Your Finest Hour
On the morning of June 6th, 1944, General Theodore Roosevelt found himself in the English Channel heading for the beaches of Normandy. Before you think that I am confusing my American history here, let me point out that I am not referring to the famed Rough Rider and former President of the United States Teddy Roosevelt. Rather, I am talking about his son and namesake.
Despite every opportunity to live a long life of privilege, Theodore Roosevelt Jr. volunteered for military service and demanded to be among the first to hit the beaches of Normandy. As you may recall, a tactical error resulted in the Americans, who were initially headed to Utah Beach, eventually hitting the shore more than a mile from their intended destination. Walking off the boat with his cane (injuries suffered during World War 1 had given him severe arthritis) and taking stock of the situation, General Roosevelt calmly surveyed the dismal turn of events and simply replied, “We’ll start the war from right here.”
General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. would go on to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Utah Beach. While he would not survive the entirety of the war, his simple statement would give us all a lesson in the art of accepting things the way they are.
The Way Things Are
One might think this is counter-intuitive for a coach to somehow suggest for you to accept things the way they are. So let’s take the example of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. on Utah Beach.
Certainly he could have bemoaned his rotten luck, cried foul at the nature of the tides for pulling his boats or even spent a good deal of time fuming about the incompetent superiors who led him down this path. But what exactly would that have done about the thousands of German soldiers aiming at his men on the beach? In what manner would the time he spent complaining about the way things should have been actually done about the way things were? General Roosevelt had no intention of staying on Utah Beach, but to leave he had to first accept things for the way they were. You and I are not so different. And if you haven’t noticed we don’t exactly have a battalion of enemy soldiers entrenched against us. So what’s our problem?
The Freedom of Reality
One of my favorite moments in coaching is when a client finally comes to terms with the nature of their present reality. Don’t get me wrong, they are often keenly aware of their circumstances it’s just that they have not come to accept it for what it is. Time is often spent complaining about all the “reasons” or “people” responsible for their issues, but not so much time accepting it. But when you can drop your resistance to your current reality, you are set free to do something about it. A world of possibility opens up when you no longer fight reality. Solutions hiding in plain sight begin to reveal themselves. I see these moments in coaching, and all around me. Every. Single. Day.
You’ll know such moments. Take Sarah. That’s her in the black North Face parka. She is waiting for her train and suffering from light drizzle and cold. Her inner monologue is even colder. If she accepted the weather, just as it is, she might notice the warming hut twenty feet to her left. Take Rob. He feels unfulfilled and tells himself that he has no time for himself, his family or a round of golf. If he can accept that there are only 24 hours in a day and a limited number of years to life then he might be willing to take stock as to where he is spending this precious resource. I’ve shown you my secret ways to make the most of your time in a previous post.
In coaching, I’ve met a few versions of “Chris.” Chris finds herself in a job or position that she never wanted. And her boss ‘never’ tells her what a great job she is doing. Sound like anyone you know? Then perhaps you will join me when I suggest we just start the war from here.
Your Finest Hour
Lest I leave you without a couple of practical tips, let’s cut to the chase and talk about how to accept reality together right now. First, stop complaining! I assure you that if you were hearing the snap and crack of German bullets flying overhead you wouldn’t bother to sit on the beach and complain about your misfortune. Life is coming at you nearly as fast as that bullet so you’ve not a moment to waist complaining or quietly fuming.
Second, reality is reality my friends. It needs not your acceptance for it to be! Jump out of a plane without a parachute and let me know what the ground has to tell you about your disbelief that you are falling. Come to terms with the fact that refusing to accept things the way they are is madness. Personal, professional and human madness.
Accepting things the way they are is not a life sentence to more of the same. Accepting things the way they are opens the door to a future without precedent. In fact it is a leadership approach that has been around for centuries, but you’ve been too busy to read about it. Yes, life can seem complicated and hard but might I still suggest that you and I simply start the war from here together.
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1940 W. S. Churchill Speech to House of Commons
Let us therefore brace ourselves to that duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Commonwealth and its Empire lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’
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Photo Credit: Spencer Stanton