“When you are pointing your finger at someone else there are even more fingers pointing back at you.” I never liked that saying, but I’ve grown to not only accept the truth, but to welcome it. It’s provided me a way forward when I’ve felt stuck.
That saying reminds me of one of the hardest seasons of my life: I had worked hard on a personal dream and made tremendous progress. I was soon to be the owner of my own business. To top it off, this was an established business with a good reputation. It was certain to lead to a long, profitable life for my family and me. I had put in the extra time, sharpening my skills and the business plan, met with investors and was just days away from wrapping the whole thing up. I was elated—the work would soon pay off!
Then came a Monday morning that I’ll never forget. I arrived at work at my usual 7:30 time, but found another vehicle in the parking lot that was never there that early. I wasn’t sure what “he” was doing there, but “he” was the current owner so I didn’t worry too much. As I walked in the door “he” approached me and motioned to my office saying, “we need to talk”. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have these kinds of conversation especially as the day grew closer for our deal to finalize. But this was a different conversation. He started by saying he had a change of heart and had decided not to sell the business. He then slide an envelope across the desk and said, “you’ve got 10 minutes to get your things together.” My first question back to him was “why?” There was no response as he got up from the room and left. I was shocked and confused.
As you can imagine, thousands of thoughts ran through my mind. I began calling everyone involved with the situation. I wanted explanations! None of it made sense. It was a very difficult season for me. Then, a couple of weeks later, the finger-pointing saying came back to me. Instead of pursuing other people with thousands of questions I began to ask myself a few hard questions.
- What was my role in the situation?
- Why did this all come as a surprise to me?
- What did I really feel like I was losing?
- What was it about me that made this not work?
In the midst of these questions one thing became apparently quickly. I couldn’t walk this journey alone. The need for support, in my case a trusted mentor, was paramount to my ability to sift through the answers to those questions.
These questions led to some serious self-reflection. It’s these types of questions that allowed me to control how I handled the situation. I could continue to be angry with “him” and let him get the best of me, or I could make another choice. I could choose to employ the best kind of leadership there is, that of self-leadership. The kind of self-leadership that endeavors to know more about the one person I can control, the one person I can work on. The one person who has the capacity to pick up and move on. The one person who takes the lessons from self-reflection and applies them to the next situation.
Being a well-defined person doesn’t negate the sour feelings and it doesn’t negate the need to process the bad news. The well-defined leader allows him or her self to take that beautiful look inwards. The well-defined person starts with self-reflection when everything feels stuck.
How about you—have you ever found yourself pointing at someone only to discover even more fingers pointing right back at you? How will you deal with the feeling of being stuck?