Precarious Turns

It was starting to get dark.  Phantom shapes suddenly materialized ahead of me as the headlights of our van reflected off the road signs.  Warning!  Steep grades and winding road signs started to appear.  We were making our way through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  Large pines lined the horizon with steep cliffs jutting up to my left.  I looked to my right and saw the shoulder of the roadway that had been carved into the side of the mountain plunge into the darkness for what seemed to be thousands of feet.  Brake lights came one.  Fellow travelers, like me were all gripping their steering wheel with the force of ten thousand angels.  I tried to exhale as I cranked the van around the precarious turn.

Behind me I could hear the faint breathing of my girls fast asleep in their seats, little aware of the incredible tension happening in the driver’s seat.  Around this corner, up the mountain, around that bend, down this curve, my eyes were fixed on the dizzying drama playing out before me.  I kept hoping to hear the GPS announce our turnoff that would lead to our rest for the night.  Instead, it just taunted me with “continue on” updates.  But at long last, the glorious words, “exit here” and “you have arrived” gave me relief.  Every muscle in my body was aching.  I knew I was tense, but I had no idea how bad it was until I tried to step out of the van.  I almost collapsed as my back reminded me that I was decades north of my youthful vigor.  But thankfully, with some careful plodding, I made it to my long-awaited rest.

Have you ever experienced anything like that?  In those moments the task at hand is so critical that you become physically tense, focused and locked.  Every muscle in your body seems to want to help, but of course, it only leaves you sore and fatigued.  The pandemic has been a long and winding road.  About the time we hit a clearing, a major event occurs, a new strain, a setback or new mandates.  Then we hit steep grades, big changes in our companies, inconceivable actions in our governments, and even chilling specters of global war.  Are you tense yet?  I know I am.  For the past several weeks I have noticed the physical exhaustion and sore muscles that would usually only accompany a hair-raising journey across the Rockies, but this time it is from the front row driver seat of my office.  I’m not alone.  I have heard from others of you that are experiencing the same thing. 

These are difficult times to navigate.  Can I suggest a few things?  The road is treacherous and winding right now.  As you turn through those corners, make sure you keep your lights on.  Hang on to your faith, your principles, your hope, your integrity and your character.  Those radiate out from you and illuminate the dark path ahead.   They also encourage those who are going along with you on this journey.   Speaking of which, you are not alone.  We are all going with you through this challenging patch together.  Hit the brakes.  Breathe.  The signs along the road say, “slow down”.  Give yourself time to process and recover from the last bend. 

Yes, there will be more highway to travel before our exit, but we can do this.  Relax.  Take another breath, roll down the window and let the anxiety float away.  Take one mile at a time.  Enjoy the scenery.  Appreciate those precious breaths behind you and enjoy the now.  Our destination is just ahead and is full of hope and possibility… and with any luck, a good bed. 

A Foundation of Integrity

“Integrity, honesty, trust, respect, playing by the rules, and teamwork define the operating principles of our Company.” – Bob Iger

It was a tiny three-bedroom house in an older community in Tulsa.  Our small family of three just expanded to four so we welcomed graduating from the tiny apartment to this small single-family home.  Sure, it was a modest place but we loved it.  We had people over. Birthdays, holidays and family gatherings were hosted there.  But while memories were being made, sadly, cracks were forming.  Literally.  It started with some windows that would no longer open, doors that would not close and eventually graduated to full-inch sized cracks in the wall!  What was happening?  Our first home was literally breaking apart around us.

As you probably guessed, it was the foundation.  The house had been built on fill and the support under it was crumbling away.  We were devastated.  We called a foundation repair company who came to fix our broken home. After days of digging, piering and preparing they were finally ready for the fix.  In unison, the workers had assembled around the house and simultaneously activated the ratchets to lift the foundation.  “One, Two, Three… Lift!”  Pow!   It was like a miracle.  We watched all the gaps in the wall close.  The windows worked gain and we could even close the door.

Integrity is a foundational principle.  Our lives, our relationships, and our companies are built upon this foundation.  To me, integrity is like a three-dimensional representation of honesty.  On one axis, it says we seek truth even when it is inconvenient or painful.  Integrity piers deep to find bedrock truth.  On another axis, it demands reliability in word and deed.  What we say we believe and will do, we do.  The concrete of integrity is commitment and dependability. On another axis, it says that we are consistent, single faced rather than two-faced.  We believe, we speak, we do in a unifying way that is honest, truthful and genuine. Wind, water, earthquakes and storms will rage against integrity, but it stands firm, consistent and true.  When integrity is in place, the structures of our lives, society and businesses can be built with speed and confidence.  When it isn’t there, cracks form.  Doors close. Windows of opportunities are locked shut.  Progress stops.

How is your foundation?  I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  We all fail.  There are cracks in our foundation.  We fib to ourselves and others.  At times, we can be lazy or lacking in our commitments.  But we don’t have to stay there!  We can start over.  We can change course and ratchet up the integrity in our lives.   When we do, we activate a powerhouse of dependability, stability and resilience that we can build on.  

Integrity establishes a firm foundation on which we can shape our future, our relationships, our society and our world.  The ground is full of false narratives, inconsistencies, lies and disappointments.  Don’t build your life on that shifting sand.  Anchor yourself to the rock of truth.  Be relentlessly honest with yourself and others.  Be the consistent you that you can be.  Stay the course and keep the faith.  It will inspire others to do the same. “One, Two, Three… Lift!”  Let’s close the gaps.