The Crucible

Last month I wrapped up a 15-month temporary assignment in a management/leadership role in a fast-paced environment. Before coming into that role I had worked “in the trenches” of various organizations. Before then, I had worked for a number of different food sovereignty non-profits “on the frontline” of the local and sustainable food movement.

Before this gig, I had no experience in a high-intensity, executive-level work environment. “Baptism by fire” one of my colleagues joked. And it was true. When interested friends asked about the role during the first month, I would say that it was a crucible. A crucible is a container that is meant to withstand intense heat and pressure so that the materials within are reduced down to some core elements. This was the kind of role that transforms you through its very intensity. The metaphor of the crucible was perfect to describe what I felt was happening to me: I had gone into the role like a chunk of ore and came out as metal…. though perhaps more vulnerable than before.

Over the next while, I will post an occasional series: 10 short lessons I took away from my time in that intense position. These lessons aren’t really things you can put a checkmark beside. They are continuous. They involve mindset, attitude, disposition. I’m still figuring them out in all facets of my life. I got to practice some of these lessons while I was in this particular leadership role, whereas some of them I’ve learned after reflecting on the role. With all of them there is always room for improvement, room for mastery. The list is also incomplete. There’s a lot more that could go in here, but…  10 just sounds nice. Right? (it’s how many fingers we have, after all).

Before embarking, it is important to point out the obvious (that we so often forget). To be your best in any setting requires some basic ingredients: getting a good nights’ sleep, eating healthy food, and getting regular exercise. When you are hobbled on any of these three, your day or your week is going to be that much harder. Finally, when you are hobbled on any of these three, a fourth basic ingredient—emotional well-being—becomes more difficult to achieve. These 4 ingredients are like a 4-legged table: drop any one and the table becomes unstable, drop any two and… well, you don’t really have a table anymore! These 4 basic ingredients are foundational for success in the other 10.

Stay tuned for the first of 10.

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