Control Vs Surrender

Something I’ve noticed working with entrepreneurs is that they are all extremely good at dealing with paradox.

They’re good at allowing multiple, sometimes conflicting, things to be true.

You do not need me to point out that this is a difficult and unusual skillset. It’s obviously one of the things that makes them successful.

For most of us, dealing with paradox is extremely uncomfortable. We want ONE thing to be true, ONE thing to be right.

But life generally gives no hoots about what we want, and instead serves us up what we need.

One of my favourite client conversations this year was about one of the biggest paradoxes we grapple with. This guy is a hardcore scientist who surprised me many times during the project, and this conversation was no exception.

He told me that one of the most important lessons he’s learned as a leader is to accept the paradox of total ownership and absolute surrender.

That is, to take total responsibility for the process, for everything within your control, but to surrender the outcome without reservation to the universe.

You can control your thoughts, your actions and your reactions. But what happens after that is out of your hands, and you’ve gotta be able to roll with that.  

I love this so much, and I think it’s one of the foundational lessons that a writing practice can teach us. Writing shines a big old spotlight on the areas that we’re skimping on, and it shines just as brightly where we’re desperately trying to control the outcome too.

Writing is a mirror. Whether we like what we see in it or not, it’s going to show us the truth.

And our ability to integrate what we see is the ultimate skill: accepting the truth of where we’re at right now, and the truth of where we can get to — that’s where the magic happens.

So next time you notice yourself trying to white-knuckle the outcome, or skirting around putting your whole effort in, take a second.

Grab a notebook and ask yourself why.

Explore your attachment, or your avoidance. Just observe it, no judgement.

Throw yourself into the paradox and see where you come out.