Believing Is Seeing

Lance Ideas, Leadership Leave a Comment

Flying high in the sky, looking out the window reveals patterns:


What do you see? The answer to that can come from a number of levels of detailed observation, abstraction and deductive reasoning:

  • The ground
  • Circles, squares, and rectangles
  • Geometry
  • Farming
  • Civilization
  • Human life

Imagine turning on the news and seeing images like that being sent back from a probe circling Mars? Because perfectly symmetrical circles and squares don’t naturally occur in Nature, seeing them on Mars would conclusively answer the question of the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Our belief about the unnaturalness of seeing well-defined shapes in natural environments overrides our belief that Mars is uninhabited, and so the data becomes proof of what was previously deemed not so because “someone put those circles there.”

(This same dynamic underlies how people who see patterns in Nature can see them as prima facie evidence of a Designer … or not.)

Leaders and organizations are not immune to this same phenomenon. If you believe it is your people that make the difference, your data (whether positive or negative) will tend to support that. If you believe it is strategy that matters, the answers will tend to come from there.

The danger for leaders isn’t in being unable to see that data without looking through the lenses of your own deep-seated beliefs. The danger is in believing you already have accomplished that feat.

Ten Years of Fear

Lance Discipline, Leadership 3 Comments

Ten years ago today I was fired.

Ten years ago today a chain of events unfolded so rapidly, I didn’t realize the stakes of the game I was in until all my chips were gone.

Ten years ago today the journey through the hardest year of our lives began, all because of something I did – because of something I wrote on my blog.

I haven’t written a blog since 9/22/05 because of the fear of what happened on 6/29/05. I had planned on starting this effort this morning by reprinting something from my old blog — not the post that got me fired, but my first post after getting fired. I remember the pain, the fear, the humility that swirled around me in that moment 10 years ago. I thought: “What better way to kick off this endeavor by starting with the fear I felt that day and tracing how that fear has kept me from doing something like this for a decade?”

Then last night I went back and read what I wrote on that awful day, and was horrified. Gone was the myth of who I thought I had been in that moment, and in its place was the reality — what a proud, young fool I was! Far from fearful and humble, I was so full of pride and so ready for the fight against any and all comers. No, reprinting that post from that day was most definitely not the way to start here.

So, why am I here now? Simply put, because Fear tells me not to. Recently I was listening to the podcast of a friend of mine: The Learning Leader Show (It’s an excellent project Ryan’s put together. Well worth your time to check it out!). While listening to Ryan put the effort and discipline into something he’s passionate about in a manner designed to serve others in the process, I was inspired to do the same.

That’s when a decade-old fear double-coughed in my head to remind me of its presence. Seth Godin calls it the Lizard Brain. Author Steven Pressfield calls it The Resistance. But at that moment, I realized a couple of things:

  1. I’m not the same person I was ten years ago (thank God in Heaven!);
  2. I’m doing all kinds of things in my life that Fear voted against.

Given these two things, I decided to quit running from the Fear and to start dancing with it instead.

To be clear: the Fear isn’t just about 6/29/05 happening all over again. It’s the fear of —

  • failing
  • running out of ideas
  • becoming too consumed by this
  • being distracted
  • losing my sense of priority
  • embarrassing people I care about

It is all of these fears and more that must be faced and pushed past for anything worthwhile to get done in this world. Leadership is inspiring others to find the things that trigger these fears and begin dancing with them to risk doing something great. (Thanks @RyanHawk12 for doing that for me!)