I was standing on the ledge looking down about 30 feet to the Colorado River.  Just a few minutes earlier I was happily rafting with my extended family in multiple rafts.  Our guide pulled our group to the side where there was a jumping ledge the guide company stopped at during every trip.  The offer was to jump from the ledge into the river.  They told us in clear terms, “If you went up, the only way down was to jump.”

My two brothers-in-law looked up at the ledge and looked at me and said: “Are you going?”  With as much bravado as I could muster “Absolutely!” with an immediate sense of nervous regret in my gut. We walked to the top with a small group of jumpers. That’s where I stood. There really was only one option, but that’s not what my brain was telling me. My rational brain was telling me the climb down was doable.  There could be a trail down the back…

If you’re like me, there is a moment when risk becomes real. It is one thing to talk about doing something, and another to do it. What is the deciding factor between risk and reward? Belief. 

Me jumping in Colorado River

Whether on the ledge over the Colorado River about to jump or asked to lead a new project, ministry, or product line, the same question comes to our mind and gut – Do I have what it takes?

That’s what leaders are continually asking – Am I enough? When we ask that question there is the immediate answer that usually leans toward, ‘No’. For most of human history, our brain has kept us safe by not taking risks, by sticking to the well-worn path, by doing what everyone else does.

So much of leadership comes to and from perception. How we see the obstacle, situation, problem, or project matters. Perception is in two forms – what others see (which we cannot control) and how we see (which we do control).

There are moments in life and leadership that present themselves where people ask – Do I have what it takes? and doubt they can. But the truth is Belief in yourself, a certainty of self, screams a resounding YES! I do have what it takes because I am enough.

What I know to be true for all people, especially leaders, is the story we tell ourselves between the ears matters. We decide the story we tell ourselves. We decide how to live and prepare for the moments in our life that matter.

If certainty of self is what it takes to get us through our fears, insecurities, problems, and projects then why aren’t more people confident in themselves?

People choose not to prepare for the moment the question arrives – Do I have what it takes? Most people prefer the path of least resistance. The path of comfort and harmony. That’s not what leaders like you experience. Leaders like us experience discomfort and conflict regularly.

Leading a team or an organization with a clear purpose means there will be struggle along the way. Tension is inevitable – on the team, in the marketplace, or with a project. Leaders need to be ready, especially between the ears, to respond from a place of Belief, or certainty of self. That you are capable to accomplish any task no matter the odds, difficulty, or adversity.

How do we prepare for those moments? Three ways come to mind:

  • Repetition
  • Self-talk
  • DHT

Repetition means practicing and rehearsing for what life and leadership throws at you. Basketball players of all levels shoot and dribble relentlessly. Leaders should practice and rehearse situations and scenarios when we know something is coming. Have a big client meeting? Go over your pitch again and again. Employee that needs direction/discipline? Role play how the conversation could go. We can choose to practice so when leadership moments come, we know we are enough for the situation at hand.

Self-talk is another way to grow in Belief of self. Mantras are important. The words we speak out loud matter. Words have shaped our world since we were able to talk. What is your self-talk like? I have a Manifesto that I read every morning. Words that I choose to shape the man, the husband, the father, the Coach that I am today and will be tomorrow. If you think words don’t matter, you’re fooling yourself. Get your self-talk right. Enlist someone you trust to listen to how you talk and give feedback.

Finally, DHT. This is short-hand in my house for – Do Hard Things. Humans are constantly pursuing the path of least resistance. We want more done for us so we don’t have to work as hard. From the Lazy boy, to beds that regulate temperature, dishwashers, smart-everything; the path of least resistance is always present (trust me when I say I like the convenience of these). Leaders have to choose to DHT.

Last time we vacationed in San Jose del Cabo, my family took a walk down the beach and we came across a crowd. Upon discovering the sea turtles that had been born the night before, we talked with a herpetologist (study of amphibians) and I was fascinated. 

One reason was the baby sea turtles were struggling to get in the ocean. Waves would come and knock them back, tumbling over and over sometimes ending upside down. People ‘aahhed’ and said ‘oh no…’ and wanted to rescue the baby turtles. The herpetologist told us we cannot help them. If we help the turtles get into the water, they will not have developed the strength to survive in the ocean.

Same for humans, particularly leaders. We need to Do Hard Things regularly so when a ‘wave sends us tumbling’ we know how to problem solve.

Repetition, self-talk, and DHT. Three ways to build certainty in who you are as a person, spouse/partner, and leader.

Which one do you need to choose to build?

Start small, take one MicroShift today.