Effective Leadership By Mick Ukleja
June 18th, 2013 - Without distractions, my senses are alive. They make me acutely aware of my surroundings. For the time being I can focus on what’s important.
At home white noise prevents me from thinking about the most important details in my life, at least until recently. Two summers ago I spent three weeks in the interior of Botswana. No cell phone. No calls thus no returned calls. No Internet connection. No Facebook. For about two days I was antsy. Then the frustration subsided and turned into a peaceful presence.
Finally I have time to think about the real issues of life and death. We are born; we eat, grow, develop, breed, protect, accumulate and die. Armand Hammer said it well, “I’d give all I have to be 30 again.” Dream on Armand. You can’t be 30 again. You can only be here – now. Out here in the bush the elements become a bigger issue. It’s cold, and I can see my breath. I am thankful for warmth. I am hungry and thankful for food. I have my health. When I am not injured, I am thankful.
Our Bushman Trackers provide guidance. Without them, we’d be lost. Our Professional Hunter (PH) makes it safer. Without him we’d be on the menu!! The manager, the cook, the service, the cleaning – usually taken for granted, but not now. And the elephants – huge bulls two stories high – with their keen sense of smell, alert me to the direction of the wind. I’m in touch with the elements like never before. To walk circumspectly is more than a catch phrase.
Going through the thicket, a thorn rips into my clothing and occasionally my skin. I am much more aware of where I am going. I keep my eye on the target, while at the same time pay close attention to the step in front of me. Like life, there are occasional snags along the way – a step I’d like to have back as I notice the rip in my pants, the tear in my shirt with red liquid seeping through. My boot gets caught in a tripwire-like root. I get untangled, forget about it and become more alert before taking the next step. There is no time for self-degradation. Intense tracking and walking – 7 to15 kilometers (4-10 miles) a day in the sun and tough terrain. Parts of my brain that don’t get much use are now firing.
I live in a 72-degree world. But in my tent at the Kukama Camp . . . I lie in bed and can see my breath (I’ve never slept with a hot water bottle before). By noon, the heat welcomed a few hours earlier, is now hotter than comfortable. You learn to adjust to the elements quickly. And that adjustment is not, at first sight, easy. Yet it is essential for success in this environment. So what’s the point?
Life is full of adventures, and every moment of every day requires some kind of adjustment. Success demands it. Adjustment and growth are a requirement if success and fulfillment are to be grasped.
Intentional choices must be made or success will only be a dream. And when dreams collide with reality, reality wins! Success finds itself dependent upon growth. But there is no growth without change, and there is no change without loss, and there is no loss without pain. If you are going to grow, you will have to change, and change means you let go of some old things in order to grab hold of some new things.
It’s like swinging on a trapeze; the trapeze artist swings out on one bar, and then he has to reach out and grab the other one. At some point, he has to let go of this one to grab the other or he’s not going to make it to the other side. If he thinks he can hold onto both, what happens? He loses momentum, gets stuck in the middle, and he’s going down.
Many professionals today are stuck in the middle, and are going down because they haven’t let go of old patterns, old habits and old ways of thinking. We have to let go of our old ways – our fatigued and worn out approaches to success.
Tracking animals requires patience, boredom, intensity, confusion, courage, commitment and no second-guessing. So does tracking our idea of success. It won’t happen until we take the time to allow our souls to catch up with our bodies. All the distractions set us up to keep out of touch with ourselves. Instead of being in tune with our souls, we strive, stretch, scratch and push ourselves beyond the red line of our physical, emotional and spiritual tachometers to keep pace with a world that says, “You are inadequate. You need to do more, get more, own more, produce more, give more. You are not enough as you are.”
Pushing the pause button, for most of us, doesn’t seem like a doable option. In the Southwestern United States, the Hopi Indians had a word for this: koyaanisqatsi (coy-on-is-cot-see). It means living out of balance. In other words, half alive and half here. It’s not that we don’t sense the problem. But kicking out the cord on the treadmill seems, at times, impossible. So we fall prey to the solution of running faster and pushing harder to find it. We don’t allow our souls to catch up with our bodies. Out of balance. Half alive. Half here.
Pascal put it bluntly. “By means of a diversion, we can avoid our own company twenty-four hours a day.”
It’s time to sit still – everyday. Enter your day slowly. Periodically practice the power of pausing. Taking a break means TAKING a break. Create uncluttered time. No one will do if for you. Dust off the sign “I’M CLOSED NOW,” and keep it within reach. Head for the bush and give yourself a chance to explore your OWN terrain.
Success requires it.
(Mick Ukleja is a consultant, author, coach, keynote speaker and president of LeadershipTraq, a leadership consulting firm. His clients have included Fortune 500 corporations and non-profit organizations. Check his weekly blog at www.leadershiptraq.com.)
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