More than any other year, I’ve talked to more leaders who are feeling overwhelmed, discombobulated, and unfocused at this turn of a new year. Not knowing “what’s next,” we are thrown into the Big Questions. They usually snowball in this order: What’s going on in the world?, What’s up with my work?, Is the problem with me?, and the big one: Who am I?
We are overwhelmed by the breadth of these questions, but contrary to how it feels, they are not a reflection of our incompetence or incapacity to know or find the answers. I like the word dissonance for this reason, because it describes the kind of disconnection which we can only detect, hear, sense, or feel in a deeper part of us. Dissonance is a reflection or a flare in the dark, that something in our lives has changed, needs to change, or is changing at this very moment. And it is actually a basic law of leverage.
The amazing Greek scientist and philosopher Archimedes, though he didn’t discover leverage put brilliant words to it when he famously said, “Give me a place to stand and I can move the earth.” As leaders, we instinctively know this is at work. I have to be in the right place, we whisper to ourselves in the secret crannies of our lives, in order to do all of this.
To have the impact we want to have for the people we love most (“the world”), the right action or work is required (“the lever”), and we know this action starts with us — with “where we stand.” When we don’t know where that is, we begin to lose our confidence, self-possession, our security, and we come unraveled.
But we also know what it’s like when the parts are aligned. When we just “show up” and “everything works.” Suddenly things “click into place,” and not only are people positively impacted, we feel free, elated, even (dare we say?)… happy. The work is not without action or effort, but effortless sounds about right. “Flow,” we would call this today, where the energy we put towards something is profound, important, easy, and simultaneously returned to us in equal measure. The ancient Chinese called this wu wei, or effortless action. And to a T, every person I talk to who has found this alignment calls it generosity. (As in, “Finally I can give generously without losing my strength!”)
I believe this true alignment between who we are, what we “cannot not do”, and the people we want to help is how we will actually change the world.
When we find the right place to stand, and get honest about who we are and what that Who does well, the world around us is elevated.
And so you see, I am not the elevationist here — You are.
You are the leader who is serving and lifting others as you find your place to stand. And it is my job, and my joy, to help co-listen with you and create that place and ultimate alignment so you can be about your business of elevating others.
It’s not all about us, but it begins with us. We could say, it begins with the state of our own union.