Waiting for the Muck to Settle
My life keeps dishing out proof that the more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn – and it’s a very uncomfortable place to be. It’s so much more fun when you feel like you’ve got all the answers, don’t you think? My husband (the innovation-guy) and I were talking about the innovation process a few days ago and he was sharing how discomfort is such an integral part of it all. He said that every project goes through a phase in which you get stuck in the muck of the unknown and feel like you’ll never find your way out. The key is staying with it long enough that when the winds of doubt subside and the muck settles, you can see the new path up ahead.
I’ve decided that human beings are a lot like innovation projects.
The problem most of face is that in our very busy lives at work, we don’t stay with the muck long enough.. We’re paid to make decisions all day long and so that’s what we do. We decide. We decide that this muck is for the birds and we bail. Of course we have lots of justifications – meetings we have to attend and very important projects that need our attention – nobody would dispute that there’s simply no time for muck.
You know, muck – those uncomfortable feelings that show up when we don’t know. When we don’t know what to do. When we don’t have the answers. When we don’t know why we feel what we feel. When we don’t see the way out.
So nothing changes. We move from one muck to the next wondering why things aren’t getting better. Blaming everyone else around us for the muck we simply don’t have time to address. We don’t take time to examine our perspectives. To clarify our assumptions. To evaluate our actions, and expectations, and the impact we want to have.
Here’s what I know to be true: If we’re committed to being and bringing our best selves we have to deal with the muck. We cannot hope to show up constructively with other people if we’ve left a string of unfinished business and unresolved conflicts in our wake. If we don’t deal with the hard stuff, there’s no hope for anything new.
I think in leadership, like in innovation, one of the greatest skills we can hone is our ability to be in the discomfort. To sit with the unknown. It may be messy and uncertain and require an investment from us that cannot be guaranteed – but without it, nothing new, or different, or better can be achieved.
And better is good.
©OnStage Leadership, 2014; Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop.
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