To Live Better:  Die a Little

In past blogs, I’ve written on challenging topics such as goal setting, people development, and succession planning, along with resolving conflict, starting an exercise program, and most recently being vulnerable. In each case, I’ve tried to explain “why” these topics matter in our lives, and have offered ideas on “how” to get better and improve in these areas.  But in every case, I feel like I keep coming up short.

I’m still looking to understand and explain why most people (including me), equipped with the “why” and the “how,” still don’t achieve the important goals and objectives in their lives.  Many don’t even try for various reasons, which really boil down to three major “excuses.”

These “excuses”, along my “hopeful ideas” for doing something about it, are as follows:

Excuse #1 – I didn’t know these things (e.g., people development) were important.

Hopeful Ideas – Understand the strategic business case, look into the risks / costs of doing nothing, conduct a survey to confirm the importance with your staff, and obtain some benchmarking data to see what others are doing. Life is short, so if you want to leave a legacy for the next generation you better get started.  Bottom line:  Stop being an “avoider.”

Excuse #2 – I know (goal setting) is important but I don’t know how to do it.

Hopeful Ideas – Don’t be overwhelmed, start at the beginning, understand the process and break it down into smaller steps, simply get started and don’t lament small steps of progress, take a course or read a book on the topic, ask someone who’s having success to show you how, and ask them to hold you accountable.  Bottom line:  Get some skills.

Excuse #3 – I get the importance (“why”) and I’m learning the necessary skills (“how”), but I’m too tired, too busy, and too afraid of looking bad, feeling bad, losing money or being pressed for time. Plus it’s just too hard.  Or how about this one:  I simply don’t want to!

Hopeful Ideas – I get that mastering the strategic business case and gaining better skills is not enough to get you (or me) moving forward with goal setting, people development, or succession planning.  It’s not enough to get you (or me) moving on business development, repairing a broken relationship, or an exercise program.  Bottom Line:  Something else is needed.

What is this “something else?”  I believe it may be related to an idea I’ve recently been learning about in a 16-week faith-based study called “Winning at Work & Home,” by Robert Lewis.  This fall, I’ve been meeting regularly on Wednesday evenings with seven other guys from church with the common aim of getting better at life, specifically as employers and employees, and as husbands and fathers.

The course begins with a concept that Lewis calls the “Paradox Principle.”  A paradox is defined as a seemingly absurd (i.e., ridiculous, unreasonable, or unsound) but possibly true statement.  Expressed in an absurd but possibly true statement, the Paradox Principle is “Die to live.”  Think about it:  To live a better, more prosperous, more blessed, more successful life, I must first “die a little.”  Seemingly absurd, but can it be true?

In explaining the Paradox Principle, Lewis outlines four steps.  Steps 1 and 2 require the humility to admit we don’t understand and we need to get better, and Step 3 requires the hard work of learning new skills.  So far this aligns well with Excuses 1 and 2 – the “why” and the “how.”  Step 4 asks the question that is at the heart of the matter:  Even with understanding and skill, “Will I get it done?” The answer:  “Not without dying some to self.”

Clearly, this is not easy to understand or to do.  But it points out that success in life, in any aspect of life, demands and requires a cost that must be paid first. And that cost is giving up something selfish – time, money, prestige, or comfort.  To execute and achieve and deliver requires that I “die a little.”  To invest in the future leaders and leave a legacy requires that I ‘’die a little.”  And to do the hard things, the unselfish things, and the fearful things requires that I “die a little.”

Strength can sometimes best be shown by admitting your weakness. Winning can sometimes best be displayed in forgiveness.  And being #1 can sometimes best be achieved by putting other’s interests ahead of your own.  All of these require you to die a little.  Bottom line:  Die a little to live a lot!

We will continue to help our clients to learn and grow and succeed at life by asking the hard questions that get to the heart of the matter.  If you have any ideas or experiences to share on this subject, please post them so others can benefit.

Best regards,