Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Chronic Pain is Difficult and Challenging

But it’s a great teacher if we’re good students

My friend Dr. Sam Chand was in a terrible automobile accident. He said the hardest part was the broken ribs. “You just want to lay down, but if you breath wrong or try to role onto your side, it hurts terribly.” The he told me he was a side sleeper.

He wrote a great book entitled “Leadership Pain.” The book focuses on leaders and organizational pain, but there are a million parallels. Dr. Sam writes this:


When we’re in pain, we quickly notice the default setting on the human heart: run, blame, smother the hurt in busyness, or act like nothing’s wrong. To persevere, we need a vision for the future that’s bigger than our pain. We may not see it clearly, and we may not like the process of getting there, but we have to be convinced in the depths of our hearts that enduring the pain will someday be worth it. This confidence enables us to raise the threshold of pain so we can respond with courage and hope.


My pain has taken me on a similar journey.It hurts to walk, I can’t jog and going down several flights of stairs feels like a death sentence. But that’s my life right now. I’ll briefly share two really good lessons I’ve learned and something my wife swears is true.

First, pain slows you down, and slowing down is often helpful.
All of us Type A leaders stay pretty busy. We know we need to slow down eventually, but there is so much to do right now. And when we do go on vacation, most of us are checking our work email. But pain changes that.

When you are really thirsty, but you have to consider, “Is it really worth the pain to go into the kitchen and get a drink of water?”… it really slows down your decision-making process. I notice that slowing down on my pace of decisions has helped me make better decisions. Before I would say, “Don’t delay, try something, if that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.” Now I’m much more apt to say, “That’s a good challenge, let’s think through this and come up with the optimal solution.”

Are there any areas that you need to slow down and make better decisions?


Empathy is a top characteristic of high emotional intelligence. I’m certain that I have more empathy. People who care about others most tend to listen more and talk less. When they do talk, they ask good questions!

I know that I’m hurting. And I know that I’m different when I have pain than when I don’t. Now I wonder, “What is this other person going through?” Do they have physical pain, or something much worse like unhealed wounds from a real or perceived wrong? Why are they responding like that? Do they know that they matter?

I now believe that the person who makes the sale or gets the signed contract is the person who listens the best. It’s not just about your service or product. It is about how you make the other person feel and whether they trust you.

How do you make other’s feel? If you want to get better, check out this amazing study.

My wife, the lovely
Dawn McCleland, says, “You are different at every level.” When I ask her what she means, she notes that I try to find out if other people have any needs in their lives. When I tell her that “I’ve always been a caring person” (at least in my mind!), she is quick to point out that now I always act like it!

I have needs that I didn’t have six months ago. Now, according to my wife, I’m more sensitive to the needs of others. Do you have unspoken needs? Speaking about them, rather than ignoring them might help you be more sensitive to the needs of others.

Slowing down, being more empathetic, and being in touch with your own needs… none of that is bad. And in today’s world, it might be better than ever.

Just don’t be like me and have to go through pain to learn those lessons.


Much love,

Dr. Rob


PS. If you’d like to get an executive summary of Dr. Sam Chand’s book Leadership Pain, click here.



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