Last week, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a group of friends a few years ago. I can’t remember who was in the conversation or the actual issue we were discussing. The one thing that stuck with me – and came to mind – was the following analogy.
Imagine you’re holding a phone – any phone at all – in your hands. Chances are the phone you’re holding is not the best or the worst in it’s class, it’s somewhere in the middle. But you may be the sort of person that says, ‘imagination is free’ and imagines you’re holding a best in class phone (whatever that means for you), chances are the phone will not be 100% what you want. For example, the manufacturer may have compromised on the battery life to get you the camera you want; or it may be everything you want and weigh the same as a ton of bricks. You get my point. So back to the analogy, the phone you’re holding is good – it works for you at the moment – there are other phones you would rather be holding, but this is not the worst phone you’ve come across.
Now, let’s say that someone were to gift you another phone – you don’t know what the new phone is, but you know that in front of you, there’s a gift-wrapped box with your name on it, and based on the size and the shape, you have a sneaky suspicion that it’s a phone. You will need to put the phone in your hand down in order to be able collect the box. At the very least, you’ll need to move it to one hand to free the other hand to collect the box, but most people will put it down so that they have both hands free and don’t have to worry about dropping the gift. So until you let go of the one in your hand, you’re not able to examine the new phone and determine whether it is an upgrade or you want your old phone back. This is the way many things in life work – jobs, boyfriends, even sandwiches. We often have to release what we are holding on to in order to take on an alternative that serves the same function.
Thinking about this made me think about the fact that vulnerability is often the pathway to progress. We must be vulnerable enough to let go of one thing before we can take on another. This led me to thinking about the story of a Warlord who, while preparing for battle – the biggest of his career at this point – came across a Warrior King that he didn’t immediately recognize. In the course of their conversation, the Warlord realized that this Warrior King was the key to his victory and greeted the King heartily. And then the Warrior King said the most puzzling thing: ‘take off your shoes’. I would have pointed out that I can’t even go to the mailbox without my shoes, so the shoes must be crucial for the battle ground. But this Warlord said nothing and took off the shoes. And then he went on to win a remarkable victory.
The Warlord’s shoes remind me of all the things that I have put in place to facilitate my progress. This includes investments and vex money, the people that owe me a favor, my reputation, my CV, social connections, strategies, the people I think should speak up for me, those sorts of things. And the fact that, I can become so dependent on those things that, like the old phone, I am not willing to consider the thought that something else may serve me better. This week, I am challenging myself to be vulnerable again, to take those ‘shoes’ off and consider other options. What’s the worst that will happen? I’ll lose something, but that’s okay. Because I may lose more times than I win, but I am not likely to lose more value than I gain.