Pain + Reflection = Progress

This one is taken directly from Ray Dalios book Principles but it is a universal and powerful concept.

As humans being we have the opportunity to grow our entire life. And growth is essential if you want to master anything - especially leadership.

The cruel thing about leadership is that it is the only skill you can learn where you can't really practice - you only have human trials. Every failure for you as a leader has direct negative consequences for other people.

That is why learning and growing fast is essential. It not only helps yourself but it minimizes the suffering of others.

Using pain as a guidance

Pain is merely your brain signalling that you have hit some boundary.

If you never experience pain you never try your boundaries and you will never grow.

But just as when you do physical work there is good pain and bad pain. The good pain is the pain you feel after a good workout where you muscles are soar. It is painful but it feels good. If you don't get your body to that state it won't get stronger. But there is also the bad pain from using your body in a wrong way or working out to much. It is where you can feel that something is wrong and you should stop immediately.

It is the same for the mental pain that we as leaders feel. It should bee good painful when you constantly challenge your boundaries. It is ok to be tired after work or feeling that some of the problems are hard. But it should never be the bad pain of overwork, stress and burnout.

When you feel the good pain you know that you are challenging your brain and primes it for growth.

Ambitious people seek out this good pain and use it as a guidance of where to self-improve.

Remember reflection

After a physical workout your body needs time to rest for your body to grow strong. Professional athletes spend more time resting than training.

It is the same for your brain.

If you never let it rest and reflect it is like a body that never gets rest - it gets worn down instead of becoming stronger.

As a leader you should always seek reflection after pain and make a schedule that allows you to reflect. Or else you will never grow.

Applying this as a leader

Most leaders make the mistake of either avoiding pain (and thus opportunities for growth) or they overwork them-selves and never reflect and learn and thus keep making the same mistakes.

The simplest way to deal with this is to set up regular blocked times for self reflection. Daily, weekly or at least monthly.

Note down when things are painful and why and go through you list in you reflection time to understand why. Even better, ask your manager for feedback and help them guide you.

When reflecting always remember to figure out what you should do differently and what you should learn. Blaming others is irrelevant to your growth and is just a way for your brain to trick you and not use the energy to learn new things.