Thursday, December 12, 2013

Believing in Your Vision

You can always tell who believes in his vision and who merely hopes it may take place one day by the nature of the risks the individual is willing to take.  It should be no shock to discover that when Bill Gates (the founder of Microsoft and one of the wealthiest people in the world) was a young boy, his favorite game was “Risk.”  Whether it is the risk of political stature and cachet in speaking the truth as you see it (Churchill) or the financial risk of leaving your cushy, prestigious career as a University professor, buying up a trunk load of your recently published book (the one that the publisher told you would only sell a few thousand copies) and going to scores of interviews in small town radio stations across the USA—and at the end of the year having a best seller and making more money in one year than you had in the previous thirty-six years (Wayne Dyer, Your Erroneous Zones), the belief in the vision is verified by the risks you are willing to take.

Visions are not realized by playing it safe.  Camelot would never have been built if Arthur was not willing to risk his life in battle.  Furthermore, he would never have engaged in those battles, if he did not believe in himself and his vision.

Abraham would never have arrived in the Promised Land if he had refused to leave his family and country for a far off destination, even though he did not know, at first, where he was going.  Without believing in his vision and his ability to attain that vision, of course, he would never have even considered the risks involved.

Joseph would never have become second-in-command of all Egypt had he not risked “being wrong” regarding the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream.  He took the risk because he had a vision years earlier that had set him upon his quest.  His faith in the God of that vision gave him the courage to take the risk.

We not only see the legends’ beliefs born out in the leaps of faith that they take in pursuing the fulfillment of their vision, we also see it demonstrated in their laser-like focus on the vision.  Everything about their lives declares, This One Thing I Do.

Management guru Peter Drucker said, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”  A monomaniac is someone with a single idea.  In this context, the single idea is your vision.  Of course, this does not mean that you won’t have a multiplicity of concerns and avenues for fulfilling your vision, only that there is a unifying principle at the heart of most all of what you are doing.

You won’t find Legendary Leaders often reacting to circumstances or being led around by some Focus Group.  They also don’t waste a lot of time and energy on fighting and arguing with those who disagree with their vision.  I am not saying that they do not seek to persuade others, only that when they do, it is part of a proactive strategy rather than a mere distraction.

Early on, one of the major errors I made as I went on my quest was to spend so much time seeking to show others how “wrong” their quests were.  As I look back on this, it all looks so silly and childish. Part of this was youthful arrogance and another part of it was insecurity, as I foolishly believed that for my quest to be True, everyone else needed to agree with and adopt the path I had chosen. What a huge distraction and waste of energy that was, and it was all caused by the weakness of my belief in my vision and myself.

The vision consumes the legend-in-the-making.  Living on the razor’s edge between disaster and miracle—which is where most visionaries reside--the visionary cannot afford to take his eyes off of the moment in which he is living.  Believing as he does provides him with blinders to anything and anyone who would distract from his quest.

An excerpt from my book, Legendary Leadership

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sometimes Healing is Not For Our Best

Captain Kirk: Dammit, Bones, you're a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They're things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are ... If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain. (Can’t you just hear Shatner saying this in his famous, over the top, staccato style?)  -- From, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Like most of you, I have had my share of titanic spiritual and psychological struggles. Some of these battles left scars, and some of them left me with open wounds that I feel to this day. I have begged God for healing, pleaded, and even tried bargaining, but I never had anything He needed. (Go figure.) Add my unwanted personality quirk/weakness of being extremely sensitive, say, to living with melancholy or depression, and … O my. “What’s up with this, Lord? Can I get a little relief, here?”

God: No.

Monte: Can you at least give me a, ‘Not yet’?

Along the way I have learned some things about living with internal battles, weaknesses, and wounds.

To start with, I discovered that many of my weaknesses and unwanted personality traits were part and parcel with my strengths so that if I seek to rid myself of them, I would end up restricting what I do best. Subsequently, I no longer see, say, melancholy as an enemy that must be defeated but, rather, as a sparing partner who is forcing me deeper into my soul, as well as to rely more completely upon the God of grace and love. And this led me to another realization.

Sometimes, healing is not for our best. Sometimes Jacob is going to live out his days with a limp and Paul is going to keep whatever that “thorn” was in his side. Sometimes the malady is our chief source of wisdom, humility, and many of our most valued strengths. Kirk was right. In some cases, if we lose the pain, we lose part of our selves.

If you came to me today and told me that you could make it so that all my wounds would be healed, cause my melancholy and depression to vanish forever, and free me from my unwanted personality traits, but that, in return for my deliverance, I had to give up all the good and all the graces that have come to me through these struggles, I would choose to retain these weaknesses and maladies. Through my struggles, my soul has grown with a greater awareness of and empathy for the pain and struggle of others, a keener understanding of my strengths and limitations, the value of sharing souls with a cherished friend, and the joy of serving and caring for others. So. No deal. No thank-you.

I am not advocating masochism. I am simply suggesting there are sometimes larger issues at stake, so I need to be careful about wanting to be delivered where God wants me to be transformed.

John Adams and Abraham Lincoln suffered with melancholy and depression, as did Winston Churchill: would they have been the men they were, achieved the heights of successes that they did, had they been “healed”? Would Psalm 42, or CS Lewis’ “A Grief Observed,” or the homilies and poetry of John Donne been written had these men not wrestled with despair? The great American Industrialist John D. Rockefeller suffered with depression: what about his accomplishments without the soul created by his suffering? My experience says, no, they would not have had the successes they achieved without having the internal battles they waged.

Something else I have learned about living with such battles:

Everybody has been shot.
Do you remember this scene from the movie Black Hawk Down, the story of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 (the locals call it the Day of the Rangers), when our troops were ambushed while seeking to capture a Somali warlord? This exchange takes place in the middle of a firefight.

McKnight (Tom Sizemore): You, get up there and drive!
Othic (Kent Linville): But I’m shot Colonel!
McKnight: Everybody’s shot!

Most people have been shot at least once or twice. Wounds, issues, and struggles can easily make us self-centered. You’re not the only one dealing with such things, so watch out for the attitude my-pain-sets-me-apart as someone who warrants a pass on caring for others or treating people with dignity, grace, and love, or ceasing to be and do all that God has called you to.

While I am mindful of the reality that some people’s wounds require them to get off the firing line and into a hospital, most of us need to saddle up and do what is required. After all, that never ending internal battle, those wounds, and your “weaknesses” have actually given you strengths, wisdom, and graces that your fellow-knights desperately need for waging their battles. Anyway, it is amazing how much the pain often subsides when you are serving others and fighting for a cause greater than yourself.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013