Lesson 5: “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance” – Samuel Johnson

Children’s instinctive capability to shrug off problems, obstacles, and failures to achieve success is one of their most amazing characteristics – check out this great example. While on our five-day trip to Wolf Ridge, I witnessed children constantly wielding this skillset; being surrounded by them made me realize that I need to have the same level of resiliency at work. As leaders, we are constantly bombarded with challenges to the point where we can be mentally and physically worn down. How often do we put things off, choose to delegate, or even ignore challenges because we simply don’t have the energy to push something over the finish line? Yes, there can be budget, resource, technology, and process constraints, but we are the same people that rose to leadership roles because we were able to tackle these constraints with ease and flair. So, what’s changed and how can we get back to that child-like enthusiasm and ability to persevere no matter what we face?

Feeling burnt out and fatigued, I recently met with my boss to reflect on where I was at mentally because of a particularly difficult challenge we are facing as our organization integrates with our global counterparts. In this instance, the challenge was important to the organization, but the global nature of the issue was forcing a slow, winding path to resolution, something we typically do not face inside our tight knit office. As we spoke, I explained how my fatigue made me feel as though I was letting my peers down. After a long meeting, some additional reflection, and a fresh perspective from my boss, I realized we had to solve this challenge as it was far too important to the organization. But how could I get my mindset back intact?

While driving home that evening, I remembered how impressed I was when watching kids persevere through tough challenges at Wolf Ridge. Mentally and physically the kids conquered their biggest fears and challenges with a resiliency unmatched by any of the adults in our group. One 4th grader in particular stuck out in my mind, as she got “stuck” half way up an uphill ascent that included 100+ stairs. Mind you, she had just completed a three-hour trek through the woods and 100+ stairs is hard for anyone. I remember being floored by how she went from anxious and exhausted to strong and determined simply by leaning on her friends and peers for encouragement. After a quick break to reset, some much needed cheering from her friends, and a little laughter she simply pressed forward to the top. To those around her, it looked like she simply ‘flipped a switch’ from being mentally and physically exhausted to not allowing anything to stand the way of reaching the top. Her ability to persevere and conquer the challenge, impressed all of the teenage and adult chaperones. At the top, she was greeted with high-fives and celebration from everyone. Thinking about this young girl’s performance made me realize a few important things:

  • ‘Flipping the switch’ or ‘getting into the zone’ is something we all can and need to do
  • A little encouragement can go a long way – so lean on your friends, coworkers and peers when needed
  • Celebrating little wins can have huge emotional benefits
  • Try to always put your best foot forward

So the next time you are mentally or physically worn out and ready to throw in the towel, just remember to reset, persevere and lean on your teammates (friends, boss, peers, etc.) to tackle the your biggest challenges head on.