Talking to leaders is very rewarding. They are smart and successful. They are whom we call high-achievers; they seem to 'have it all'. Hence there is plenty of topics they can potentially talk about and be really entertaining by doing so.
There is also the other side of the coin that emerges - lack of reflection caused by the crazy pace they are living at, overwhelming time scarcity, the sacrifice of family, friends, well-being in pursuit of money and success, to name a few.
Below, I outlined a few repetitive themes I registered after talking to dozens of leaders and entrepreneurs. Can you relate to any of them?
1. ‘Nothing is really stopping me from achieving what I want.’
Yet, the tasks lists keep growing. The results are somewhere on the horizon, but it seems like everything is taking much longer than expected. As a result – you don’t get things done.
Reason: Who wants to admit that there is something that they find difficult to overcome or that they have been sabotaging their efforts for months if not years?
Let’s be frank; everyone faces some obstacles in their lives or careers. By not talking about them openly, we will not make them go away. We, people, are too proud to admit that something has been preventing us from achieving business and personal goals. Leaders are experts in keeping the morale high from the outside while suffering in the inside.
A significant number of professionals and entrepreneurs who take a moment to reflect on the factors that have been slowing down the entire process of achieving their goals feel very surprised when they finally get to the core of the issue. At the same time, it’s very comforting as they finally know what to tackle. You can only address issues you are aware of.
2. ‘I just need to suffer now to be happy in the future.’
Reason: Entrepreneurs usually live in the future instead of being fully present now. Often, they are visionaries with a robust vision of how everything will work next year/after they raise the money/ when they finish their MVP. They might not be focused so much on catering for their needs in the present, for maintaining healthy relationships with their loved ones, taking care of their health, sleeping enough. Everything is being postponed, as life now can wait, as there is always the brighter ‘future.’ that they are looking forward to. Well, what if that goal that you were striving to achieve is not satisfying even when reached?
Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now, despite the hard work you do. Don't wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how precious the time is. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored – no matter if it’s the hard work that gets you to your destination or the destination itself.
3. ‘I would achieve more if I had more time.’
I don’t recollect talking to an entrepreneur who didn’t wish they had more time to get stuff done. They always want more time. They want to clone themselves to be doing more and to be achieving better results. The only problem is that everyone on this planet has precisely the same amount of time per day to spend – 24 hours. Time is finite, time doesn’t flex, you can not get back the time you lost doing something that wasn’t even important, and you can’t get more time by doing the same set of things over an over. One more thing – the more you work, the less productive you get. Working more than 55 hours per week is as productive as devoting around 37 hours to the work you do... Sounds disappointing, right?
Reason: Entrepreneurs and leaders want to be everything for everyone. They often believe that they are the only ones who will get things done, they think they are irreplaceable. They are often convinced that no one from their team that can perform certain tasks better than they do. It’s real, and at the same time, it’s all garbage. As an entrepreneur, CEO, VP or Manager your job is to orchestrate everything, make sure people know what they are doing, that they follow the same vision that you support, and that they are satisfied performing work for you. Moreover, you need to assure they have some space to grow and fulfill their potential so that they want to continue working for you. Your job is not to pursue work that other people will do faster and better than you. Your job is certainly not about getting stuck with things you don’t want/like/suck at doing. Learn how to manage your time. Learn to delegate - and do it well. Learn to CUT OFF all the noise. Don’t let the lack of time be your number 1. excuse for not getting things done, not being with your loved ones, not taking care of yourself.
My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time - Steve Jobs
4. ‘It’s all about business.’
I remember talking to an extremely busy professional who put everything he had at stake for the sake of getting more money, chasing his professional goals, buying the house of his dreams, saving for the future to retire in the next ten years. He wanted to be able not to work anymore and spend the quality time with his wife in his beautiful house. He took the video call with me from his massive ranch in Texas. There was only a couch that he was sitting on. No furniture, no dog that used to bring so much joy to this place. No wife, as she left some time ago. The house he was sitting in was listed for sale. He lost everything he cared about the most, by chasing his financial and business objectives and decided to sell the house and become a nomad. His life reflected what he used to believe in - 'it's all about business'.
It was a very humbling experience to be talking to him, although I wish he could have kept all that he lost and be happy instead of being nerve-wracked.
Reason: There is that myth that still functions in some of the business owners’ heads that only if they work 12 - 14 hours per day and make their business work, they will be able to achieve everything and never need to work again – and finally, start having a life.
Life is happening here and now. If everything you do daily is struggling, perhaps it’s high time to take a step back and think if you would be pursuing the same thing if that was the last day of your life. If not, you might want to change something.
5. ‘My people are just not as committed as I am. They make mistakes. There are problems with them all the time.’
If you don’t understand your team, and you have no idea why they leave you or don’t meet your expectations – you might want to take a closer look at what’s happening. If you don’t understand your people - don’t expect them to satisfy you.
Everything we do has its purpose, and it serves humans, no matter if you entertain them, help them stay healthy, help them do more by leveraging technology or keep the planet livable. If you are not interested in learning what drives people around you, no matter if those are your employees, peers or customers, you are missing out, as ultimately you will end up doing everything by yourself – which is, simply speaking, not going to work.
Reason: It’s more comfortable to be searching for external reasons to justify a failure/mistake/lack of results, rather than focusing on yourself and the internal drivers.
No man is an island – Thomas Merton
Strive to understand people around you. Be there for your employees and peers and always ask yourself a question ‘what I can do so that they can be better’ rather than ‘what they can do for me?’ or ‘why do they keep disappointing me?’. Remember, you are not an island – people are there to support you.
PS. Dear Entrepreneurs and Leaders, I admire you deeply. Please, continue delivering amazing results to the World - your skillset and charisma are praise-worthy and absolutely irreplaceable. I just wish you could have more time, peace of mind and joy in what you pursue.