#141 Three P's

"Life isn't about waiting for the storms to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain."

If you follow my writing at all, you know that awhile back the work took a decidedly different turn and started to focus inward, on me. A look at myself, my life, my history, and how all of that has come together and helped form me into the type of leader I am today. Prior to that I spent most of the time here either trying to justify/explain my actions during the Black Hearts period, or ranting about the gap between what senior Army leaders were saying, and life down at the lowest rung on the ladder.

Then someone came along and told me that my writing lacked my soul. She told me that the writing was good, but that it was missing me. Together, we went looking. Very slowly. Very carefully. With deliberateness. We have looked at every part of my life and slowly unlocked a lot of doors that have freed me to live a much more productive and powerful and purposeful life. I have learned to laccept responsibility for, and be accountable for my whole life. There are no accidents and things do just happen to me anymore. There is always a choice to be made. A choice to respond, or not. A choice to engage or not. A choice to live with passion and purpose - to follow my heart, or to lay back and let others dictate the terms of the engagement. A choice to work through the darker places and honestly look at myself, or hide away in the false protections of self-deception. I am no longer a victim of circumstance. I am responsible for me. I have taken possession of me. I have found my soul.

Along the way I had to confront some things, and in those confrontations I have found some qualities that surprised me a little. I can and will persevere. I have and can display my passions. I am learning to keep my perspective. These are powerful life defining qualities and I am glad to make their acquaintance. I am glad to finally recognize them in myself. They have changed my perspective on a lot of things and where I was, and where I am, are all brought together in the quote at the top of the page.

I used to spend all of my time worrying about the next storm. Slowly robbing myself of the happiness of today simply by overlooking it and concentrating all of my energy on the potential storm of tomorrow. And, importantly, some of that thought process comes from my Army experience. The Army plans in great detail. It develops multiple courses of action. It tries to predict the outcome and control the inputs. It makes people think 3 deep. It trains cause and effect. And after 21 years of being in the environment I have developed a deeply ingrained sense of how to think beyond the immediate, and to continually look for the next storm. What will I do if X? How will I react to Y? What happens if Z occurs? All of this training and developing almost naturally leads one to be forever looking over the horizon and anticipating the next impending storm. On a personal level, it stopped me from being able to live in the moment and enjoy that moment for all of it's own unique glory. I was always asking myself, "What next?" And often times being afraid of the answer.

When the Army started talking about focusing on developing adaptive leaders, there was a ton of pressure from within to stop that. Adaptive meant creative. Adaptive meant exercising personal judgment. Adaptive meant making the best decision you possibly could and then living with the outcome of it. It meant being able to see a moment clearly and then make choices and decisions accordingly. It implicitly accepted that something that is a good choice in this moment, might not be in the next. And we figured out that living and seeing and appreciating that moment is critically important when you are in the fight. It means sensing and knowing when a situation is at a tipping point. It means trusting yourself and your judgement. Personally, it means learning to listen carefully to my heart and letting it dictate the course of my life. In a sense, it's a letting go because I already know that I cannot always control the outcome, but that I can accept it and work with it when it arrives. It also means not always asking for permission or acceptance. Adaptability in the Army sense is developing the ability to dance in the rain. Dancing in the rain for me means not fearing the next storm, but enjoying the feel of the rain on my face.

To get to dance though, you have to be able to persevere. You have to be able to see the bigger picture. You have to understand that there will be storms and that no plan survives first contact. And there is a huge difference between perseverance and endurance. I have persevered through many painful days along this journey in order to get to this point. I have endured some incredibly hard and some incredibly painful moments, but I have persevered. Endurance seems short term to me. Perseverance seems more permanent. Someone endures a tragedy. They are characterized by their endurance. From my perspective, perseverance has meant taking very honest and sometimes incredibly unflattering looks at who and what I am, but holding onto the essential goodness of me. From the Army's it might mean enduring the loss of a battle and holding onto the value of the fight. There have been times along the way where I could not see what needed to. I could feel it, or sense it, but could not understand it. I only knew how to persevere. That sense that I had to keep pushing, no matter how painful, and that one day the understanding would come. Being able to persevere has been an important strength in my journey. It also that for an Army at war.

The journey has brought me something else as well. Something critically important to my well-being and that of my family. It has brought me back my passion. It has removed my fears. It has filled me with a trusting hope that what I do matters, and that it's sometimes important that only I do it. There are some parts of living and leading that just cannot be delegated to anyone else. They belong with you. They are yours alone and you must stand in the breach and make the best choice you can. Acting in full volition and with a full sense of responsibility for the outcome. It has taken me a long time to get to this place. It is a powerful lesson in leadership. Without a passionate belief in who you are and what you value, you cannot lead yourself or anyone else. Who you are matters. People, Soldiers, anyone follow you because you have a clear sense of who you are and what your passions are. Where your priorities lie. Having those things allows you to have a vision of the outcome. It equals the Commander's Intent. I now have a vision for myself and my family. It is flexible enough to withstand the storms and permanent enough to be able to dance in the rain.

The combination of perseverance and passion come together in perspective. As a friend of mine put it to me on many occasions, the ability to step outside the emotion and respect both sides of the argument equally. The ability to offer others the respect they deserve for their differing opinion. To respect their perspective and their passion as equally as out own. In essence, to allow for dissent. To allow for an opposing view. To value the argument as much as the outcome. To learn and see and appreciate how to live outside of your own views. To truly learn COIN. To suspend your own filters and judgments long enough to hear and see another way of being. To respect yourself enough to respect others.

The Army is constantly re-looking the attributes it requires of the profession. Perseverance, Passion and Perspective might just be some to consider. I want my leaders to have the ability to keep their perspective, the perseverance to stay the course, and the passion to learn to dance in the rain. I want to surround myself with that kind of professional. I want to fill my life with that kind of person. I want to embrace those qualities in myself. I want to be led by people who are passionate about what they do. I want to be led my people who I know will persevere. I want to be led by people who can keep their eyes looking towards the future without surrendering the joy and pain of the moment. Don't you?

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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