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Work Life Lead: Try


I always look forward to Mondays because in my inbox is the Monday Morning Memo from the Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams.  His insight and wisdom are always elevating to my perception of who I am and what I am to be about that week.

Yesterday’s Monday Morning Memo – My Holiday Gift to You… For Real – was a eloquent piece about how we live our days.

Tom Hennen has a line in his poem, The Life of a Day, that says,

“We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, ‘no, this isn’t one I’ve been looking for,’ and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when we are convinced, our lives will start for real.”

That line is a little bit frightening because you read it and realize you’re guilty. You’ve been waiting for that day when your life will start “for real.”

Frankly, I don’t have many days like this, but I know a lot of people who do. I attribute this to two primary mental attitudes.

One is that perfection is the only life worth pursuing. The second is that I’ll do it once I gain enough confidence, knowledge and experience to try.

Passion is often a replacement for the ideal of perfection. It is the emotional counterpart to the perfect strategic plan. So, we wait and don’t take the initiative we should because we are not quite ready to try. Maybe we just are not clear about where we are going, or just aren’t sure it is the right thing to do. We just don’t feel right about it.

Apart from that which is criminal or unethical, there is no way of knowing whether something is right until you try.

Trying is a test. It tests our confidence, our capacity to overcome our fear, our ability to adapt and change, and more than anything to accept reality as it actually is, rather than what we believe it should be.

I know people who are unhappy because they have dreams but no try in them. They are passive perfectionists who blame circumstances and people for the lost of their dreams. They are too much the perfectionist to own their culpability in their failure to try.

Roy Williams writes about his father in this week’s Memo. I found it sad and touching.

In the final moments of his life, my father scribbled a note for me to find. In barely legible pencil he scrawled, “All the little things in life add up to your life. If you don’t get it right then nothing else matters. It gets lonely in the promised land by yourself.”

My Dad died lonely, I think, because he never made deep commitments. My father’s confession of his loneliness makes me sad, but his scribbled note tells me he wanted me to learn from his mistake.

I meet a lot of people who sigh deeply and say they’re looking for their passion, something to set their souls on fire and send beams of light shining out through their eyes.

But the people with light shining from their eyes know this:

Passion does not produce commitment.
Commitment produces passion.

I shared this part of his Memo with some friends earlier today. One wrote back that it is discipline that needs to follow the commitment. The commitment to see our trying through to a conclusion, whether it is learning what doesn’t work or success that fulfills the dreams and passion that beats in our hearts.

If you are stuck in your life, in your work, in your relationships, in any endeavor that wakes you up in the middle of the night, then you need to stop fixating on finding the passion you need to go on, but simply begin to try new things.

If you have lost your passion, and you are feeling sorry for yourself, and the people who love and care for you are waiting for you to break out of your self-imposed pity fit, then you need to commit to something, anything. It needs to be something that requires you to bring discipline and stick-to-itiveness to the task.

As I’ve quoted many times before, Aristotle said that everything we learn, we learn by doing. We begin to do by trying. Without try, there is no do, and without do there is no fulfillment. And no one to blame but ourselves.

So, I end with Roy Williams conclusion,

Find something that needs to be done
and throw yourself headlong into it.

Let today
be the day
your life begins
for real.

Roy H. Williams

“May you live all the days of your life.”
– Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels

Thanks, Roy.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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Posted in General Leadership, Leadership Q + A, Work Life Lead.

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