Tools to Get Through, Pt. 1

Tools to Get Through, Pt. 1

Here’s the scene. I’m guiding a CEO through a very difficult time in their business. It’s a case where the business may or may not survive, and if it does, it and the team be will drastically different on the other side. It’s the kind of situation that makes a leader dig deep and ask “what’s it all for?” And, until the course of action is decided upon, the leader has to be in discomfort.   

There can be an unnoticed tension between being and doing. We’re so practiced in doing, that we sometimes forget or neglect how to be. But until we know our path through—for what purpose and in what direction we’re moving through the challenge—we can sit with things, be with them, and do our processing on them.

Henry David Thoreau was famous for saying, “a hen only lays an egg a day. She spends the rest of her time hunting and pecking to ready the next.” This may feel counter-intuitive in our productivity-focused world, but there’s power in being in hunting and pecking mode.  

Sometimes being alone with ourselves, with our own thoughts and fears, we can face the uncomfortably of difficult truths. But as the sayings and book title by Ryan Holiday go: The Obstacle is the Way and “that where we stumble is where our treasure lies.”   

Lately, more people are being forced to spend longer times in solitude. There’s a gift in this. In quietude, we get to be with ourselves, and perhaps rediscover a set of powerful internal resources that we’ll move us into a brighter future of our making.

In our stillness, we sharpen our focus, we sort out what’s vital, true, and necessary. In being, we get to be with our imaginative selves and envision a new path forward. This inspires new ideas and ways of thinking. Stillness illuminates what we can’t see when we’re busy doing. This is a gift that no doing can give us.

“It takes real work to grasp what is invisible to just about everyone else.”

― Ryan Holiday, Stillness is Key

The truth is that being is the instructive threshold for what we do

We need to be present, in order to listen, improvise, advise and create. 

We need to be courageous, in order to take the steps that we’re afraid to take.

We need to be centered, in order to hold a space for ourselves and others to feel at peace.

We need to be in a state of curiosity, in order to imagine what could be next.

We need to be still enough to be clear about what next steps to take, and why to take them.

Inertia is defined as “a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.” While experiencing inertia, we resist change in velocity or direction, and we resist beginning to move at all if we’re at a standstill (also called indecision). But if we’re moving in the wrong direction or at the wrong speed, we won’t find the success we’re seeking. From here, it’s helpful to slow to a complete stop, pull out the compass, and reconfigure the map to determine the way through.  


“The most important thing to remember is this: to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”

— W.E.B. Du Bois

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