It was a sunny summer morning, circa June 2019.
At the gym, earbuds plugged in, listening to a podcast, when all of a sudden, my day was rocked by the words of the person being interviewed on the pod: “Leaders need to ask themselves . . . am I only doing what only I can do?”
Ever heard a sentence that just stopped you in your tracks? Where everything else fades into the background, and all you can think about for the next few minutes (or hours or days) are the words you just heard?
“Am I only doing what only I can do? “The longer I thought about that penetrating question, the more I realized I already knew the answer to it: Nope. I could think of many things I do that fall short of that standard. Perhaps you’re in the same boat.
The point today is not to call you to a goal that’s so way out there you throw your hands up in despair and don’t even try. Am I only doing what only I can do is a lofty target that we can gradually work our way toward for the rest of our lives. I want to invite you to take the journey.
Am I only doing what only I can do begs the question . . . why don’t we simplify? What gets in our way? Here are two huge roadblocks:
Roadblock 1: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
As a leader, it’s tempting to say yes to every opportunity that presents itself. Even when it’s outside of your skill set and passion. We think, often outside of our conscious awareness, “what happens if I say no? Will I miss an opportunity to grow my church or my business?”
What we don’t realize in those moments is not every opportunity is a good one. Some are dead ends. Some are good opportunities but not great opportunities. And if we lean toward a scarcity mentality, we fear that saying no means we won’t have enough. That somehow, we will miss out.
Learning to operate out of an abundance mindset—that there is more than enough opportunity in our area of giftedness, passion, and focus—helps us move toward the goal of only doing what only we can do. An abundance posture helps us simplify.
Roadblock 2: FODP (Fear of Disappointing People)
I’ve heard more than a few leaders tell me the reason they’re overscheduled and have no margin in their lives is because—wait for it—they don’t want to disappoint people. They worry about letting people down.
What’s at the root of FODP? It could be that you care. Those of us who are caregivers care for people. It’s what we do. While caring is a wonderful thing to do, sometimes it can twist our thinking, that somehow, it’s our responsibility to make other people happy. Think about that for a while, and hopefully you understand how unhealthy taking on that kind of responsibility is.
I wonder: if we can’t say no because we’re afraid of disappointing people, isn’t there going to come a day when I simply have no room to say yes because of my human limitations? Of course, the answer to that question is yes.
Greg McKeown, in his book, Essentialism, writes about a Silicon Valley exec who would evaluate requests for his time/energy this way: “Can I actually fulfill this request, given the time and resources I have?” If the answer was no, he would refuse the request. As time went on, he would evaluate these types of requests against higher criteria: “Is this the very most important thing I should be doing right now with my time and resources?” If he couldn’t answer with a definitive yes, he would refuse the request.
Only doing what only we can do raises the quality of our work, allows us to move the ball down the field of our God-given mission, and creates the margin we need to stay on the field of play longer.
Leading an organization or a team presents a leader with more opportunities than he/she can handle. It’s easy to become a mile wide and an inch deep. Working toward the stretch goal of only doing what only you can do forces you to go narrower but allows you to go deeper at the same time. It frees us to do less, but to do less better.
Greg McKeown puts it this way: “Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution toward the things that really matter.”
Leadership isn’t about getting more things done . . . it’s about getting the right things done. Sometimes we need the help of a mentor to assist us with sorting out what those right things actually are.
Are you only doing what only you can do? Let that question challenge you to get more focused than ever in the weeks and months ahead.
I’m rooting and praying for you!