On October 1, 2012, my family want to visit our friends the Hatches and the Swansons. When we arrived, we discovered Rob and Jon having a fun competition with push-ups. Loving to challenge myself, I naturally jumped in.
Over the course of many attempts, I accumulated 50 pushups. I could usually only do 5 or so at a time. Since that day, 1,633 days ago, I have done 50 pushups a day. That equals 81,650 pushups.
I loved how committing to these pushups helped me develop an exercise system that worked. I added planks, growing those to a 2-minute plank each day. And an hour of bike riding. I was able to do it daily whether at home or on the road.
The system helped me keep track on my wellness goals. I felt better. I lost weight. I started other habits like tracking what I ate.
But something began to change. A few months ago, I noticed a pain in my shoulder. Not a huge pain. And not an all-the-time pain. Nothing requiring pain medication. The shoulder just began to hurt when I’d move my arm in certain directions.
As I grew more aware of the low-grade pain, I began to realize something was wrong. Then I realized that my 50 push-ups a day was making the situation worse. My beloved workout system. The one that had helped me hit so many goals. Now that system was causing strain.
And as I read up on strains, I realized continuing with my push-ups and I could do serious permanent danger.
My system had turned from helping me to harming me. The parts of the system are still fundamentally sound. But the way I was doing the push-ups and planks was adding strain to an already injured shoulder. Doing this fundamentally sound practices, was putting my entire health at risk.
How are your leadership systems?
Isn’t this like leadership? As we work in our career, we develop systems that help us. They work for us.
- We get excellent at quickly solving problems.
- Or we come to work early and stay at work late.
- Or the only fundraising metric we look at is how much cash is coming in.
Each of these are fundamentally good systems. They work for us. They help us reach our goals. They earn us promotions and admiration.
But over time, something changes. We may try to ignore the pain, but the irritation is still there.
As we ignore the signs, the harm gets worse.
- Our quick answers to other people’s problems becomes “micro-managing.”
- Our long hours begin to cause our family life and personal relationships to fall apart.
- Rather than growing long-term relationships with supporters, our sole focus on money causes us to have to “re-invent” the fundraising wheel every. single. year.
Are you willing to stop?
As a leader, you have a choice. Are you willing to stop the systems? The ones that worked for you for so long?
This week, rather than defending the system that have served you so long, pay attention to the irritation. Notice the pain. What is it telling you?
And more importantly, are you willing to stop the system to allow for healing?
Sometimes, you have to stop at 81,650 push-ups in order to get stronger.