Leadership

Aim for the floor


What if you didn’t have to be the one – be the one to achieve it all, to make it to the top, to square the circle, or be the solution to the problem?

What if your goal – your purpose – was not to aim for, reach, and then break through your ceiling?

What if you didn’t have to be the beginning, middle and end of the story, but rather the prequel to the next instalment of the adventure you found yourself in?

What would life look like then?

Totally amazing. That’s how it would look.

The problem with having to be the one to make it to the top, or the squarer of circles, or the solution to the problem, or the whole story from start to finish, is that enough is never enough. Just as you think you’ve arrived you discover there is still more to do, further to travel.

And so you keep pushing. Pushing further, harder. Pushing to be bigger, better, stronger than you thought you needed to be.

Because the further you travelled, the more you came to realise that what you thought would be enough is not enough. You came to see that, if you are to be the one – and you have to be the one – at the top, the solution, the squarer of circles, the beginning, middle and end of the story, you need to do, to be, more than enough.

But no-one is the solution. No-one is the squarer of circles. No-one is the beginning, middle and end of the story. A solution, yes. A squarer of circles, yes. A part in the story, yes. But not the solution, or the squarer of circles, and most definitely not the story.

You see, this story – this adventure – that you find yourself in is bigger than you. It pre-dates you, and it will outlast you. It is enriched by you, but will survive without you.

Your role in this adventure is to play the part you are made to play, and to play it the best way you can. To reach your ceiling, but not the ceiling.

And, when you reach your ceiling and depart from this adventure, that ceiling will become the floor that will launch those who come behind you. All that you achieved, all that you created, all that you built becomes the foundation for the next level of this incredible adventure in which you played your part.

Your role – your responsibility – is to aim not for the stars, but the floor – the floor of those who come behind you, who will pick up your baton, who will keep pushing forward.

I first understood the concept of aiming for the floor several years ago, when a client of mine handed the pursuit of his quite magnificent vision to his son. There were no long handover speeches, no tears, no gold watches in this passing of the baton. Instead, there was one simple statement: “Son, I have reached my ceiling, and now my ceiling becomes your floor.”

With those few words, a legacy was created.

It takes courage, humility and wisdom to know that you have been entrusted with a responsibility so vast that you can never accomplish it alone – to realise that your ceiling is not the final destination. And, in that knowledge, it takes ambition to keep pursuing the dream that has been entrusted to you.

And it takes determination to pursue the creation of a world you may never see come to pass: to invest body, mind and spirit into running a race you may never finish. But it is your determination that will define your greatness, and carve you out as a visionary who will leave a lasting, even eternal, legacy.

You see it’s easy to water things down to make them achievable. In fact, the world is littered with people who realised that they will never achieve their dream – their vision – and have adapted it into a smaller version that, with a bit of luck and a fair wind, they could achieve. But to do that is to not fully embrace the responsibility that you carry as the steward of that dream – that vision – sewn deep into your soul.

No, your job is not to make your vision achievable, it’s to pursue it in all its fullness and glory – whatever the cost, and whatever the outcome – with no desire for accolade or acclaim, but only the unshakeable focus to keep ploughing a path towards that world that you know should be, but yet may never see.

Your job, quite simply, is to create a legacy that will ensure that your dream of a better world – a world as it should be – will, one day, come to pass.

So, hold the reigns of what you are creating loosely.

Make pride your enemy and humility your friend.

Seek wisdom from those who have gone before you, and find the hunger in those who must come behind you.

Raise up leaders – humble, wise, determined and ambitious leaders – who see what you see, and more. And, when the time is right, allow them to build on the floor that your ceiling has created.

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