An Evolutionary Leadership Journey
What does Freediving and Evolutionary Leadership have in common? The answer may surprise you, and I’ll get to that in a couple of minutes but first, a quick trip back in time.
Some years ago, I worked for a couple of investment banks. I won’t mention their names; if you wish to know which ones, you can always look at my profile’s career history.
These companies were impressive; each day, you met and rubbed shoulders with the best of the best. These were highly motivated, highly intelligent and incredibly talented people in their fields; you knew you were part of something special, and we got sh1t done. The business demanded a lot from our department, and in turn, I pushed myself and my teams hard.
All appeared to be going well; I was getting promoted; from the outside looking in, all was rosy, you don’t need to worry about Marc; he is killing it!
Things were far from rosy
The truth was, I was utterly exhausted and miserable at work. I had been operating at and beyond my maximum limit for years. If I was so unhappy, how were the people working with me feeling? I’m sorry to say; I was so far gone that I never even stopped to ask. What had I become?
I received a promotion to Executive Director or Vice President (depending on what region you were in). Career goal – accomplished! I even received a personal note from a senior executive congratulating me.
What’s the issue, you ask? The problem was these words, “congratulations, blah blah blah, we are expecting great things from you“, expecting great things?!? What do you think I have been doing all these years?
I was physically, mentally and emotionally spent; I couldn’t give any more! Are these people even human? I felt like a distant shell of a human, surrounded by robots, trapped in a world run by machines that kept demanding more and more.
A couple of months later, I was in the café downstairs; suddenly I felt dizzy, my heart was racing, the ground started swirling, I felt like I was going to pass out. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had a panic attack. A few months later, I resigned.
I made a promise to myself, NEVER to let that happen to me again.
Doing vs Being Agile
Fast forward a few years, things had changed a fair bit. I had more self-awareness, I knew when I was getting stressed out, and I had a support network in place.
I started using Agile; to be more accurate, we were using the SCRUM framework. At first, I was sceptical; however, after a while, I could see that you could use this approach to deliver outcomes for our clients even when timeframes seemed incredibly tight.
There was one major problem I hadn’t changed.
After years of conditioning, I tried to DO AGILE without understanding what it meant to BE AGILE. Ok, easy. So I just needed to learn how to BE AGILE – tick, mission accomplished!
Change is hard, but not impossible
Fundamentally changing your entire being, overcoming years of conditioning is hard. You can kid yourself that you have changed, but have you? I can guarantee that your old self will show up as soon as the conditions are right, and you might not even be aware that it has happened.
Do you know anyone who made a New Year’s resolution that has already fallen by the wayside? How hard can it be to give up smoking/chocolate/alcohol/whatever? Answer – difficult.
So how difficult do you think it is to change your entire being? Answer – f@#king hard.
Whilst hard, the good news – it is possible.
Hang on, can you please answer the original question? Evolutionary Leadership and Freediving? Oh yes, sure, one word – Meditation.
Oh yeah, I hear some of you say. I tried meditation a couple of times; it didn’t work, and what does that have to do with Leadership anyway? Or meditation is for yoga students and hippies? Meditation is not for me. Meditation doesn’t have anything to do with the workplace. Who is talking to you and telling you this?
Before we get into that, let me add that you don’t do meditation to get good at meditation.
Freedivers don’t do it to get good at meditation; they do it to relax their bodies and, perhaps most importantly, their minds.
Who is in control?
Believe it or not, your mind right now is likely to be in the driving seat.
Is there a voice in your head talking to you? Is it telling you that this is a waste of time? What does this guy know about BEING AGILE? I know what I am doing, and I don’t have any issues with my mind. I’m in control!
Really? Are you sure? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, from where does that voice originate? Who is talking to me? For now, please let me invite you to notice. Is it helpful, it is kind, does it support and nurture me?
Before you get taken out by your mind, please stay with me for a bit longer. Try to remain open. It could dramatically change your life FOREVER.
In 2018 I started an incredible journey with SHIFT314 as part of my Certified Agile Leadership qualification. I thought it was about leading others; I thought it was about Agility; it was and it wasn’t. Turns out it was so much more than I could ever have imagined.
Rather than try to describe it, it’s better if you can have an experience. Therefore, let me share my hand-illustrated video with you. It’s the first illustrated video I ever created back in 2019. I say back then, as the journey has been so profoundly deep, it feels like another lifetime ago. Maybe it was another lifetime, or perhaps I am no longer the same person.
This story is part of my Certified Agile Leadership coursework with Michael and Audree Sahota; it comes in two parts:
- Part 1, I take you on a trip to the bottom of the ocean in an incredible freedive.
- Part 2, I show you how it all ties together, the tools that are there to support you on your journey toward BEING AGILE. Finally, I take you inside the freediver’s body to return you safely back to the surface.
It is far from perfect; however, it is my gift to you, from the very depths of my heart to yours.
I wish you all the best on your journey, wherever it may take you.
And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?Rumi
The Humble PM – A space for introspection, growth and learning, a place where we can be vulnerable, share stories, talk openly about the truth so that you can create better environments for your people and projects.