Up Until Now
The other day, I was debating with my two sons whether to join an annual NCAA basketball tournament pool that we have all participated in since they were in high school.
My son Ben texted, “Dad, you’ve won the pool. Jared, you’ve won the pool. I’m the only Center man who has not won this pool.”
Jared texted back: “Up until now.”
I smiled to myself when I read Jared’s text. That phrase, “Up Until Now,’ was one I learned years ago from Neil Stroul, one of the many excellent faculty members in Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Certificate Program. During and after that program, I passed on some of the leadership wisdom to my wife and sons.
The phrase “Up until now” resonated so much with my family that it became part of our family vocabulary. Now we use it frequently to remind ourselves of the danger of attachment to a paradigm about ourselves.
So often we develop self-images about ourselves that we carry with us through adolescence and into adulthood. These opinions were formed when we were young, yet without realizing it, we lug them as baggage with us throughout our careers.
For example, when I was in high school and college, I always performed better at courses like history, social studies, English and political science than I did at math and science courses.
Consequently, I made up a story about myself that “I’m not good with numbers.” That belief became part of my self-portrait. I convinced myself that it was “the truth.” This is part of what many leaders know as “The Ladder of Inference.” We make up a story, we convince ourselves the story is the truth, we forget we originally made it up, and we make it part of who we are.
I remember vividly my initial job after law school. I worked for a non-profit research and consulting firm that specialized in criminal justice work. My boss told me that I would be working with budgets for major grants and contracts funded by multiple federal agencies.
I said to him, “But, Ray, I’m not good with numbers.”
He smiled and said, “Then maybe you ought to register for a course in statistics.” So I did. I took an evening course in statistics at George Washington University and learned more about “numbers” than I had ever dreamed I could.
Ironically, years later I was managing million-dollar budgets for Georgetown CLE and never said to myself “I’m not good with numbers.” My old manager Ray had figuratively told me, “Larry, up until now, you may have not been good with numbers. But starting tomorrow, you can re-write that script.”
So I invite you to examine the stories you have made up about yourself during the past years or decades. How have those stories failed to serve you?
Which stories do you want to revise?
Which stories have stood as obstacles to your fulfilling your leadership potential?
Which stories have hindered your progress or your relationships?
We can always make time to look in the mirror and remind ourselves:
“I have thought this about myself up until now.
Starting tomorrow, I can make efforts to change that paradigm.”