In the shower this morning (where all great thinking happens) I found myself wondering about when the right time was to let go of the bar …
When I was growing up we often spent the winter weekends skiing. For a few years (due to a new marriage) there were four boys in our family. Skiing was a great way to occupy everyone while learning an athletic skill and spending all that youthful energy. There were several kinds of lifts and tows up the hill, one of them being the T-bar. A T-bar is a long metal (usually aluminum) pole on a shock absorber spring that you put behind your backside to slide you up a little trail to the top of the ski slope. The “T” part of the bar referred to the fact that the seat allows for two people to get pulled up the slope side by side. Inevitably, at some time in one’s skiing career, if you go often enough, there are T-bar mishaps. People lose their attention and slip off the trail, someone falls off and leads to a pile up before the operator can stop the lift, or the seat slips to the point where you can’t fix it and you must abandon the T and wait for the next one to come by or sometimes have someone ski to you to help you get back on. The process can be quite scary, as the skis refuse to cooperate, and you eventually lose your grip—literally. It is also a little embarrassing, but common enough that it shouldn’t ruin your day
In the shower this morning (where all great thinking happens) I found myself wondering about when the right time was to let go of the bar, not just in skiing, but in general, both business and personal things that keep dragging me along toward some inevitable goal that I may or may not still be invested in accomplishing. The idea that I always choose the right path toward a desired goal, or even the right goal, is of course unrealistic perfectionism (tautology intended). A colleague of mine, Molly Grisham, writes a wonderful blog where she shares wins and losses in her career as a coach’s coach. She might prefer a different name, like executive coach or leadership facilitator, but she does a lot of work with athletic departments and organizations, so I like to think of her as a coach’s coach. This week her topic had to do with an event she had planned for a specific target group in mind, and when the audience changed, she realized her prepared material was a bad match for those in attendance. (I would encourage you to read her post here.) It made me stop and wonder what I would do in those circumstances, and whether it might be a time to let go of the T-bar.
In a broader sense, getting up every morning with the same set of goals and tasks has its advantages. Life is predictable in such a routine. But when it starts to drag you down (or in any direction you don’t want to go) then it might be time to let go. Often in my role as a consultant I use the example of the top ten legal clients you might want to turn away. As an attorney you learn which potential clients are a good match and those whom you would be better off without. Letting go of the T-bar is a little scary. There is a loud clang usually, the people around you notice if you have not done it gracefully (say to get off at a trail crossing) and several times I have had the wooden seat come by and smack me in the face or the head. While I do not recommend the process, there is always a time to let go, and the faster you figure it out, the less it will hurt when the time comes.
Currently I am working on about a dozen different initiatives (as I call them) and each of them takes time and attention. Balancing all these projects is what I’m good at, so I can get carried away into thinking I can take on even more because I can continue to schedule my way to success. But every now and then, like this morning, I need to stop scheduling and take inventory of where I’m going and whether each of these initiatives are worth the time and effort I spend on them. I love writing, so I’ll keep those projects. I don’t really like chasing people down, so I may stay away from that more in the future. I want to be a good mentor and encourage those who are my friends and clients, but I do put a limit to the lengths I’m willing to go to give a compliment or share a win.
How about you? Do you have times when you need to let go of the T-bar? Please feel free to share your story and you own times that letting go of the T-bar has left you bruised, but that much better for it.