MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS IN A DISCONNECTED WORLD
One of the downsides of the rapid technological advancements in the world, is the demise of meaningful personal relationships from which we draw strength, identity and a sense of purpose. It is surprising how a meaningful conversation has become such a luxury. Linda Stone so aptly calls it ‘’… the age of continuous partial attention.’’ Tweets, texts and chats, have sometimes become expedient substitutes for meaningful engagement. What do I mean with meaningful engagement?
Edward Farrel once said ‘’ Listening is rare. There are certain people we meet to whom we feel we can talk because they have such a deep capacity for hearing; not hearing words only but hearing us as a person. They enable us to be as we have never been before. We can never discover ourselves by ourselves.’’
The words of Farrel made me to reflect on some of my primary relationships that not only helped to shape my character but kept me on course. I identified the following key characteristics that inform the quality of these relationships:
- WHO IS IN MY CORNER?
Like a champion boxer, I am fighting the good fight of living out my life’s purpose on a consistent basis and the necessity of a good coach in my corner, cannot be overemphasized. We all need a coach in our lives who can keep us on the straight and narrow, gives objective feedback and extract optimal performance.
The notion of a self-made man or woman is a myth. We are the product of the collective input of others. I was indeed privileged that in the critical phases of my life, I had great people in my corner. These were men and women of a special kind who believed in me, took me under their wings and brought the best out of me. Here I want to pay special tribute to two very special men in my life Past Simpson Ngcizela who took me under his wings during the early days of my spiritual formation. He literally took me as his son and we travelled widely together on Kingdom assignments. I recall one of my highlights being invited as a guest speaker through his recommendation, by the Tanzanian Kingdom Leadership Network in Dares Salaam to address their conference. Then there was Professor Stef Coetzee who was a great fountain of wisdom during my early days in politics and later working with him in the leadership of the Afrikaanse Handels Instituut. Both of them passed on already. I will forever be indebted to them for the investment over many years, they have made in my life.
- WHO FLICKS MY SWITCH?
There are certain people who earned the right to speak truth into my life in an honest and objective manner. They take me on about tough issues such as my belief system, understanding of the macro environment, matters pertaining to personal conduct etc. They sensitize me about issues that I have never heard of in my life and they even take the liberty to direct me to the appropriate resources to relieve me of my ignorance. They really make me look smart and prevent me from falling into the rut of mediocrity.
To get the maximum out of this kind of relationship, one needs to have a teachable spirit. When I depart from any engagement with a friend, I need to be able to respond positively to the question- what lesson have I learned from this interaction? I am on a continuous growth path and appreciate encounters that stretch my mind.
- WHO COVERS MY BACK?
Betrayal is a mainstream activity in the marketplace. It is reassuring to know that there are certain people who will never betray trust and will always be there to protect your good name and reputation, especially when you are not around. It’s not blind loyalty but an unshakeable level of trust that will not allow any malicious distraction to derail you but defend it at all costs.
- ANYBODY HAVING A TISSUE?
It’s okay not to be okay. The adage about cowboys don’t cry, is a fallacy. In our moments of deepest hurt, we should be able to bare our souls and experience the comfort of a tear shed together. We must make it safe for people to be vulnerable to ventilate their emotions, hurts and deepest fears. This warrants unconditional acceptance whereby you and I come to the realization of the frailty of human nature. In this regard, we need someone that will accept us for who we are without being judgmental.
- ANY RISK TAKERS IN THE HOUSE?
There are three kinds of people on your dream journey:
-the undertakers who are just out to bury your dreams
-the caretakers who pretend, but do not have your best interest at heart
-the risk takers; those who will walk that extra mile with you and affirms you through their acts of encouragement. Not everybody would like you to succeed in life, so be careful about who you share your dreams with.
To be effective in your leadership role, there is a price to be paid. Larry Osborne once made a profound statement “The most striking thing about highly effective leaders is how little they have in common. What one swears by, another warns against. But one trait stands out: effective leaders are willing to take risks.” Maintaining the status quo and playing it safe is simply not good enough to inspire those you are leading to conquer new ground and maximize their potential. I will be the first to admit that overcoming risk aversion is sometimes easier said than done. There are always these lingering questions about – What if? I need at times just the challenging yet reassuring input of someone that can spur me on regardless of my misgivings.
One of my greatest fantasies during childhood was to go to the circus when it hit our shores. Besides the hilarious stuff of the clowns and performance by the animals, my highlight has always been the dazzling performances of the trapeze artists. A safety net builds the confidence of trapeze artists. It does not prevent them from falling, but it prevents the fall from being fatal. They can in their preparation, try out things that they have never done before and stretch themselves to the maximum. No wonder that comes showtime, we all marvel at some of the most daring acts on display by these artists. If you know that failure is not fatal, you will know that it is safe to take risks; risks that will not only take away the breath of your audience but also inspire you to greater heights.
- WHO WANTS TO PLAY?
I need people that I look forward to be with; they are a necessary strategic diversion from the pressure cooker environment of other facets of my life. Doing fun things together helps to recharge and unwind, builds, and contributes to our photo album of long-lasting memories. There are three guiding principles when having fun. Know your play mates. Know your playground. Know your playthings.
It is often said in leadership circles, that it is lonely at the top. The intense demands of leadership can trigger a viscous cycle where we constantly feel under pressure, pressure leading to guilt for not achieving desired goals, the guilt causes stress, stress resulting in depleted energy, which leads to inefficiency, leading to whatever… We should therefore always be mindful, that our destiny is wrapped up in certain key relationships. In a world where individualism, pride and self-sufficiency manifest itself in increasing measure, let’s make a conscious decision to nurture, preserve and appreciate the relationships that God ordained for our lives. If there is perhaps a key relational deficit in your life, I strongly recommend that you seek divine direction as well as wise counsel to deal with it, moving forward.
‘’ We can never discover ourselves by ourselves.” Farrel
I thoroughly enjoy your blog posts. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, expertise, and, above all, your heart with your readers.
Chris (also now part of the Lifework Leadership alumni!)
Thanks very much for your kind comments Chris. Feel free to share the details with those in your circles whom you think might also benefit from it.