The Most Important Thing I Learned in 5 Years of Consulting

Here’s the most important thing I learned in 5 years working at a consultancy.

It was hinted at when I became a non-smoker, it slapped me in the face when I became a parent, it was drilled into me when I became a coach and a chaplain, and as a consultant working with executives, it became so far cemented into my understanding that I now take it for granted.

It remains true across the board — for CEOs, salespeople, accountants, administrators, artists, doctors, cashiers, students — anyone who receives information daily through their senses and is tasked with integrating it into their attitude, outlook, strategy or worldview.

It is true for individuals as well as organizations.

It is true for teams, tribes and nations.

So, today, for whoever needs to hear it:

YOU MUST LET GO THE IMAGE OF WHO YOU ARE BEFORE YOU CAN BEGIN THE WORK OF BECOMING SOMEONE NEW.

… 

You’re probably thinking, “that’s great, but how.” 

Here’s the how:

You currently have an image or an idea of yourself. 

Burn it, scream at an empty chair, write it out, sweat it out, but get rid of it until it stops showing up. Then grieve it — cry, laugh, tell stories about it. 

“Remember that time I …”

In my studies as a chaplain, I learned that before you can affirm, you must deny. Clear the hovel, tear out the weeds, scorch the earth, only then can you till and plant and build.

You must say (out loud):

  • “I am not a smoker” 
  • “I am not weak” 
  • “I am not a slave to my emotions or habits” 
  • “I don’t need a drink in order to tolerate people (or myself)” 
  • “I don’t need to have an outline before I sit down to write” 
  • “I am not willing to be steamrolled or gaslit”
  • “We are not a business that stays silent in the face of injustice” 
  • “We are not a company that is stuck in the status quo”

Then, remove those environmental triggers or the people in your life who don’t see your potential (the smokers or quicksanders who are angry and jealous that you’ve left them behind), those who would judge, ridicule, diminish or minimize your efforts to evolve and grow. 

Surround yourself with those people (and voices) who are succeeding and making the change look easy. Organizationally, this may look like onboarding (or removing) the people who can’t grok the new vision.

All the while, affirming:

  • “I am committed to being respectful”
  • “I am committed to not being told what to do”
  • “I am someone who is not drinking today”
  • “I am a writer who can write anywhere, anytime — including the backs of napkins or with a bar of soap on the shower door”
  • “I am living my life on purpose”
  • “I am in charge of my day and my interruptions”
  • “We are an organization that makes a difference”
  • “We are a business that plays on the bleeding edge of innovation”
  • “We live our values”
  • “We will achieve and exceed our goals for this quarter”

It all begins with screaming out loud for all to hear (and sometimes destroying something).

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