I recently talked to Prakash Raman about how our thinking shapes us. Prakash is a leadership coach who is listed on the MG100 and recognized as a global thought leader. It was a very interesting conversation that focused on the concept of attachment and how our attachments can shape our mindset, behaviors, and results.
Prakash shared a story about a game that he and his two-year-old daughter would play when they left their apartment each morning. Upon arriving at the bank of elevators, they would push the down button and his daughter would guess which elevator would arrive. Prakash said that he often placed a bet as well. When the elevator arrived, regardless of which door opened, his daughter would react with true joy. She just loved playing the game. On the other hand, Prakash felt like a winner in the moment if he picked the right door and would be disappointed in himself if he picked the wrong one. To be clear, Prakash doesn’t program elevators for a living and he has no insight into the algorithm associated with deploying them, but for some reason he was attached to the outcome the game as if his value came from picking the right door.
This got me thinking about the attachments I make and the value I find in those attachments. If you and I briefly met and I set out to introduce myself, my quick response would be riddled with attachments.
“I’m a professor (role attachment) at Vanderbilt University (organization attachment). I served in the U.S. Army as an airborne ranger, worked as a project manager at KPMG Consulting, and launched and sold a successful boutique consulting firm (role and organization attachments).”
For all that this brief introduction might say about me and what I value, it misses out on so many things that are core to me while including some things that are what I did and where I did it, as opposed to who I am and what I value. For example, yes, I’m a professor at Vanderbilt, but that role won’t last forever. Eventually, I will leave. I will have to detach from that role and organization as I have in previous situations. In all honesty, detaching can be tough, especially if I’m deriving too much of my value from it or if my identity is too steeped in it.
Fortunately, there is more to this story and if we spent a bit more time together you would learn that, “I write articles and books to give leaders ideas that they can use in the face of challenging days. I host a leadership podcast in order to create a community of leaders who want to learn, grow, and develop together. I speak to organizations and associations in hopes of inspiring others to be their very best. I teach students because they are our future and the give and take of learning inspires me. And, most importantly, I’ve been married for 29 years to my wife, Jamie, and we have two wonderful children, a terrific son-in-law, and a great dog. It’s these relationships (yes, including the dog) that inspire me to get better each day.”
Consider for a moment, where you derive your value. Is it in:
- The teams you’ve led or the ones you have been a part of?
- The results you’ve delivered or the customers you served?
- The mission of the organization or how you and others went about fulfilling that purpose?
- The relationships you have built and maintained?
In all honesty, it took me way too many years to figure out that my value is better found, forged, and fixed not by my roles and organizational associations, but by my choices, relationships, behaviors, outcomes, and motivations. At times, I pursued the former with little understanding of the true value found in the latter. My hope is that you are a quicker learner than me and that you realize that your value is not in picking the right elevator, but in choosing to ride with people that matter and knowing that, regardless of which floor you get off on, you know your yourself and what you value.
Make it a great day! – Patrick
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.