April 3, 2017

How to push through loneliness, pursue your mission, and make friends as you go.

I spent two years rabidly chasing my goals. A custom-built home at age twenty-two, a custom dream home for my family at age twenty-seven, a millionaire on paper. I spoke for large audiences and I led a nonprofit where I had a large team. And it all came crashing down. We were evicted, I could barely feed my family, and my wife sold her engagement ring. And I've spent the last eight years obsessively studying, teaching, and coaching others on what I have to remind myself of everyday. The key to finding sustainable happiness, that sustainable flow, is to unblock yourself from self-sabotage and be at your best. My goal is to guide you through fear by slowing down the moment to help you harness your energy.

Here's what I wish I had been told. I'm thirty-eight and I've been leading and building teams professionally as part of my job since I was twenty-one. This is something I've found to be true over and over again: that leadership, moving something forward, building something, and starting something doesn't have to be lonely, but yet will still feel lonely. There are going to be moments where you feel incredibly fulfilled. You've built this team, they know you, they get your jokes, and it's amazing how that feels when you've made a long climb with a team.

On the other side, there are moments when you go to bed and you carry something that nobody understands unless they've carried it, too. The tension of these realities is such that just giving voice to it is really helpful. I'm going to give you some practical ideas so that you can build powerful teams. At first, I just want you to notice this tension in your own life, what it means for you to lead something and to move something forward, to start something, build something, and that moment where you think, "Oh, wow, this feels really cool, look at these people around me, look at the people I get to hang with." There are those moments, too, where you put your head on the pillow and there's a little bit of sadness there.

I've experimented, unintentionally, with lots of different ways of interacting with and leading teams and being with people. A key mentor for me at one point, Mosey Millionaire, said, "You're too close to the people you lead." That shook me up. I thought, "Maybe he's right." He was right about a lot of things, but I came to a conclusion that he was wrong about that, which we'll get into later. For me an initial idea that I don't have time to unpack here but I want to address is healthy leaders learn the difference between an aching loneliness and solitude that can empower them.

How do you learn that? Learn what it means to sit with yourself, to explore your imagination. (Go here if you want more: http://chrismcalister.podbean.com/e/train-the-brain/) If you are the kind of person who can learn to tap into the power of your solitude, then you're not going to be internally distracted, you're going to be present and able to do what I'm going to lay out for you. There are so many stories I could share with you about times when I felt like I’d been betrayed and places I’d screwed things up, but for each of those stories there’s a hundred moments of deep laughter, drinks, meals, taking that effort that we're trying to make happen, doing that climb together, and the feeling the fulfillment of watching us make that thing go.

When you're in the beginning of building friendships or relationships, you're looking around and asking, “Where are there feelings?” If you're not internally distracted, you're going to notice little moments where you could follow a feeling to deepen a relationship. I'll give you a practical exercise at the end to do this. The closest community comes out of a shared mission built on secure identities. This is the big idea of what SightShift is about; a secure identity overflows to a clear mission and then attracts and builds healthy community. It's amazing to me that people don't understand how deep you can actually get with the people that you're pursuing a mission with. In my context, that's the people I work with and for with SightShift, it's the team that makes SightShift happen, and it's my family. Those are all shared missions.

When I jump into work with an organization, I share that mission with them. For our SightShift team, it's an adventure we're taking together, and for our family, the mission of what it means for us to enjoy life and hangout, be, relate, and develop. The first thing that you're looking around for is, where is there a feeling to follow? Where is there something that I want to reach out and ask someone something or offer something?  There's tons of different ways that feeling will surface. When you're not internally distracted, you can learn to pay attention to it. Thinking about that is a beginning point in relationships.

A middle point is as you hangout and you are with people, ask yourself where you see greatness in them. The people that I ask to join me in things are the ones where I've seen something in them that, even if they can't see it for themselves or others don't see it in them, I know is true. Ifyou're internally distracted and feeling insecure in your identity, then you're not going to be able to notice these things. You're too caught up in being distracted by the hype, and the bravado, and empty promises that people can make.

