I raced down the stairs with seconds to go before the train left the station and slipped theatrically into the carriage as the doors closed in slow motion behind me. Feeling pretty proud, I sat down and immersed myself into reading and waited for my station to arrive. 35 minutes into the trip I overheard the station announcement and leapt to my feet. The next station was FAR from the station I was hoping to get off at. In fact the station being called wasn’t even on the train line I thought I was on.
I had jumped on the wrong train all the way back at the station I boarded. I was in such a rush I assumed it was going where I wanted to go. I didn’t check, rather decided to rely on my assumptions. Did we reach any goals along the way? Yes we did, we stopped at every station scheduled for that trip. It just wasn’t the trip I wanted to be part of. I was making progress on the way to where I didn’t want to be.
I was making excellent time in the wrong direction. There was plenty of activity along the way, it was just that the destination was wrong. Activity doesn’t change destination. Direction does. You might be making exceptional progress to a place you don’t want to be.
When it comes to life and leadership these three things are true:
Everyone is going somewhere in every area of life.
In yourself, your relationships, family, health, career and work, where you are headed RIGHT NOW is where you will end up if all things stay the same. The place you are pointed is the place you will arrive. Like it or not. Your mental and physical health destination will remain unchanged based on your current diet, sleep and exercise patterns. They are all taking you somewhere. As is every area of life.
Your key relationships have a destination based on your current level of presence, commitment, investment and intimacy. You are headed to the best, an enriching set of personal relationships or a strange sense of loneliness and loss.
Your career and workplace are headed to a place you may or may not want to be in 2 years based on your current direction, education, work ethic, and stewardship of opportunity. Are you willing to have you career stop at that station two, five or ten years from now, knowing that today you can make a positive change?
Stand and look forward ten years from now and ask yourself “Is where I am headed where I want to end up? If not you have the opportunity to change that. Right now.
Direction beats intention every time.
The challenging truth of where we end up in life and leadership is determined by this statement that originated with leadership expert, Andy Stanley. All the intent in the world doesn’t change direction. All the mindset in the world doesn’t change direction. All the ‘gunna’ in the world doesn’t change direction. You are going to arrive at the destination you are headed to right now if nothing changes. Health and wellbeing, finances, marriage, family, parenting, education, career. They are all pointed somewhere right now and will land there if left unchanged.
Only changing direction changes direction.
Today could be the day to pivot, adjust, start, stop, learn, grow, forgive, apply, invite, try, or try again.
Only changing direction changes direction.
You must decide on a direction before taking action.
Brene Brown says it this way, “Tell me what paint done looks like.”
Teams I have been part of ask the question “What’s the win?”
Strategically defining what success looks like BEFORE the event, planning to that end goal, resourcing to that end goal, developing capability to that end goal, and measuring to that end goal.
It doesn’t mean you have no agility or flexibility. It’s easy you are crystal clear about where you want to end up and what it looks like. Inside that depth of clarity you have immense opportunity for creativity and innovation.
As I got off the train at the wrong station, on the wrong line, a long way from my destination I quietly did the walk of shame over to the other platform, backtracked more than half of the trip to get back to where I went off track. Climbed aboard a train, humbled, yet more intelligent. Disappointed, but with greater clarity, and more resolved than ever to make sure my direction IS taking me to my destination.
I want you to arrive EXACTLY where you wanted to be.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.