A number of years ago, I was serving as an administrator at a college in Tennessee. I was under enormous pressure at work to deliver significant growth for the institution.
My team was feeling the pressure – and I kept telling myself that it was temporary. But there was really no end in sight.
So I kept pushing harder and faster.
At the time, I was dealing with my own demons. I wasn’t spending enough time with my family. My sweet wife was managing our home and our daughter on her own. I felt like such a hypocrite – trying to help others improve, when I needed to change.
It’s tough to face your team every day when you feel like that.
My wife, Sarah, remembers the afternoon years ago, when I stood in our kitchen explaining to her what I was experiencing – what I was feeling. She listened patiently, supportively like she always does. Then she calmly responded – “For about 6 months I’ve felt like a part of you is dying, and I don’t know if you’ll ever get it back.”
My first thought was – If you would’ve just told me this 6 months ago, we could have avoided a lot of pain! But she wanted me to be able to work through the challenges I was experiencing without added pressure from her.
I’m in trouble
During this chaotic time in my career and in our family, I received a phone call one afternoon as I was walking across campus. It was a young man that had come to work with our organization the year before. I could hear the hurt in his voice.
He began to tell me – “I’ve made a bad decision. My decision has damaged my relationship with my girlfriend. It’s damaged my relationship with her family. I’m in trouble.”
I told him, “I want to help you. Sarah and I are leaving town in an hour to spend the weekend with some young professionals we are mentoring.” I said, “You need to go pack a bag and come with us.”
Over the next few months I spent scores of hours with this young man. And what I learned from that experience was life-changing for me.
Check out this 25 second video that illustrates how I approach these challenging situations in my life and work…
Have you ever rafted a river like that? I haven’t – but I want to. So whenever you’re ready, let’s make it happen!
Now here’s the one thing that I learned during this chaotic time in my career and in our home that – more than anything else – has helped me lead through challenging circumstances…
I have more to give.
When it all falls apart
That afternoon when Dennis called me, my world was falling apart – crumbling around me. But in the midst of the chaos – my raging river – a young man was thrashing around in the water. What was I going to do?
Sarah and I made the decision to pull him into our raft – and as soon as we did the voices started. You’re a fool. You don’t have time to help him. You need help. Your family needs help. Your team needs help. The organization needs help.
And I learned that, even though I was navigating the most challenging whitewater I’d ever experienced, I could contribute more.
I learned that I had more to give.
And so do you.
It’s not about comfort
Maybe your work just isn’t fun anymore – maybe it never was. Maybe you’re working for a boss who’s a knucklehead – who doesn’t care about you – maybe she doesn’t even know you.
Maybe you’ve recently received some devastating news. Maybe your family is falling apart. Maybe you made some unfortunate mistakes years ago – at work, with your spouse, your kids – and you’ve never been able to make it right.
Whatever your situation is – it’s painful. It’s bad. It hurts. But there’s somebody just ahead of you in the river. They’ve been thrown out of their raft. You need to make a decision – you can’t hesitate – their entire future, and yours, is at stake.
So what are you going to do?