Investing in Loss

May 2018

First, I want to apologize for not posting a blog in April. I have been committed to posting at least one a month and last month I just let too many distractions prevent me from taking the time to sit and write. Time seems to go by so fast lately. Next thing I know it’s May and now this month is almost over!

A big part of my “distraction” is work merely because it’s what I spend the majority of my time during the day. One of the things I truly enjoy about my job is creating opportunities for others to grow, find their interests or talents, master their skills, and/or connect them with others who can better assist them.  As a leader in my organization, it is one of my responsibilities that I truly enjoy especially when you get to see the rewards at an individual level, and which I do believe enhances the team and the overall organization.

At times — or maybe most of the time — progress is not obvious at all. It may even seem as if we’re taking steps backward instead of forward, and we may very well be! Those of us in the business of changing or improving cultures within organizations understand all to well the frustrations of the dance — one step forward, two steps back. But investing in loss is necessary to succeed. It seems counterintuitive but I truly believe it is necessary for the organization – the team at large – in order for progress forward.

One of our recent guest speakers shared his personal story of all the various adventure challenges, triathlons, races, he has done over the past 40 years, and what he puts his body through to train for them. He described the resiliency of our bodies even after toenail-ectomy, dehydration, defecation, hallucinations, and bonking during training or one of his adventure races. He would actually test his body to “bonking” state several times a year doing various challenges so he could learn what his body could handle.

By no means am I recommending bonking on a regular basis, but I bring this up because there are very few of us who will train ourselves, or our team, past that uncomfortable zone. Many of us might challenge ourselves by training for a race or a competition, and we may even push ourselves to that really uncomfortable zone… but as soon as we get there, we start to back off. One, because it is uncomfortable, and two, if we stay there long enough, we will probably experience some kind of pain.

So few of us rarely know where that invisible wall or where our true pain threshold is… let alone make ourselves remain in that pain zone for very long. However, if we remain long enough, push our body and mind through the pain, transcending beyond the physical and continue the drive forward, the pain will actually subside. But you have to be train your body to endure that level of pain more than once, and eventually, you will set a new pain threshold. It goes for teams as well.

As our guest speaker spoke of, there may be times that you may not accomplish that micro goal or finish that particular race because you pushed too hard too far. In races or competitions, it’s considered a “DNF” – a complete loss.

However, I believe that at times you need to invest in these types of losses so that you can learn from them –know where that uncomfortable zone is. And it’s more than just getting comfortable being uncomfortable, it is about pushing yourself, your teammates, your partners, beyond that pain threshold, and yes… maybe even to the point of passing out! Be okay with a DNF on this [micro] race, competition, or period of time so that you can learn from it. Learn what it feels like to lose, feel what it was like just before that point. What were you doing? What were you thinking? What were your teammates doing and thinking? What happened exactly when you or the team failed? It is so important to know and understand this, truly study it and learn from this. And then do it again and again, so that when the next one comes around, you know exactly what to do and when.

We, leaders in general, are naturally scared of investing in loss. No one wants to fail, let alone invest in it. From an organizational perspective, the benefits of investing in it, creating an environment, a space, a culture within your organization where failure to learn, is a good and safe thing is truly invaluable. But it does take time to see the value. However, failure to shame each other and demean the human spirit is not. Investing in loss both on a personal level and as a team will open yourself and your team to new heights. The more you invest, the more you will continue to set new thresholds pushing yourselves beyond your own possibilities, and succeed beyond the imaginable.

Reflection:

  1. What kind of investments have you made into your team lately?
  2. What kind of investments have you made in yourself lately?
  3. Do your investments test your body, mind, and spirit?

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