Have you ever hiked through a forest and come upon a stagnant pond or bog? You know, the kind which it is filled with water and there is no exit. It is dark, disgusting, and smells of rot and decay; with unhealthy bacteria and algae growing in it; and maybe dead animals floating that even the vultures avoid. Can you see it?
This metaphor represents what happens in our homes, our businesses and with our well-being when we let things fester. It is a leadership distinction delineating the difference between expansion and atrophy. In every moment of every day, we are either growing or dying. Growth requires activity, action, and “flow”. Dying occurs when we avoid, escape, profess ignorance or just allow things to fester…
Think of our physical bodies. Sitting on the couch eating bon-bons is a sure path towards death. Physical activity supports function in the body, circulates blood and moves toxins out of our muscles, fat, and joints. Recently, I have been “voodoo” wrapping my ankle, which is a tight band wrapped around it for about 2 minutes to restrict all the fluids (blood and inflammation). Then, when loosened, fresh blood rushes into the area, providing accelerated healing. The metaphor could extend to the importance of fiber in our bowels, but I think you get the idea. We all understand the importance of movement and activity in the health of our bodies.
How about materialism. I’ve seen a cultural shift from the post-depression post WW II desire to obtain things and then protect them to a millennial desire for downsizing, decluttering, and simplicity. I believe this plays into our societies climb up the hierarchy of needs. As we begin toward actualizing, we determine the need to hold on to “things” causes us stress, frustration, responsibility and becomes unnecessary. I am often shocked at the amount of food that goes bad in my refrigerator after shopping at COSTCO. Stuff requires management. Hoarding kills flow. Think of all that junk in the trunk (attic). As it sits, its usefulness devalues. The longer it remains untouched, the less chance it will be useful to me or anyone. Its purpose disappears. Do we hold on to it because we love it, or do we hold on to it because we are scared to lose it or waste it. It served a purpose in our life, it had meaning, but now it is our fear that if we let it go we are losing something of ourselves that is (vs was) important. Unfortunately, like many of our paradoxes, by holding on to it, we are stagnating the opportunity to repurpose it and repurpose ourselves.
I can see this play with money. If we live in fear and caution (and I believe there is a place for this) money in the mattress devalues in terms of utility and inflation. Money reinvested creates flow in the economy. An old commander used to say, you need to give something sunlight for it to grow. (Of course he was talking about measurement and accountability, but the shoe fits). Think of how the passing of money from one business to another grows our economy.
OK, lets move to a psychological bent. I am often stuck when I reflect on my AF career. I grieve and morn and hold it tight to my heart. Often I can’t let it go and it holds power over who I am and who I might be in the future. When I hold onto my past success and past wounds, I allow them to fester within me. And as they get covered with bacteria and algae (bs stories that I believe define me), they contribute to my decay. Acknowledging “what happened” and accepting the natural flow of our lives allows me to grow into all of who I am and who I can be.
I hope that works as a leadership distinction. Growth requires change and change requires activity or flow. Change is critical as a natural rhythm of the environment and the natural evolution of our lives. Those places, whether physically, intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually that we allow to stagnate or fester will lay hold on the speed of our growth or the speed of our death. Love to hear your thoughts!
In Truth – Pierre