Learn to Be a Quitter

by | May 2, 2019 | Core Values, Training, Work Culture

Inside the Mind of Versado’s CEO

Determination, resolve, willpower, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, backbone—these are all terms we relate to success. The problem is that they are, in and of themselves, not inherently noble or positive. They have power, but whether that is good or bad is only relative to how and where that power is being applied.  They are literally synonymous (look it up) with words like stubbornness, doggedness, staunchness, obstinacy. The difference is a matter of perspective, of paradigm.

So how can we have strong convictions but also be open to paradigm shifts that might enlighten us or show us a better way? I don’t think there is an easy answer, but listening with humility must be a key part of the answer. If we listen to learn and to understand (which requires us to jump to the conclusion that we don’t already know everything), we stand the best chance of allowing our paradigms to shift when necessary and to stay the course when needed.

I love this lighthouse story from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey uses this story to illustrate a paradigm shift in thinking. A paradigm shift to me simply means seeing something in a whole new way. It is that lightbulb moment when a full picture you couldn’t see before is finally illuminated. The lightbulb moment is the fun part. The part that is not fun is the first step—admitting that there is something we can’t see and allowing scary, potentially paradigm-shifting information into our thick heads.

Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”

“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.

Lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: we are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.”

Back came a signal, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.”

The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”

“I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply. “You had better change course 20 degrees.”

By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send, I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.”

Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”

We changed course.

Lighthouse Story

Can you imagine the captain’s anger then surprise once he realized that his only option was to change his own plan? He did not have to give up altogether but once he had the key information that was previously unknown, he immediately changed course.

As a challenge for this next week, find one thing in your life where you are going to give up your determination and open yourself up to a paradigm shift. Just quit fighting and assume for a minute that you are the one that isn’t getting it. Try to ask new questions; think about it completely differently or from someone else’s perspective. Pick something you are just exhausted with. Your exhaustion might be a good sign that there is a potential paradigm shift in sight—you may find your own lighthouse.