Chris’s post last week (here) really inspired me. Your identity, how you see yourself, is a critical component to success in life bodily, mentally, spiritually, financially, and relationally. Your view of yourself significantly impacts your value as an employee, spouse, parent, or friend. I was at a conference last week that featured Peyton Manning as one of the keynote speakers. He was not the most eloquent keynote speaker at the event but he did say something that struck me. The event moderator asked him how hard it is to recover from a super bowl loss. Peyton answered by saying it was very difficult of course but he shared some advice his father gave him when he was young. His dad told him to get back to zero as soon as possible. If something really bad happens, like a super bowl loss or even just an interception, try not to take full blame for it and when something really good happens, try not to take all the credit for it. There is another saying that is appropriate here, keep an even keel. That is good advice from any father or friend but it may be harder than it seems.
According to Wikipedia, a structural keel is a beam around which the hull of a ship is built. The keel runs in the middle of the ship, from the bow to the stern, and serves as a basic foundation or spine of the structure, providing the major source of structural strength of the hull. Even after six years in the U.S. Navy, I must admit I do not know much about the engineering involved with building a ship, but lets just agree that the keel is the foundation of the ship. To keep an even keel, try to avoid high’s and low’s. Personally, I am not very good at that. I seek the high’s and feel proud, and avoid the low’s and feel responsible. There is a fundamental reason for this I think and it has to do with what Chris talked about last week. When there are no high’s and low’s you are left with just you, the plain old normal you. If you are not happy with you, with your identity, with how you see yourself, then you will keep seeking either high’s or low’s to avoid that identity. As I mentioned before, your value as a contributor at work is jeopardized if your identity is in question. Keeping an even keel, or an even foundation, will keep you in the best position for continued success. If you are in a leadership role, keeping an even keel is even more important as you could shake the foundation of your team by taking them through the high’s and low’s.
Chris mentioned an industry veteran who was terminated after over 20 years with the same company. As I considered that, I wondered how far off keel I would get. A friend of mine’s wife was recently terminated after 10 years. He has been sharing the frustration with me and I have been hearing about the unbalanced keel. It is natural during these storms to be out of balance. The other week I was privileged to present at a conference with industry leaders and I was at such a high when I was finished. This seemed natural to me as this is a part of my job I love the most, presenting and communicating. It seemed natural alright because my ego says that I should always be at a high and on top of my game and when I get there, ego flares and humility is fleeting. These are just a few examples of how we can get out of keel and reduce our value as leaders and individuals.
The key for me to keep an even keel is mentorship and accountability. Someone always knows what is going on in my life both personally and professionally. Someone I can share these high’s and low’s with who knows me and how they impact my life. They celebrate with me and then remind me that I am just human, or they commiserate with me and remind me that I am more than my mistakes. Life will always be full of up’s and down’s and twists and turns. The wholly successful person will use tools like mentoring and accountability to keep themselves at even keel and of maximum value. As a leader you have a great opportunity to set the example for others by modeling a life of accountability. You also have an opportunity to help others keep an even keel by offering to be a mentor or an accountability partner to someone else.