Embracing Pain!

Most of us avoid pain. That’s completely normal. However, an effective leader learns to embrace one type of pain – the pain of knowing how things COULD be, and not yet being there. That pain, when harnessed appropriately and effectively, creates the power to make change happen. The power to do whatever it takes to get one step closer to the desired future.

Effective leaders have to live with the pain of disappointment constantly. When an employee does not live up to expectations, when a customer or client says “no”, when a supplier fails to deliver on its promise, when a requested zoning change is denied, when… What differentiates the best leaders from the rest is how they respond to the disappointments – how they live in the tension.

George Washington wrote countless letters to the Continental Congress, pleading for more funds so he could pay his soldiers. Congress frequently gave him much less than he asked for (and sometimes they ignored his pleas completely). He had to live in the tension of that chronic disappointment. The British won most of the battles during the Revolutionary War. Washington had to continue to lead his soldiers despite low morale and dwindling resources caused by defeats. But Washington and his troops persevered and won the war.

The best leaders do not ask “how do I minimize the pain?”, but “how to I bring my vision into reality?”, knowing that the pain of disappointment is the price they have to pay to reach their goal. Since pain will be part of our lives as leaders, we have 2 choices:

1) accept it grudgingly, or

2) embrace it.

And embracing the pain will give us more power, letting us use that pain to accomplish our vision.

So, what pain can you embrace today? Next week?

PS – The picture was taken at the site where the British captured Paul Revere on April 19, 1775. I was captain of the Stow Massachusetts Minutemen for 5 years. We reenacted the 10-mile march to Concord every Patriot’s Day.

Gary Langenwalter

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