Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Law of the Process

Ten years ago, one of my close friends gave me a copy of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. And, as is common with me, I had great aspirations of reading it, but these were thwarted by tyranny of the urgent, and a fairly generous queue of books that I was waiting to read.

Last weekend, I picked up the book again, partially inspired by the fact that it is being used as a curriculum for leadership development among the servant leaders that are being mentored in Nuru International’s pilot project in Kuria, Kenya.

I’m trying to take this book a little more slowly than I typically allow myself, and I’m only a few chapters in. Each chapter has great stories, and I so far, I feel like I can give this book really high recommendations (and from the looks of the blurbs in the front of the book from many other leaders, I’m not alone).

One chapter that stuck out to me was the Law of the Process--Leaders develop daily, and not in a day. I think the reason was because it is so antithetical to what we are led to believe from casual observation of the world around us. Casual observation leads us to believe that successes happen over night, and that it only takes a few seconds to make a sandwich, brew coffee, or any of the multitude of actions from which we receive virtually instant gratification.

I think that there’s something in us that wants to skip steps and take short-cuts, but there are no short-cuts. We can work smarter at whatever we do, but we must always work hard. Success comes incrementally, and often times it takes multiple failures before one success. For example, did you know that Colonel Sanders was rejected over one thousand times before he found someone interested in his recipe?

It’s understandable to want to arrive at our destination more quickly. We can travel the country in a matter of hours. Journeys that once took days or months now take only a few hours. People from several countries can look at this blog post at the exact same time. Some things in our world move quickly, but realistically, most do not. It is our challenge, to be disciplined to the process, and incrementally over time, we will see the fruit of our labor.

Earlier this summer, I started doing push-ups and sit-ups five days a an effort to get in shape, lose weight, and feel better. I started by doing five sets of 10 push ups with a set of 50 ab exercises between each round of push ups. Now I am doing 25 push ups per set and and 100 ab exercises. There is no way I could have started in that spot. I would have gotten discouraged and given up early had I tried. But, over time, we are able to make incremental improvements, and each of us can make those incremental improvements, if we only start, and try to do something.

In Maxwell’s book, he tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt, and if you haven’t read it, I suggest you do. Teddy Roosevelt is a great example of the Law of the Process. Here’s a Roosevelt quote that is an inspiration to engage in the process.

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marreed by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

May we each dedicate ourselves to the Law of the Process, to incremental successes and set-backs as we push forward toward our goals and become better leaders and better servants all around.

Have you ever experienced successes in the Law of the Process? How has this rule applied to your life?

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