone has a plan, until you get punched in the face. When you get punched in the face, you need a plan more than ever.”
So… what is your 80 days ?
What is your personal best, your true and full potential ?
If you know that, what then ? What do you need to have in place in order to achieve that potential ?
A recurring theme for me is to encourage leaders to support themselves, to be aware of their energy and what they need to perform optimally.
As flight attendants announce on every flight: “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure… first put the oxygen mask on yourself, then help those around you”.
Another way of putting this is “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Please have the awareness of how full your cup is, and as I advised in a recent post, “drink before you are thirsty“, don’t let that cup get empty.
The three line job description I use for leaders is :
Set and hold the Context
Manage the Energy
Coach, Don’t Play
That “Manage the Energy” role is about what you as a leader bring to your team in aligning them, energising them activating them, motivating them and more.
However, in order to “Manage the Energy”, you must first ensure you drink before you are thirsty, that you manage your own energy and put on that oxygen mask for yourself.
This week I have been at the amazing Modern Elder Academy in Baja Mexico. The visionary leader of this is Chip Conley, who is an amazing leader. I’ve been around so many over the years, all I would say is that I would follow this man anywhere. If he said jump, I’d only ask him to tell me how high to jump !
Still, one thing Chip owned this week is how tired he is from running about two months in a row of workshops at a place which is also his home, where as one group leaves each Sunday morning, another one arrives that afternoon. Chip has been masterful at managing his own energy, and at the same time.. wow.. back to back to back to back. This is a beta test of the Modern Elder Academy, and one learning is that when it goes live, for all the team managing and leading it, they will run a programme which allows the team to manage their energy, to fill their cup. That way they can keep filling up their cup so as to be at their absolute best always for those they choose to lead, to serve.
Drink before you are thirsty, as you can’t pour from an empty cup.
In closing, I also want to express my deep appreciation for Chip, Jeff, Christine, Carla, Tony, Saul and all the team at Modern Elder Academy. I leapt at the opportunity to come to Baja, my cup is absolutely overflowing. Deepest thanks.
“I have often said “Leap and the net will appear”, though the net doesn’t always look like a net”
Maeve Gillies, brave, inspiring and creative Cultural Entrepreneur
I was inspired to write by this line from Maeve once before in : “How do you know if you could be an Entrepreneur ?“, but today I will focus on taking leaps to make a big career change, as inspired by a message from someone today feeling totally stuck where they are, yet my insight is that they simply need to follow Maeve’s advice and “leap and the net will appear”.
A story to make the point.
One of my very first coaching clients many years ago was the amazing Virginia Czarnocki, who literally walked into my office and said “help me quit my job”.
As a coach, I simply listened deeply to her, asked the right questions, and helped her see what was really true to her and what was the b*****t she was telling herself. In V’s own words from her Linked In recommendation.
Now, Virginia did quit her job as a top lawyer and embarked on a journey with no idea what the “net” would look like, yet now she is absolutely thriving.
Her brand “Moozlers” (see FB page) started out as an idea to create healthy food around the world, and has morphed and changed. Now “Coach V” is inspiring others in Cayman and around the world to be healthy and fit in so many ways, including nutrition, exercise and general wellness. She has multiple strands both on and off line through which she lives this, and here is an example video.
The writings on this site are all around #OpenLeadership. Having worked for many years as a leader and with leaders in all kinds of ways, I endeavour to look beyond typical writing and thinking on the topic, and often for me that means looking within, to self-leadership.
This week’s writing I love is an eminently readable book full of relatable stories and case studies that support self-leadership. A little on the book, then some thoughts and tips from me around the lessons given.
What limits do you place on yourself ?
Take a moment please over this question.
I said take a moment, quietly.
I hear you.. “I don’t place limits on myself !”
Yes, you do… we all do, to at least some extent.
Gay Hendricks captures this as the “Upper Limit Problem” in his book The Big Leap.
We all have one or more of the four hidden barriers.
It is oft said : “the best predictor of the future is the past”
At the current time I am focussing on studying the Roman Stoics of around 2000 years ago. Their teachings are so relevant today and also at any time.
This is a site focussed on leadership. Humility is a key characteristic of being a leader others choose to follow, so let us all have the humility and invest the time to study and learn from the great leaders of our past.
Going back only 78 years, we have one of the greatest orators and leaders of the 20th century, a man who literally changed the course of world history through his insights and, far more, by his bravery in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and almost universal opposition around him. That man is Winston Churchill.
“You see, I have a condition,” Tom Hazard, the narrator of this engaging novel, confesses on page one. He is quasi-immortal. “I am old – old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old. I was born well over four hundred years ago, on the third of March 1581 …” For every 13 or 14 human years, he ages one year. But far from bringing him godlike pleasure, his condition places him at a mournful distance from the rest of humanity, doomed to see everyone he loves age and die.
From this premise our protagonist takes us back and forth through time, through the journey of his life.
As one can imagine, there is much self-examination of what it means to live such a long time.
I actually listened to this as an audiobook, as I somehow found it as the BBC featured it as their “book at bedtime” and I could download it from their radio iPlayer. I do love the BBC !
Love is the key to life, and loving life too. Fantastic plot device for the author to work with. I won’t spoil the plot, simply to say that the last few pages have so many exquisite lines in there, tying everything together.
The book is also a reminder of this quote :
“Lend yourself to others, but give yourself to yourself.” ~ Michel de Montaigne
As the adage goes, when you are flying and the safety announcements are going on, they say “in the event of a sudden drop in air pressure… put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others”.
Loved Matt’s book, and the reminder of the lesson from Montaigne.