The most critical things I’ve learned about life and business and relationships I did not learn from my formal education—a period spanning 25 years. That includes four years at Vanderbilt and five years of graduate studies at two different seminaries.
Don’t misunderstand. I wouldn’t trade a single day at these institutions for anything. I knew then, and I know now, that I was privileged and blessed as a young man. Plus, I will always be indebted to the many teachers, the men and women who patiently poured their experiences and perspectives into my life. They continue to “speak” wisdom and encouragement into my heart every day.
But the greatest schooling for me has been in the second half of my adult life—the last 25 years—stumbling forward, riding the highs and lows of this amazing business, climbing in and out of the trenches with the people walking beside me. Some of my most cherished mentors over the last two decades didn’t spend a day in college. Some are high school dropouts. What a great education awaits anyone who is teachable and has a deep resolve and willingness to work.
Since 1988 when I launched this business with Curt and Jackie, I have read a lot of books, and I have watched a lot of people. From those books and from my observations, I’ve started to learn a little about the delicate balance between the necessity of self-responsibility and the art of letting go.
Not many years ago, I was challenging hundreds of Juice Plus+ distributors using this popular and catchy phrase:
“If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.”
My goodness! The so-called success motivation books and CDs out there are loaded with these kinds of clichés. I now believe that some of these materials contain very damaging and very damning advice. They actually set us up for more performance-driven, self-absorbed, pressure-cooker living that leads some to personal defeat and disillusionment. The gap between their expectations and reality is just too great. Many end up walking away.
On the surface, letting go doesn’t sell very well in our own business culture. We work in a business where we are coached almost daily to “take charge” or “make it happen.” It feels risky to encourage any notion of letting go, which, I admit, can sound like “throwing in the towel.” Settling for less. Not caring enough. Aiming too low.
I am ALL IN when it comes to teaching and taking personal responsibility. The day that I started owning responsibility for the results in my business, my checkbook and my life—that was the day I started growing up. It turned my life around and sent my Juice Plus+ business in a whole new direction.
In my 25 years of “people watching,” one of the recurring scenes I have noticed is how the most productive, joyful and consistent people rarely look outside themselves to find fault or put responsibility for the outcomes in their lives. They look first in the mirror.
Self-responsibility begins transforming everything for us, not just our businesses. Our spouses, our children and our Juice Plus+ teams will feel this shift unconsciously and begin to experience a different kind of energy and momentum coming from us.
Isn’t that exciting and encouraging news?
But—and here’s that delicate balance—I still must be mindful of a strong tendency to let my focus, my intentions and my strong sense of responsibility bleed over into controlling and fixing other people. At that moment, I’m thinking my intentions and my intensity are meant for their good (this is also known as denial), but their glazed-over expressions or repeated reluctance to call back usually bring me back to reality.
We don’t like to admit it, but people can actually feel our need to control them.
Along with owning personal responsibility, facing our unrealistic expectations and our need for control may be the most daunting tasks in building a stable and lasting business. Knowing when to let go. Knowing how to be proactive, focused and intentional, while also being properly detached from the outcomes. It’s not easy, but we must be open to discovering the balance. Otherwise, our expectations of people will become resentments waiting to happen.
Please think about that for a while.
The famous prayer of the twelve-step programs encourages us to find that balance between personal responsibility and proper detachment—letting go.
I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
The German word for “serenity” is Gelassenheit, which could be translated more literally as the condition of having let go. I’ve uttered this prayer thousands of times—waiting, trusting, hoping to find that elusive formula, that unique combination of acceptance, courage and wisdom.
There are signals, I have learned, if we are moving in the wrong direction, moving us away from that delicate balance. The big one, of course, is the absence of serenity. I can feel the negative energy in my body, the holding on, the tension, the dispair, sometimes rushing about, and frantically trying to “make things happen,” at other times stewing in silence, hiding in my office.
The moment I become aware of what’s really happening, I can take a deep breath and slow down the pace. Mumble a prayer of acceptance. Maybe even let go.
There is no perfect balance. We will never get it just right. But we can stay honest and humble, keep growing and learning—and saying the Serenity Prayer every day.