My career has largely been characterized by a negative attitude. I find it easy to second-guess my own leaders, especially when I’m not involved in the decision-making process. When I worked for my dad, even though he had over 20 years more experience than me, yet I was critical of his decisions. My critical spirit made it difficult for me to remain with the company and I eventually left, twice.
Recently, I was preparing for a talk titled The Why of Job Loss and I came to a contrast in how the question “Why?” affects us.
Why can cause us to wallow in the past or it can launch us into the future. When our reasons face backward, toward the past, they pull us back, into the pain and regret of the past or into a longing and a desire for the past. We ask “Why?” so we can fix blame. We chose to be a victim when our “Why?” questions face the past.
“Why?” can cause us to wallow in the past or it can launch us into the future.
However, a forward-looking “Why?” launches us into our future. Simon Sinek wrote a challenging and encouraging book titled Start With Why where he asserted our best energy comes from our most excellent “Why?” Connecting our activity with our purpose mobilizes and energizes us. We gain the strength to overcome obstacles and achieve the impossible when we are grounded to a powerful, elevating, reason for action. Our answer can pull us past the point where others failed and beyond those who said it couldn’t be done. Power, energy and strength come from the answer to our “Why?”
Power, energy and strength come from the answer to our “Why?”
On the other hand, negativity creeps into my day when I jump to conclusions about the motives for others’ decisions. When I’m not in a position to influence the decisions, do I give my peers the benefit of the doubt or do I jump to criticize? Too often, I criticize.
My favorite quote of all time is the Man in the Arena quote by Theodore Roosevelt. He gave the speech in 1910. I first became acquainted with the quote in the book, If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat by John Ortberg. I’ve since read other books that reference the quote too, including Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown.
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt, Citizen In A Republic, April 23, 1910
President Roosevelt understood “Why?” to be a question for the actor, rather than the bystander. The actor owns the “Why?” and may alone question the decisions made or the actions taken. Used facing a worthy cause, “Why?” inspires valiant effort, high achievement and daring failure. Acting on the “Why?” guarantees separation from “the cold and timid,” with the warm and courageous.
Will you be cold and timid? Or will you spend your life in a worthy cause? God willing, I hope I choose the worthy cause every time.
Memorial Day in the US is our time to remember those who gave their lives so we could remain free. I’m grateful for the sacrifice. May I live a life worthy of their sacrifice. I wrote a post about Memorial Day in 2010 titled Earn This. Please take another couple of minutes and check it out.
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