I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Hawaii on my honeymoon. I was 20 years old, and had never been to a beach, so to say it was an experience is an understatement. We were fortunate to be able to take several tours, one of which took us around the island of Oahu to a couple different beaches.
On that tour, one of the stops was a snorkeling expedition. I don’t know about you, but I discovered something that day: snorkeling is not natural. Don’t believe me? Fill your bathtub with water and immerse your face, but breath normally. I’ll wait here.
I distinctly remember floating around and realizing my heart was racing and I was on the verge of a panic attack. I was supposed to be breathing through a tube, but my instinct was to hold my breath. Something had to give.
Leadership can feel the same way. You get into a situation where you think you know exactly what you are supposed to do, but in reality you may have to adjust your natural reactions to meet the needs of the moment.
And in that moment, overwhelm sets in. You begin to wonder if you’re going to be able to adjust, or even if you should have to adjust. You feel like the water is all around you and all you want to do is breathe normally.
Here’s the reality: the only way to avoid leadership overwhelm is to avoid leadership.
If I had stayed on the beach that day, I would never have experienced that moment of panic, but I also would not have seen firsthand one of the most inexplicably fascinating things I’ve seen in my life. Sure, I could watch videos or look at pictures of schools of fish swimming by, but nothing replaces the experience.
Leadership is the same. If you’re feeling overwhelmed today, good. Now, breathe normally and keep going. You’ll adjust and respond accordingly. That’s what leaders do.
And who knows, along the way, you may even influence some people to do the same.
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