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Your pride is lying to you.

It’s telling you things like, “I know what I’m doing,” “I’ve heard that before,” and “I’ve been there, done that,” when actually, you have untapped potential just waiting behind the veil that pride presents. It’s possible to forever be learning and growing. If you can access a posture of curiosity and a willingness to always be the beginner, then a world of discovery, advancement, achievement, and connection opens before you. But this requires an openness most of us struggle to maintain.

I struggle with this too.

Recently, I was in a meeting where I was the most “senior” person present, supposedly an expert, and I made a suggestion. Another person contradicted me, and their suggestion was brilliant – much better than mine. I felt my insides contort. It didn’t feel natural to admit the idea was a great one, it was better than mine, and it wasn’t mine.

I wanted to build on their idea without acknowledging the idea or the person who offered it. I wanted to continue in my self-made delusion that I’m an expert, a fancy person who knows things.

What would our world look like if we were less protective of our own egos and more curious about how to unlock our potential?

Several years ago, I was watching the NBA Finals, and LeBron James led the Cavaliers to win the title against the Warriors. The year prior, both teams had faced off with a different result.

The interviewer asked LeBron, “What did you do during the off-season that enabled you to come back from last year’s loss to win today?” and LeBron’s answer stunned me. He said, “I went back to the basics. I relearned how to dribble. I relearned how to shoot.”

If an expert like LeBron can unwind his pride and his level of mastery to go back to the basics, then what’s possible for the rest of us?

I heard another story about an incredible pianist who wanted to become one of the very best. This pianist went to train with a master, and the master said, “Your ability is restricted by a bad habit you learned when you began playing. The way you hold your hands as you play will not allow you to become truly great. To become great, you’d first have to go back to the beginning and unlearn this habit. Everything you’ve ever learned would need to be rebuilt on this new posture.”

 The essentials are just that: essential.

I’m honored to work with leaders to help them take their game – their craft of leadership – to the next level. And what I find, again and again, is they’ve built elevated skills on less-than-ideal basics. This places a governor on what they can achieve as a leader.

Think about a leader you know. They are probably great at some aspects of leadership, but they may have glaring blind spots in other areas. I long for our leaders (both at work and on the world stage) to check their pride and ego at the door, to get curious about themselves, the situation they’re in, the people around them, and be willing to try something new.

Recently, a senior leader attended our leadership essentials program Compass, and his comment afterward stuck with me: “I’m not a good enough leader to not need this program.”

The essentials are sneaky. They seem basic, but they are the very things we need to revisit – like LeBron, the pianist, and the senior leader – to reach the untapped potential we have lying inside us.

Let’s begin again, and again.

A posture of humility and curiosity unlocks the door to insights, connections, innovations, and achievements otherwise unseen. I hope, for your sake and for mine, we can say yes more often to growing in areas where we’ve “been there, done that.”

April 15, 2024

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