Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Invisible Quicksand that Surrounds Us

Swimming harder won’t help… this will.

In Smart Leadership by Mark Miller, he makes a brilliant point. The world we live in, work in, and try to lead in…it’s like quicksand. Where is he going with that?

It’s the kind of scenario where we get in early, return some email that we had avoided, catch up on our phone calls, make a few new commitments and knock those out, return a few text messages, send our boss our perspective on something (s)he asked about, and then write down our top three goals for the week…

But then the email responses need clarification, your boss asks you to put together a plan, three new emails need a response, and you have two meetings to attend.

You spend the day swimming in quicksand—lots of activity for very little actual progress.


Quicksand is the urgent, but rarely the most important. Mark notes that “You don’t see it coming, we feel helpless when we are in it, and it’s a more formidable foe than we think.”

Friends, this is true for me, and I’m a top leader in the companies I serve. I can’t imagine how true it is for a mid-level manager or someone who gets it from all sides. Add the weird working situations from COVID, and trying to motivate a scattered team—fatigue, frustration, and a feeling of helplessness can all become very real. But here is Mark’s message that cut me to the heart:


“This is not a story of man against the elements. It’s a story of leaders against themselves.”


Ouch! How deep does that cut?

So, if we are not going to learn to swim harder, and we are not going to “give up and die,” what do we do? How about if we make 2022 the year we learn to escape the quicksand?

If you are like me, your heart says, “Let’s go!”

Here is step one for this week, and it’s right from Mark’s book:


Identify your quicksand.

What are the top three obstacles or impediments keeping you from leading from the high ground? Write these down or put them in your phone for reference. I want you to revisit them often as you can as you go through the content of this book. By the time you get to the end, you will have a credible plan to escape their grip.


That’s where I’ll pick up next week. But for now, do yourself a favor: Identify your quicksand!


Much love,


Dr. Rob

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