Executives and leaders are often caught in a double bind. On one hand they want to slow down the intensity and time consumption of running the business. On the other hand they don’t want to allow their absence have a negative effect on the quality of business thus risking losing business. This double bind often becomes urgent when the executive has reached a certain age and wants to find his next adventure or has gotten so much resistance from family and spouse that they are ready to back off and make some changes. Of course, health can also be an issue and even executives that clearly need to back off the hours and intensity of work will continue working in spite of the health risks.
I asked my client the brain-melting question, “Is it OK for the business to fail?” he responded with a surprisingly open response. “I have never even considered this. It has never been a question that I would ask of myself. Why would I? From day one it’s been ‘succeed, succeed, succeed!’ ” His response is perfectly valid. Why would he ever ask him self such a question? So let’s examine why that question might be appropriate for him to ask now. First, he has spent over thirty years building a highly successful business. He has exceeded his fondest dreams for income. “I can live in luxury for ten lifetimes and never run out of money.” After thirty years he is perhaps more than a bit worn out, even experiencing burn out. His spouse is at the peak of frustration. She had expected this time of life to be one of togetherness, travel, relaxation, and connection. Instead she experiences a tired and moody husband each evening with no time for any of the above. For her, life is no fun. But he can’t let go.
He knows he needs to let go. He realizes that his marriage is in jeopardy and his health is at risk. But he doesn’t know any other kind of life. At least as an adult. By the time he was ten years old he had made a decision that he was going to be successful and have not only financial independence, but he would have absolute control over his life. He achieved it. But at ten years old it never occurred to him to plan for the day things would change. Of course, it never occurs to a child to plan for retirement, poor health, burn out, or just the need for another adventure.
So here is something to consider: what if right for us and we decide at one time in our life can be all wrong for us at another time (and circumstance) in our life. What helps you at one time can actually hurt you another time. Building something and maintaining it may be of great virtue at one time. Allowing it to fail and also be a virtue another time.
Does this sound crazy? Let’s keep exploring.
To be continued.