In ancient Greek mythology, Sisyphus was punished for being deceitful by having to always push a boulder uphill. As soon as he would near the top the boulder would roll back to the bottom and he would have to begin again. Oftentimes, I think, we find ourselves in Sisyphus's shoes. We have tasks that seem near impossible for us to carry mounting up on our to-do lists or calendars, feelings of being overwhelmed.
What choice do you make?
I was speaking about leadership with a local leader, Stan Cooper. Stan recalled an instructor illustrating good leadership. The instructor compared a man pushing against a boulder by himself trying, like Sisyphus, to carry it uphill. Each day he would strain and never make progress. After many years the man became the strongest man in his village due to his constant effort.
A second man discovered he too had to push a boulder uphill. However, this man stepped back from the problem of moving the boulder alone and quickly gathered a team of other strong men. Together, under the second man’s guidance and direction, the team was able to move their rock to its destination. In this race, the team with a good leader was the most successful.
Take the man who was straining by himself to push the boulder. While his constant struggle made him stronger, that was all it did. The man who assembled a team was able to finish this task and move on to the next.
Do you carry too many stones?
Challenges and tasks are our daily stones. Some are small stones that we are constantly putting in our pockets as we walk. Over time the weight of these small stones weighs us down. We try and tackle the challenges we face on our own, but the challenge is just too great. Sometimes we pick up stones unnecessarily or we happily put other people's stones in our own pockets.
Are you someone who takes on the burdens of others? Are you someone who goes it alone? Neither of these options is the best choice 100% of the time. If you are always taking on the stones of others, then tactfully try and refuse the next time a person needs you to help them carry a pebble. Are you a super stud and always carrying all of your own stones? Try giving a pebble away, loosen the reins of control, trust your direct reports to do the job they were hired to do, AKA don’t micromanage when you ask them to do a task. Or are you the person who is always passing your problems or tasks off to others under the guise of “delegation”? Maybe carry some of your stones down the trail for awhile.
Only you can know the size of the boulders, and a number of stones you can carry easily for yourself, or how many pebbles you can pick up until you are weighed down. You must ask yourself with each challenge or task that you face, “Do I carry this one alone, or do I surround myself with a team to help?” Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” You don’t have to be a hero, you can allow others to share your burden and you will get much further.