Let’s consider the age old analogy of someone wanting to build muscles in a gym:
In order to increase strength and muscle size, one needs to lift, push, or pull weights. Doing so causes the muscle to engage in a repetitive motion that ‘exercises’ it. Strength and size comes as the tired muscle (after being exercised) is repaired and further bolstered – against future exercising – by your body.
The more you exhaust your muscles, the greater the repair job required to ‘fix’ them. This fixing is what makes your muscles bigger and stronger. And so, it can be seen that if you want your muscles to increase in size and strength, you must exercise them regularly. More than this though, if you want these gains, you must also increase the amount of strain placed on your muscles during exercise – how do you do this in a gym? By increasing the amount of weight you are exercising with.
This analogy helps us to understand the Law of Resistance. The law is defined as:
All movement in life is accompanied by resistance.
Or in other words, no movement occurs without resistance (think of the person wanting bigger muscles). And taken a step further: Resistance is then a good thing; it is not our enemy or something to be avoided.
Too many people think that resistance is negative – and it can be if we allow it. However, resistance is the very thing that causes change and growth to occur. How we deal with resistance is what differentiates those who might say they are leaders with those who in actuality are leaders.
Because leaders are able to see ahead – because they have a vision of what can be – they also understand that certain changes need to take place in order to realise that vision. Change is often difficult. Other words we might use to describe change include: growth, development, expansion, transformation; all which, if we think about it, require some form of sacrifice to enjoy the later changes.
But are we really sacrificing something, if, at a later stage, because of that very sacrifice we enjoy something better, bigger or greater?
I believe that all of us will agree that we are not. Rather, this is called an investment. An investment can be defined: To spend or devote for future advantage or benefit. And so, today’s sweat in the gym, with heavy weights, results in the future benefit of strength and a good looking pair of arms. Or not eating that large piece of chocolate cake today can result in a slimmer waistline tomorrow. Either way, there is some form of resistance at play.
The point is this – resistance can either work for you as an ally towards greater development and growth; or it can be your enemy and defeat you before you get to the point where you begin to enjoy the changes that are taking place…in other words, you quit. And it’s all about how we look at it: are we investing or are we sacrificing?
Let’s go back the definition of the Law of Resistance: All movement in life is accompanied by resistance. So a true, seamless leader is in the business of leveraging (using to create an advantage) the resistance that takes place to further enhance the movement they are creating or pushing along. This is a skill that needs to be developed. And the development of such begins with this one thing:
Are you sacrificing or investing? Or in other words, what is your ATTITUDE towards resistance?
Let’s now consider a real life example:
What made our beloved Madiba such an extraordinary individual?
I believe it came down to a few mature decisions that had to be made to realise his vision. He begins his political life by seeing a vision of a free people; his family, friends and loved ones walking the streets as they would like, occupying jobs they worked hard to qualify for, and enjoying peace in their homes. As a result he becomes a freedom fighter. Unfortunately, in those days, the cost of the struggle for their desired freedom was the blood of friends and colleagues – both black and white – and many innocent individuals on both sides of the fight. This path ultimately lead Mandela to Robben Island, where he was imprisoned.
But what did he do there that made him the man he is? If he had allowed his desire for freedom to turn into hate for his captors, he would have never grown. We know he didn’t do this; rather, he INVESTED his time there. He realised that movement of the bigger picture required that he use his current difficult (resistance) circumstances as best as he could. He didn’t think about the now – this would have meant he was sacrificing something; he developed and kept alive his vision of a free people and nation, and this resulted in him investing everyday in that vision by educating himself, learning to develop relationships with his ‘white afrikaaner’ prison guards, and so on.
How many of us would have responded this way?
And why? Because we often see only the now. We’re not raising our eyes and views to the horizon, to that which is to come. This is the single most important thing we can do if we want to change our attitude and grow through tough times.
Resistance is our friend.
Why? