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First, The Rain Must Fall

Three lessons learned and three leadership challenges

My first piece of 2023 might be my shortest. New years come with a lot of noise, so I figure less is more. Here are three important lessons I learned (or relearned) in 2022, and my leadership challenges for 2023. Cheers.

Lessons Learned

Morning and evening rituals are the bookends to good living

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least” (Goethe). Fixing what matters most at the start and end of each day keeps our priorities in order. Whether you call them rituals or habits or routines, repetitive and meaningful bookends will renew your energy and produce compounding interest.

Every moment is a moment

I had to pause after writing that. First, because my cliché alarms were blazing. Second, because I was nervous that it might be a depressing mindset. However, I’ve long thought that nerves are a sign we are alert and ready to perform at a high level, as long as we don’t cower or flee under the pressure. Each moment does indeed happen once, and we don’t know how many we have left. We do know the number, in this life, will hit zero.

Each of us is gifted with a bottomless well of joy

If we learn to keep ourselves open to the well, we will always have access. If we close our hearts to it, no amount of money or material will substitute for the simple water we need to drink. We are conditioned to think that we are undeserving of endless joy––that the cost of living demands paying constant dues of sorrow, frustration, anger, discontent––yet our purpose is to give joy to others. That, conveniently, is the ultimate gift we can give ourselves as well.

Leadership Challenges

Get unwired

This may be the most difficult challenge of them all, to cut the phantom limb, to shake the urge to check email, to not click on the flash sale, to use the phone and the computer on my terms, rather than being swept up in the matrix. This will require deliberate scheduling, lots of discipline, and not obsessing over productivity and control. Here’s a crazy thought. What if our devices spent more time shut down than in sleep mode? What if we had to decide to use them––and didn’t let them use us?

Strengthen the mind and the body, and don’t forget the spirit

The spirit is the most important piece of the trinity to fuel. It is the energy source for the mind and the body. When the energy is poor or lacking, the output is the same. If the metaphorical Train of Life runs off the rails, a single spirit has the strength to get it back on track.

Give before taking

Is this really a “leadership challenge”? If compassion is the root of joy, and if the best kind of leadership is service leadership, and if one of the greatest sources of unhappiness is fixating on personal desire, then I believe it is. Robin Wall Kimmerer describes the "Honorable Harvest" in Braiding Sweetgrass:

Take only what you need. Take only that which is given. Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm. Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share. Give thanks for what you have been given. Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.

Giving often falls to the bottom of the list, a box that is checked last, after we have taken to our heart's desire, and only if there is extra. Yet giving is the beginning of every cycle. The rain must fall and the sun must shine before the gift of air and life can be taken. To realize our hopes and dreams, it’s best to give early and often. And it’s best not to break the cycle by taking too much.