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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

When Strength is a Liability

How do we get out of the rat race, allowing ourselves to slow down to connect with the work and the people that feed our souls and drive our purpose?

Many times, the floor needs to drop for you to wake up.

Let me introduce you to the “Queen of Pain.” Rebecca Rusch is a 7-time cycling world champion with an unstoppable drive towards excellence. She spent most of her life in pursuit of a win. Breaking records and pushing her body to the extreme.

In 2017, she began a new adventure; to discover the circumstances and clues around her father’s death 40 years earlier. As a US Air Force Pilot, he was shot down along the Ho Chi Minh trail in the Vietnam War. Rebecca, and a small crew, set out on the 1,200 mile/16,000 km trail to document (Blood Road) the search for the crash site in Laos.

During the interview on Choose the Hard Way, Rusch acknowledges her unexpected discovery of what was behind her drive to success, and how time on the trail changed her perspective.

She notes that the physical part of the journey was not what was hardest,  but rather recognizing the suppressed vulnerability, letting go of control, and allowing herself to be emotional.

You have heard it before: “It is lonely at the top.” This is a beautiful example of just that.

Rebecca’s situation begs the question: “What is success, and how does it connect with your purpose?”  

Not your job, your purpose.  

A job is the avenue through which you express your purpose. Often the job takes the reins, causing you to become so disconnected that you no longer feel inspired or grounded.

With intention and introspection, you can realign work to fulfill your purpose. 

Rebecca remembers one gruesome instance in the high mountains of Nepal: Her body was giving out, her reserves were spent, and she thought she might not be able to continue. In that moment what helped was not “fighting harder” and “pushing through.” Instead, it was her teammate saying, “It is ok if you need to stop. I will stay with you. I’ve got your back.”  

She recalls the moment she leaned into vulnerability and allowed others to hold her at a time when she had nothing left to give or control. It wasn’t until she was physically spent that she was able to explore and develop the skill of becoming vulnerable. From this experience, she developed a new appreciation of, and connectedness to, her team.

No matter your industry, as a leader you have been programmed to drive hard, to work longer, and to push through. I would ask, “What is the cost,t and at what point might it be beneficial to do the opposite?” 

  • To ask more questions rather than give answers.  

  • To listen more and talk less.  

  • To lead your team by being present and curious vs. driving harder for the next big accomplishment.

Balancing quiet reflection with a drive to innovate. A dance of two opposites which, if done well, creates strength, focus, and steady advancement.

The road to achieving “more” is not always sustainable, and most likely is not aligned with what you ultimately value.

What are you prepared to do differently to flip the switch?

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