Some Pain Is Growth

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About 15 months ago I started lifting weights for the first time in my adult life. Nothing too strenuous, but I wanted to develop a healthy lifestyle and thought that was a good step. But not knowing how to really go about it, I recruited a friend.

I’m so grateful for my friend who showed me the ropes. What I’m not grateful for is his approach. I joked early on that he wasn’t happy unless he was miserable after working out. But I’m not sure if it’s a joke…

Ultimately, however, certain pain after a workout is an indication of a good workout. Because sometimes pain means growth.

As we grow in our leadership, we are going to face situations that are annoying and painful. What’s the root of the pain? Good leadership is not void of pain. Good leadership understands the difference between beneficial (and necessary) pain and toxic pain.

So how do you know if pain is growing pain? Here are three questions to help you process growing pains:

  1. Does it make you address something that needs to be addressed? Your pain may result from a weak structure, or unclear communication. Lean into addressing the situation and reap the results later.
  2. Is the pain a result of growth? Maybe what you were doing last year or three years ago worked when what you led was smaller, but as you’ve grown, you need to re-evaluate. Pain because of growth still hurts, but gives you an opportunity to adjust and grow even more!
  3. Will addressing the pain point put you in a better spot? Are you ready to grow as a result of the pain? Push through, do what you need to do, and enjoy the fruit of your labor.

Ultimately, some pain is good pain. Is there a situation you’re walking through now where you need to reframe the pain point from negative to understanding it’s a positive pain? How does that change your approach and mindset?

How to Attack the Question Marks

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My favorite time to do something is the second time.

The first time I do anything, I don’t know exactly what to expect. I don’t know how to anticipate what might go wrong. I don’t know the unwritten dynamics at play. I don’t know what I don’t know.

But once I can do something the first time, evaluation kicks into gear. After going through the struggles of the first time, I know how to anticipate, how to adapt, and what areas need attention. And evaluating is where I feel like I’m at my best.

But before I get to the second time, I have to go through the first time. And in order to go through the first time, I have learned to acknowledge the questions I have about something, and to do my best to answer them. That’s what I call attacking the question marks.

For me, the unknown can be paralyzing. I’m not a planner, but I’m much more comfortable with a plan. So, in preparation, I have to lean into the questions I have as a source of inspiration, not a source of inaction.

Here are three ways I’ve learned to attack the question marks.

People I Know

In March of 2022 I decided it was time for me to start lifting weights, but I didn’t know where to start. The only time I’d ever lifted weights was in high school, so I had a lot of question marks. That’s where Brian came in. He had experience lifting, so we agreed to be gym buddies (that sounds legit, right?). He knew what he was doing so I borrowed his experience and insight as I started.

There’s a good chance whatever you’re about to tackle has been done by someone else. Not always, but usually. Who do you know that you can ask for wisdom/insight/advice? Write down the questions you have for them ahead of time and see what you can learn.

People I Don’t Know

I play guitar. I spend more time gathering knowledge on guitars. I spend even more time shopping for guitars. Not to buy, but to learn. But sometimes to buy.

Recently, I saw a guitar for sale for a decent price, but didn’t know much about it. So I went to the internet. I read posts about that guitar on message boards, watched videos, and did a little research from the manufacturer’s website. I attacked the question mark by using the insight and experience of others. I did not know anyone who owned one, so I had to broaden my search.

Often you’re going to come up on question marks that can’t be answered by people in your circle. Broaden out. Google it. Depending on the scope, there may be books that will help you work through it. But learn to borrow wisdom from people you don’t know as an avenue to attack the question marks.

Just Do The Thing

You might say I’m an information junkie. I like learning new things and about things. But sometimes, the best and most effective way to attack a question mark is to just do the thing. After all, if you’re like me and your favorite time is the second time, then get the first time over with!

What question mark is holding you back? How can you be a resource for someone else? Is there something in your life that just needs you to act? What are you waiting for?

Attack the Question Marks, a leadership approach

Development is a Choice

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A lot can happen in 12 months. A lot can not happen in 12 months.

I started this blog in 2017, and wrote consistently for 5+ years. Then, for the past 12+ months, I haven’t written. So, a lot has not happened here in the past 12 months.

For the majority of the past year I was undecided as to whether or not I was on a break or if I had reached the conclusion of the 3QL blog; Until a recent conversation with a mentor where I realized the value of writing these posts.

