Seeing

Every child falls down. Some children fall a great deal. On any given school day, at least a dozen kids come to the office to be patched up. I’ve gotten to know my regulars – students who never met a level asphalt surface that didn’t bite. When they come through the door, we provide first aid and a moment of comfort. When they’re brave enough to return to the games, we scoot them out.

 

Recovering from a fall is a basic skill practiced from the time toddlers learn how to propel themselves. The most common advice kids receive – Next time, maybe you’ll look where you’re going! Seeing in more complete ways, as the adult advice suggests, cuts down on mistakes.  Still, a good fall can also be a good teacher.

Leaders also fall. They fall all the time. Not the minor stumble we think of for children. Instead, we hear tales of high flyers dropping from above. Some falls are quite spectacular. News bubbles up with the salacious details. Then the public eye moves to the next spectacle. And, no band-aids, icepacks, or pats on the head suffice for the wounds of these fallen leaders. Healing can take years. Some of us never recover from our missteps.

When we do bounce back, we can acquire a sort of second sight that derives from having faced a wrenching process of reassessment.. Deep doubts, public failures, reversals of fortune are harsh eye-openers. But mistakes, shoved in a leader’s teeth, can prove an efficient teacher. Check out these under-rated side effects of a messy fall from grace:

  • If I am not taken out by my fall, I have a chance to return wiser and more open-hearted upon my return. I can let go of a desire to put the pieces back together again. What’s the point? With the past gone, there is permission to move on.
  • Keeping it real takes on new meaning and importance. Authenticity becomes a goal that speaks for itself.
  • When I find myself exposed – when my imperfections show, I no longer care. I also find increased value in working with people who have learned from their own winding paths.
  • I know it’s OK to be softer! Intuition, compassion, vulnerability, and even admitting I’m lost are part of an excellent tool kit that comes post-fall.
  • The ‘C’ word is compassion. When someone hasn’t hit bottom at least once, he can’t know how to speak the language and may have an incomplete picture. First, live it. Then, let’s talk.
  • I can let go of an addiction to fame, greatness, importance, and external verification.
  • I can let go of needing to divide the world between winners and losers.
  • I can get over myself! Lifting my head up from the seductive reflection pond lets me see what else is out there.

Since I have fallen plenty of times, I am building skills for second sight. Stumbles, redirects, and reflections have slapped from me any attachment being perfect. Past the short-list of right answers,  I would hope that those who step up not only to survive, but also learn and bring wisdom back to the broader circle of human endeavor. How rich it can be to stand in that circle, eyes and heart wide open. Complex and divine like a truly fine wine.

On we go!

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3 Responses to Seeing

  1. Kay February 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Principal John,

    You inspire me with every word. Have a wonderful winter break, and a fabulous renew year!

    Most grateful,

  2. Sandra June 24, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Whoeee….good one!!! Timely too…we here in Portland are reeling over the public news of one of our CEOs fall from grace; of the Portland Urban League which is very high profile. I winced thinking about how he would possibly come back from it, what his family and staff must be going through,
    how he would ever get a job again in this town, etc. Funny how I actually didn’t like the guy at all before this and now I feel this compassion for him. Hopefully he’ll come to a bit of the wisdom you proffer here, G!

  3. Frank June 25, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    Great one, Greg. Clear, easy to read, well said.

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