If you want to be a leader, hammering away at the rock in front of your teammates without interruption or frustration is perhaps the most inspiring thing you can do for your team.
Results are just a symptom that reflects the quality people, purpose, and process that your organization has put in place. Successful team leaders are those who refuse to stop working. They trust the process even when others are critical or lack faith. Perhaps the best illustration of this is in the movie Pale Rider, a western starring Clint Eastwood.
In the movie, Eastwood plays a very tough preacher who comes to the aid of a small mining town that is being threatened by the obligatory unscrupulous bad guys. The scene that relates to our topic finds one of the good guys striking at a large boulder that sits in the middle of a stream. According to the man hammering away at it, “If I could split that rock there, there’d be gold underneath.”
The man refuses to blow up the rock because he realizes that dynamite would destroy the stream, saying, “Yea, the stream would be dammed up….be the end of everything.”
He realizes that impatience can often cause people to do things that might sabotage the goals that they are working toward, and sees the value in continuing to do the daily work required that will eventually create the result he desires.
This is very similar to the sentiment shared by Jacob Riis, who writes that ““When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”
Great teammates trust the process and put in the work and persevere through doubts and distractions, and realize that their enduring faith is just as important a tool as the metaphorical hammer they are swinging.
When you are hammering at your rock, whatever the rock you have chosen, there are going to be hecklers and it may even be those close to you that question your commitment. Great teammates, those that accomplish extraordinary feats, refuse to give in to the laughter or criticism that always comes.
They just keep hammering… They do the work… They are relentless.
In The Fugitive, Tommy Lee Jones is a U.S. Marshall chasing Harrison Ford, who was convicted of murdering his wife.
In one scene from that film, Tommy lee Jones has caught up to Ford’s character, and Ford takes the opportunity to plead with him, insisting that “I didn’t kill my wife!” It is barely a split second later that Jones replies, in a matter-of-fact tone: “I Don’t Care.”
His meaning – and our lesson – is that, regardless of circumstances, difficulties, or excuses, he is going to persevere and keep coming.
Distractions or doubts will not keep him from swinging his hammer.
That is what great teammates do. They don’t get too high or too low, they just keep swinging.
And that can be tough, because sometimes you want to compare your progress to somebody else’s. But comparison can be a killer. Comparisons have caused far too many people to put down their hammers because of the frustration or false pride it produced.
Remember that it isn’t anyone else’s rock you are swinging at. Other people’s rocks may break earlier or later – but it is YOUR progress that is important. Just trust your process.
It is the accumulation of those many disciplined swings that creates your progress, and that progress is what will eventually cause your rock to break.
If you keep hammering away, eventually you will get what you are working for.
The off-season is a tremendously important time for athletes, as it provides them the most time for individual improvement… but you only improve if you are willing to remain loyal to your process of deliberate practice!
What will you allow to stop your hammer? Will it be a stranger’s criticism?
A friend or colleague who offers something easier to do?
Once you choose your rock, the greatest gift you can give yourself is delivering on the promise of cracking it open and discovering the joy of your accomplishment. But hammering away at your rock is much more a mental battle than a physical one. And there are very few who have the will to persevere and see it through.
If you are looking for a way to improve your team motivation, investing time in team building can improve the cohesiveness of your program, and help breed an attitude of persistence and commitment into your organization. People become committed to what they care about.
Many southwestern Indian tribes would do rain dances to bring rain to crops when the fields were dry, but there is one Indian tribe who made it rain every time they danced. The Pueblo tribe was always successful… they just continue to dance until it rains!
Do you want to be a great teammate?
Keep hammering away at your rock…
If you are part of a business, school, or athletic team that needs to improve communication, inspire accountability, energize morale, and transform your group into a more productive team, contact him and get started improving your organization today!
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