Leaders Take the Long View

Last night my husband reminds me to “take the long view.”

When something goes wrong (a boring class, an argument with a friend, a dieting failure, a rejection from an agent, a poor parenting choice. . . I could go on and on), I tend to make catastrophic statements:

Everything is horrible!  I’m a disaster!  I’m the worst parent ever!  I’m quitting!  I’m never writing another book!  I’m the worst friend ever!  Things will never get better!

I could win an academy award for drama.

“Take the long view,” my husband says as I bury myself either in the pillow, in the bubbles in the bathtub, or in my own crossed arms.

The long view?  What’s the long view?  He reminds me that this is just one moment–one day–and that I have to think of my life in terms of months and years and even decades.

“Ride this wave out,” he advises while making big wave motions with his hand.  “Take the long view.”

It turns out that people who know how to take the long view succeed.  I read interviews of business leaders who knew how to take the long view and not seek short term profit.  I read about persistence, about vision, and about focus on the future.  Small failures and setbacks become part of a larger picture.

I read about families who take the long view with debt reduction and savings.  I think about everything from community organizing to weight loss.  I think about blogging and motherhood and even gardening.  I think about ministry.

When I take the long view, I’m not caught up in today’s catastrophe or short term win.  Instead, I lift my head up and remember my long term goal.  I’m growing into a beautiful thing that reflects the glory of a Creator.  Over time, my marriage, parenting, friendships, writing, teaching, and ministry get better and better.  Small bumps in the road are just that:  bumps in the road.  But I’m still on the road, and I can see a glorious destination.

Have you learned to “take the long view?”


How to Get This Thing to Work

My friend just emailed a picture of my daughter swinging on a glider swing with her daughter.  On a glider swing, two friends sit back to back.  The rhythm required to get the swing moving involves taking turns pulling up against the bar in front of you.  If you both try to pump at the same time, you don’t move.  It’s fun to watch children figure this concept out.  You have to let the other person move, and then you move, and then it’s back to you, then back to them.

But it doesn’t work if you both pull in your own direction at the same time.

The irony of surrendering to your partner, of deferring to the other person, is that you end up swinging higher.  You get the benefit of all her hard work.  But it doesn’t seem fair.  You have to resist the urge to be first, to control the whole gig.  Those urges end up sabotaging you in the end.

The picture of my daughter on the glider swing reminds me to cooperate.  It’s embarrassing how much I resist cooperation.  I want to lead!  I want to start it all!  But you there at my back, with me the whole time, have a stake in this experience.  What would happen if I saw us as truly interdependent, laced up at our backs, so that when you lead, I go higher?  What if saw my labor as elevating you as well? 

I’m not the surrendering type.  I’m learning, when I look at this picture, to cooperate with what’s at my back (God, my husband, my dear neighborhood friend, my colleagues, and even my own daughters).

Let me work with you.  That’s the way the swing works. 

(beautiful photo courtesy of S. Velegol)