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What Will You Do With Your “Dash”?

In my book Navigate Chaos, I share many stories about the pursuit and impact of healthy balance. During this particular time, there is one passage that I think is especially impactful and relevant. As I wrap up my time as a GovLoop Featured Contributor, I thought I’d share a modified version of this passage. I hope it inspires you to fight through this difficult time in pursuit of a good and compelling story that is your life!

In the words of the late ESPN broadcaster, Stuart Scott,

“Life is two dates with a dash in between…”

With a daughter who spends many hours per week perfecting her craft, I often park myself in the lobby of her gymnastics club. It was there that I was drafting my first blog post tackling the subject of healthy balance. I was experiencing writer’s block, so I decided to take a break. I went to the window overlooking the gym. There my daughter stood on a narrow wooden rail that is sixteen feet long and four inches wide. She leaped into the air and flipped backward. As her right foot landed squarely on the beam, her left foot grazed the side, and my daughter tumbled to the ground. She gathered herself and pulled herself back up onto the beam.

After a couple of deep breaths, she again leaped into the air, tucked her legs, and tumbled backward. This time her left foot followed the lead of the right foot. She landed squarely in the center of the beam. She glanced at the window and smiled before repeating the skill a couple more times.

After my heart began beating again, I returned to my seat and woke my computer from its slumber. I heard the familiar ding of an incoming email. It was a message from a friend sending an embedded video link.

Thrive in Spite of Adversity

I clicked the link, sat back, and watched for the next three minutes and fifty-two seconds. The video began with a bald man about my age, standing on a narrow wooden plank sixteen feet long and four inches wide. The man’s name is Francis Chan. He briefly mentioned a few facts of his life. His mother died during his birth, his stepmom died in a car accident when he was nine, and his father died of cancer when he was twelve. After a few years under the care of an aunt and uncle, his new parents had an argument. His uncle shot his aunt before turning the gun on himself.

By age sixteen, Francis had lived a shaky, unbalanced life. However, he refused to be a victim. Francis thrived in spite of the adversity he’d faced. He pursued a Master of Divinity degree, authored multiple best-selling books, and led various businesses that he used to fund mission work across the world. The video had more than one million views at that time. 

What if the balance beam were your “dash”?

In the video, Francis was standing on the beam just as my daughter had minutes earlier. Only he performed a much simpler routine. He described our propensity to play it safe when life throws adversity our way. Overcome by fear and anxiety, he demonstrated how we crouch down and hug the beam. We’re afraid to fail, afraid to fall, afraid to take a risk and live our life to the fullest. He ends his routine, as a metaphor for life, with a slow and cautious dismount. He capped off the metaphor with an Olympic-style salute in recognition of the life he had lived.

As Stuart Scott said, “what are you going to do with your dash?”

If that “dash” were sixteen feet long and four inches wide, would you hug it tightly for the rest of your life? Are you content as one of the two-thirds of the workforce going through the motions as a disengaged zombie? Will you continue to blame others for your lack of balance, fulfillment, and peace, all the while surrendering control to your boss, your spouse, your colleagues, your kids, or the socio-economic and political circumstances of the moment? Or will you, like my daughter, take a risk, fall, and get back up?

In the midst of a global pandemic, I encourage you to stand up on the dash that is your life! Risk your balance to restore it. Take initiative. Pursue a passion. Fall. Get up. Perfect your routine. Make an impact and seek a better way!

Steve Wiley is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He is a certified Executive and Leadership Coach with business and engineering management degrees from William and Mary and George Washington University. He founded CEEK with the mission to help organizations redefine and pursue wellness via solutions that enhance teamwork, mitigate anxiety, promote healthy balance, and advance a values-based, leadership culture. Prior to starting CEEK, Mr. Wiley was responsible for delivering government IT services leading an account of approximately 400 employees. He is PMP certified and a graduate of the Industry Advisory Council Partners Program. Mr. Wiley’s recently released book, Navigate Chaos, was a number one best-seller on Amazon.

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