The writing on the wall in the briefing room reads: "The one you don't see will shoot you down." You must always be on the lookout and stretch to see the totality of the theater and any moving targets. This mindset was drilled into me through fighter pilot training. 2010 was just such a year. It revealed that in business, in politics and in life, as in a dogfight, what you don't see threatens to take you down. But 2010 also demonstrated that surprising and unpredictable events can work in your favor when you respond promptly and wisely.
For us 2010 was a year of growth, development and fantastic learning. I met and worked with amazing people and great leadership teams. They taught me about commitment and passion, about creativity and vision, and about the power of collaboration and co-creation. In this KEY I share with you a two-part story that changed my life. To transform you must change the narrative. I hope to inspire you to apply these insights and strategies to change the game you play and make 2011 your best year ever.
Listen to our podcast about why you need to Get Rid of the Old Shoes in order to create breakthroughs.
Many wrote back about the Regeneration of America to share their insights and to thank me for being bullish on America's future. Today, in this KEY, I'd like to be bullish about you and your future. I welcome your comments. Please forward this KEY to friends, family and associates.
Get Rid of The Old Shoes
At age eight the heart specialist told my father that because of my condition I should not exert myself. I was scared. All I cared for was running and swimming. Now I was told I could no longer enjoy these activities. The journey of living is shaped in special defining moments. You meet a person, you stumble upon an idea, you read a book or you show up at an eventful moment, and unbeknownst to you, your response - the course of action you choose - shapes the topography of your life and who you become.
I decided to defy the doctor's orders. I rebelled against the narrative of fear and limitation. Running and swimming became even more important. The exalted joy of testing my body in the outdoors became a total preoccupation and my path to healing and liberation. I started to compete harder. Two years later, when I met again with the heart specialist, I was no longer a frightened boy. My destiny was not in his hands, it was in mine. I was free to push my limits. Shortly thereafter, at age 13, I won the Israeli cross-country long-distance running championship for my age group. It would take years before I understood that a triumph can also become a prison.
The Stories We Make
In my late 20's running became difficult. I could run for awhile but then I'd develop pains in my legs and feet. Athletic injuries were something I had heard a lot about and I decided that the intensive running I had done at an early age, while my body was still growing, was the reason for my pain. This was the story I created to explain my pain. Call it an addiction for meaning or the narrative trap. When we experience pain we often develop a story about it. If we can understand the pain we can justify the limitations it puts on us, which helps us cope, right? I treated myself to the best marathon shoes available but I still could not run more than a couple of miles before I developed pain.
Born To Run
For 20 years, this was the paradigm and the story I lived in. Then I stumbled on the book Born To Run and it transformed my life. The book weaves together four stories. It tells the history and development of ultra racing: these are the 100-miles, crazy-type races. It tells the story of an amazing tribe and the greatest race ever. Through these stories it weaves the anthropological and evolutionary biology of running and the reasons Homo Sapient had the upper hand over Neanderthal. Finally, it traces the history of athletic injuries to the modern athletic shoe and the success of Nike. I was stunned. I tossed out my fancy running shoes and started running barefoot in the soccer fields near our house. It was a visceral physical release and almost an out of body experience, as though I was coming out of prison. Born To Run and barefoot running have now become a global phenomenon and I am now running again. Getting rid of the fancy shoes meant getting rid of a story I held onto for 20 years. The old story was: I love to run but I can't do it because running in my childhood and youth had hurt my legs, knees and feet. The new experience was the sheer joy of running barefoot on the grass and the beach sand.
Let Go of the Old Story
Every day people explain to you why something cannot be done and why it will not work. They offer coherent and convincing narratives, just like my reasons why I could not run. In some cases, you are the person holding onto an old story for a long time as I did. My discovery and message is simple: Get rid of the old shoes. Let go of the old story. Do not accept 'givens' at face value. Challenge assumptions. Question what seems factual, but may not be. Confront the limitation. Turn it upside down. Get rid of the old narrative to experience and find a new one. Transform your story to run free and to lead.
The Leadership Moment
Most spoken or written assertions are filled with unproven assumptions, points of view, and beliefs presented as facts. To lead is to challenge the conventional wisdom. The leadership moment can show up at any time through anyone: your child, your spouse, your client or a movie. In my case it came through a book. And I decided to take action. I experienced leadership moments of change in other ways, too. It's the moment when you let go of the old story and embrace a new possibility and permission. It's the moment of renewal and of shifting from victimhood to ownership and responsibility. You refuse pessimism. You engage in opportunities to grow and change things. You focus on the power to change right here, right now with the people you are with. You coach and help people reframe complaints into requests, and accusations into an invitation for mature responsibility. You transform challenges into opportunities to create a desired outcome.
Now it's your turn. Turn the Key. I wish you all you wish yourself for the coming year. Start the New Year as you aim to continue. Get rid of the old shoes. Become the change you've been waiting for. Focus on what you want to be known for in 2015. Encourage your teams and friends to renew their sense of purpose, confidence and optimism. Work together and help them co-create the future they desire.
© Aviv Shahar