This isn’t an easy article to write. I am over 60 years old and have had a wonderful, successful life full of variety, excitement, joy and challenges. Throughout, I have seen myself as a solid kind of person with an optimistic view of the world and a generally even temperament. Now I find myself admitting to the world that I am not bulletproof after all.
A few weeks ago, I was juggling some pretty big issues at work, at home and in the political realm. That’s not unusual in my world, and for many of us in business this is very much part of our day-to-day lives. The difference this time was that I began to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.
My symptoms were a mixture of shortness of breath, heart palpitations, anxiety and if I am honest, no small sense of panic. Just like when I get the man flu, I retreated into my mental man cave and hid while I ignored my beloved’s repeated question, “Are you feeling okay?”
My colleague and friend, Richard, recently spoke to me about the deep responsibility he feels for the 11 families that rely on our business’s continued success. He spoke of the need to put food onto the tables of these families and our obligation to provide a safe and supportive environment for everyone.
Thousands of us also carry this responsibility and willingly accept the burden that comes with it. Leadership can be a very lonely place, though. If we are taking care of all those around us at home and at work, just who do we turn to when we need support?
My first step was to summon up the authenticity to tell my wife how I was feeling. Before I spoke, I thought she would freak out and take on all my fears of inadequacy, failure and ultimate doom (yes I was really feeling sorry for myself that day). Instead, she just listened and reassured me and held me in her arms as I spoke, possibly for the first time in years, about my deepest fears. Then she insisted I do two things:
- Talk to my doctor
- Talk to someone I trusted
These were, not surprisingly, hard conversations, but nowhere near as hard as I thought they would be.
I am now practicing using some tools that I have been given to help me handle the inevitable stressful situations that arise in my daily life as a husband, father, grandfather, company director and elected trustee. I find myself living in the moment more. I play with my grandsons more often and say, “Yes,” to new experiences.
The tools give me the strength to lead when I feel alone, and the peace to accept that I am not actually perfect after all. It’s a good place to be.
Never too old to suffer
Running or owning businesses, leading teams or just being a loving partner or parent can be tough. We do it because we get satisfaction from what we do and because we love those who are closest to us. On occasions, though, the responsibilities can be heavy, and the challenges can prove to be very difficult to overcome.
Everyone deals with stress in their own way and it turns out that even a 60-year-old needs to learn new tricks sometimes.
Readers may be having all sorts of responses to this article. I usually like to keep it light and to focus on the nerdy technical things that I enjoy so much.
I do have one question though. Are you feeling okay?