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Comfortable Being Uncomfortable


Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream. ~Peter McWilliams

Part and parcel with leadership is being uncomfortable, is being comfortable being uncomfortable. Much of leadership is untidy, living and existing in a world where predictability is uncommon, where the messiness of human emotions is the norm and the inevitability of things is a relative unknown.

The world of the non-leader is comfortable. There are solutions to problems. Some obvious, some obscure but the solutions are there, are as predictable as one plus one equals two. In the world of the Engineer, problems have answers. There may be one answer, two answers, or many answers to the question at hand. Whatever the story, there is an nice, clean answer that closes the book with a happy ending.

For the leader, being uncomfortable is the norm. Problems rarely come with one correct solution, typically come with many possible answers each which is, at best, imperfect and, at worst, a disaster. An answer that can’t be stared in the eye. It’ a sideways glance, a fleeting shadow, a speck seen on the periphery of a vision that’s gone with the next blink.

For the leaders playing ground is the human mind, the human emotions, the mixed up realm of human impulse, of human inspiration, of human drive, of human passion. What works for one, the answer which addresses the motivation of one has no effect on may even demotivate the other. The leader lives in a world of disequilibrium, lives in a world where there are no perfect answers, where attempts to solve a problem may not play out for weeks or months or years.

For the leader, ambiguity is the linchpin connecting him with those being led. Sometimes, one plus one will equal two. But typically that is not the case. Frequently, one plus one does not equal two. There are times, one plus one will equal ten because the proposed solution will energize others who energize others in a cascading effect. At other times, one plus one will equal zero because the solution that worked on the last problem made the current problem more problematic.

If a person can’t live with uncertainty, can’t live in a state where it is not always possible to pull a tried and true answer out of the hat then the person should think twice, think thrice before choosing a position of leadership.  Because, for a leader to survive, maybe thrive, he must be comfortable being uncomfortable.

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