“I learned a lot by mistakes and by the generosity of smarter, healthier people who managed to drop life-penetrating wisdom into my world exactly when I needed it.” Sarah explains, “Eventually, I got serious about collecting those insights that gave me a breath of fresh air and helped add health to my leadership rhythms.”
I recently interviewed Sarah about the book:
Me: So much about leadership is about striving to accomplish something meaningful. Do you think leaders worry that being too “balanced” might hold them back in terms of achievement or drive?
Sarah: I do think a lot of us like being the man or woman who is known for hoisting a huge ambition on our backs and charging forward. That kind of intensity drives us and we like the hard work and energy and momentum it brings to our lives. But being well-balanced doesn’t mean siphoning away that leadership energy. It can sometimes mean directing it.
For example, over the years, I’ve seen (and maybe at times been) the leader who secretly (or publicly) thinks their great ideas are being overlooked. Publishers are passing them by, conferences aren’t platforming them. They become cynics who write attack blogs venting about how exclusive the “Boys Club” is. Granted, sometimes there is need to advocate for including more people. But for a lot of us, I think the “balance” in this stage isn’t retreating onto your couch and switching your dream out to watch a sitcom. The balance is saying, “If I want to be perceived as someone who has something worthwhile to say about this subject, than I need to get out there and take action, make a dent, and prove I’m in it for the long haul. If I want to be considered legitimate, then the best thing I can do is get out there and BE LEGITIMATE.”
Me: That kind of sentiment, that our dreams or goals aren’t unfolding fast enough, is a common sentiment. Why do you think that is?
Sarah: It’s true. One of the essays in The Well Balanced World Changer pokes a little bit of fun at the way we tend to idolize “overnight success” stories. We (or some news reporter) locks onto some great road to glory story like Seth Godin’s, for instance. And we say, wow, look, Seth Godin gave away thousands of copies of his book and it skyrocketed him to fame. The media and publishers were beating down his door, rolling the red carpet up to his house all because he had that one fantastic idea. But what a lie we tell ourselves, right? Then we set our psyches up to think, “All I need is that one great idea and I’m going to make it big!” It would be way smarter for us to lock onto other stories that emphasize all the years of day-to-day hard work that Godin put in before that big idea of giving his book away was able to gain traction.
Me: That mentality can definitely set people up for failure. What do you think is often the biggest disappointment for leaders as they strike out after their goals?
Sarah: I think leaders are often passionate people. They feel their goals deep in their bones. Some cause or vision stirs inside of them white hot and they basically are compelled to bring it to expression. But the trouble is that they have this romantic idea that because their cause is so worthy and so noble and so high-priority for them that the world–or some industry or group–is going to immediately recognize and support their work. Sometimes that happens, but a lot of times it doesn’t.
It’s tough when we realize that even though we are fighting against the world’s evils or working to make life or faith a better experience for many, cheerleaders don’t always greet us when we step out of the house. It’s tough when we realize that millionaires aren’t going to line up at our door to bankroll our ideas or that volunteers aren’t necessarily going to wrap around the block waiting for the chance to sponsor a child, donate to our cause, or take on a leadership role in our church or organization. There are these tough leadership moments when our ideals crash into reality and we have to figure out what to do next.
Me: And what do you suggest leaders do in those moments?
Sarah: The Well Balanced World Changer is basically dozens of stories that answer that question. But for one, I think we commit to self-management. That means we make a conscious effort to review our own patterns and history and become aware of the triggers that usually trip us up. And secondly, I think we intentionally make time in our schedules for ongoing assessment and re-calibration.
For me, a big part of that was learning that when a huge task is in front of me, I used to think the best question was to ask, “Can I do this? Do I have the skill sets? Can I work hard enough and long enough to get it done?” And now, as I stare those big dreams in the face, I tack on, “Can I do this? Do I have the skill sets? Can I work hard enough and long enough to get it done? AND…can I do it and stay healthy?”
Anyone can crash their lives and lose their heath, family, relationships and job pouring themselves into workaholism to achieve a goal. But real leaders manage what they take on so that they aren’t just leading today but they’re leading ten, twenty, thirty years from now.
Sarah’s book is available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold. You can also find great shareable content at her book’s Pinterest page. And you can contribute your own life lessons to an online collection of wisdom using the hashtag #worldchangerbook. You can find more great content at Sarah’s blog.