When you're secure in who you are you calm down, you see something there. There's some greatness. Then if you want to think about what makes it beneficial for them to join you in what you're trying to accomplish, they're going to pursue the mission with you. You're not just looking for the feeling, you're not just looking for the greatness, you're looking for who's around you. Who in some way is doing it with you? Who's contributing?

At the first overnight SightShift retreat, I remember being there and looking around and thinking, "Who's here helping me make this happen? Oh my gosh, so-and-so showed up and brought the food, and he cooked. He has enough success in life that he didn't have to serve in that way, but he did it because he wants to help make the mission happen." I was sitting outside taking a break and another now close friend, he wasn't at that time, came out and he sits down beside me and he goes, "How are you doing right now?" It was just an amazing feeling to pay attention to. I had already seen the greatness, and then I noticed who's around me.

I just want to say again, you will have moments where you feel lonely. You want to learn to make those empowering solitude. You also don't have to be lonely in the pursuit of the mission. The deepest relationships come out of the shared mission built on a secure identity.

Let's make it practical. How do you get started on this? What do you do? Let me give you a couple of items that you can put on a weekly to-do list and see all your relationships change.

Take out a piece of paper and at the top of the list, write, "Grow." Write three names under grow--these are relationships that you really want to grow, that you want to see something develop, that there might be something there but you're not really sure. Beside those names, write one thing you can do for them, one thing you can offer to do for them.

Look, don't make this complicated, it can be as simple as sending them a text saying, "Have a great day." Again, this is looking at the beginning part of relationships. Three names, three things to do. Now, check your motive here. This is no agenda, this is just what it means to invest and be. Seek to be a friend rather than gain a friend and you'll have tons of relationships around you.

Second, write on your list “Serve.” You're going to list the names of three people that have got your back. Now, you may not have three names you can write in there, and that's okay. In fact, it's very normal that you would have one, maybe two names. Don't write your family, don't write your mom or your dad, these are just friends. There's reasons you don't do that.

If you can't put three names down, let that be a wake-up call. This is something to struggle with and acknowledge you’re not moving relationships from an entry level point to a point of depth. Again, the more you learn how to live out of a secure identity, you will do that. If you can write three names, awesome. You 'have people who have got your back. They know what's going on in your life, they know your deep struggles, and they know how to be there for you.

Now for me, in the last ten years I have gone through three or four significant rebuilding phases. They were intense and crazy, wilderness-type experiences. During the most recent one, one of those people who I would say has my back would text me occasionally. He would say, "You still breathing?" Seven or eight years ago when I was through a deep struggle, he was reaching out then, too, asking,  "You still breathing?" He knows my battles, he knows my struggles, he knows if I go quiet I'm probably too deep in my head. This is a gift I want all leaders to experience. So many people I talked to confessed to feeling lonely. They feel lonely, they stay focused on performance, and they don't know just how to be human and let others in.

They feel that they can't share vulnerabilities, insecurities, losses, and pains. They deny their friends the honor of doing just that, being a friend. All great pursuits, missions, quests, and adventures are built on friends you can be vulnerable with. When you're moving away from proving and hiding, the desire for this will surface. What you're doing with these three names for “serve” is writing one thing you can do for them, one thing, same as the grow. It could be simple again, but you're just finding a way to keep investing in those relationships and strengthening them.

The third list I want you to write is “Share.” Under that, write one thing you're hiding and who you can share it with. This is where it gets risky, right? I talk about this in my eleventh podcast, where we go through our initial coaching program.

If you take these three lists--grow, serve, share--set this on repeat each week, and don't freak out week to week .. well, most people underestimate the power of the compounding impact of doing this weekly.

Hope this is helpful to you as you take this ten thousand step journey and enjoy the relationships, enjoy the moments that are quiet, and learn how to navigate and live in both. Peace.

You can listen to the audio of the above here.