I grow more as a leader when I’m synthesizing my thoughts into a 300ish word blog post.

Writing forces me to focus. Writing forces me to pay attention for thoughts and ideas that could be new posts. Writing forces creativity. Writing allows me to process situations.

I know the benefits listed above, but what decisions am I going to make as a result?

Here’s the principle: development is a choice. If I’m going to grow in my leadership, there are some choices I need to make. Writing provides that avenue, as does reading, listening, and even watching.

The same is true for you. I know I’ve spent this entire post in a self-indulgent rambling, but I have a point.

Are you choosing to grow in your own leadership development? Are you making a decision each day that will set you up to grow? Are you willing to make such a decision?

Development is different than growth. Growth happens naturally. Watch the weeds in your yard. Watch your waistline. We know that growth can happen without much intentionality. But development is different. The most effective development happens with intentionality.

So how are you being intentional to develop in your leadership?

Lessons from the Farm: Adapt for Progress

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Have you ever had a perfect plan until it came time to execute the plan? Mike Tyson is quoted as saying “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Have you seen this play out in your life?

Maybe you’re not a boxer. Okay, most of us aren’t boxers. But the premise is still true. Our plans can make all the sense in the world until we have to execute them.

First, a quick word. April at 3QL means I dig into my past and bring some leadership lessons from the farm. If you’re new, or if you’d just like a refresher, you can see some of the lessons from the farm posts from the past by clicking here, here, here, and here. Now, let’s move forward!

I saw this on the farm all the time. Last week I talked about moving cattle. Well, there’s one thing you need to know about cattle: there’s never a pre-meeting with the herd leader to determine the best, most efficient path.

Sometimes, when you move cattle, chaos ensues.

My dad had a draw (essentially a big ditch that has washed out over time) that runs through his land, separating a few of his fields. At one point specifically, the draw separates East/West and a county road separates North/South, creating a four corner situation with a 40 yard buffer in the middle running every direction.

If we wanted to move cattle across the road, it was simple enough. But if we want to move cattle across the draw, we could never predict which route was going to be taken.

That’s why we would discuss possible plans. Ideally we wanted the cattle to come out of the field and walk down the road across the draw, but it didn’t always work that way. Sometimes they would be moving fast enough that they would run across the road and we had to cross the draw at a different point. Sometimes they would go out of one gate and turn the opposite direction. And on occasion, they would take the most logical path.

But at the end of the day, those transition moments were crucial. We had to pay attention and respond appropriately, knowing the long term goal superseded the immediate situation.

The same is true for leadership. As you lead, you are going to get a sense of the direction and destination. Thankfully you work with people and not cattle, so you can discuss this. But please understand, everyone has a plan until they have to execute the plan.

The best plans on paper don’t always translate. So you have to learn to adapt in the moment. Remember, transition moments are crucial. Pay attention and respond appropriately, knowing that the long term goal supersedes the immediate situation. Take the time to adapt and move forward.

Lessons from the Farm: Save the Drama

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Well, here we are again. April at 3QL means I dig into my past and bring some leadership lessons from the farm. If you’re new, or if you’d just like a refresher, you can see some of the lessons from the farm posts from the past by clicking here, here, here, and here. Now, let’s move forward!

A regular part of raising cattle was “moving” cattle, or a cattle drive. To put it simply, we would try to round up all the cattle in one field and move them collectively to another one. This in itself is an art form to say the least, and one I took a while to fully learn and understand.

On one of my early “drives” my imagination got the best of me. The field we were moving cattle out of had a draw on one side. The draw provided a steep ledge, and cattle could only navigate it in certain spots, which meant it provided a good boundary for one side of the herd.

Except in my mind, I envisioned a stampede of cattle running off the ledge, just like in the cartoons.

As the herd began moving toward the draw, I snapped into action to head them off and save them from the impending death that awaited them. And I was successful. The herd not only turned, they split up. It was no longer one large group moving in the same direction, but now multiple groups going all sorts of ways.

Cue the superhero music.

Except, my heroic actions actually caused more problems than solutions.

Sometimes in leadership, we create problems where they don’t exist and successfully kill any momentum or progress being made. All in the name of being the hero.

The people you lead don’t need a hero. They need someone with a goal.

Be steady today. Understand the goal and help to make sure you move in the right direction.

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