Trust the Tension


Steel sharpens steel, especially when “steel” braces itself and doesn’t react.

Learning how to stay in the tension and fully embrace the learning potential within it is powerful.

Trust the mess and watch yourself get stronger from it.

Find Conflict

It’s ok to get into tense situations

No one likes the person who is always fighting.

Unfortunately, as a response, many of us don’t ever find conflict at all. We suffer for this.

Our ideas need to find their way in the world. If we try to avoid the tension that we find by being vulnerable, we miss an opportunity and suffer.

Instead of finding the tension in the right place, we find it within ourselves.

Then we end up with destructive self-talk.

Find the conflict and put that energy where it belongs.


Leadership is Saving Face

Making a decision is uncomfortable.

We’ve sat in that meeting before.

The one where you know things aren’t right. The direction is off, the figures don’t align, and you know for a fact the customer isn’t happy.

You have three choices:

  • Do nothing – This avoids tension and keeps you from joining “the table.” Live with the internal tension as it chips you away.
  • Stop the meeting – Hollywood’s version of “telling it like it is.” This may work but it has a significant political cost. Don’t pay the asshole tax unless it’s necessary.
  • Discuss after the meeting – Allow people to save face. This is uncomfortable to discuss, yet, has the highest return in long-term trust.

These options are in the order of tension you expose to the moment.  Tension creates challenge when deployed.

Those leaders who challenge, even when not the boss, win.

That takes tact. Let people save face when possible.


Still Sick – More Insights From AltMBA

Still not feeling well, so I am giving you some more insights gathered from my AltMBA journey 🙂

  1. The default of “Adam shut up” comes from a lack of confidence, which stems from impostor syndrome.  I used to limit the number of questions I asked because I assume that I have a question count (think like a pitchers count in baseball). I try to keep the number low because I know it keeps me safe. This is a habit I need to break if I want to contribute in a significant way, to any worthwhile project. I have to make myself keep asking. This isn’t going to extreme land, but I want to get in the habit of satisfying my curiosity even when I think it’s best to “let it go”

  2. Doubt, in the form of that “question count” will make me less effective. Also, over confidence also leads me to lower the “question count.” Either way its bad news.

  3. I have to start with why. Understanding the team around me and where they are coming from allows me to be more inclusive. Being a rebel doesn’t help anyone, and a subtle way to rebel is to “mentally clock out.” Level-set expectations and make sure that I get a chance to get involved. Reset and reload.

  4. I could have added tension to the meeting in an inclusive way. The ideas that we had were tremendous.  I didn’t push on different ways of looking at things. What if the bracelets were for sale for children as a income model that fed a non profit? What if the person-X tool worked on a favor system, how could that work?  What if the story generator could be re-purposed as a tool to keep the lonely and depressed from feeling alone?  Great tension comes from questions, and its a quick way to build on the “question count” in a positive way

  5. This exercise is built for more practice. I want to do it again. For a task that wore me out emotionally, I sure did get a good mental stretch as well.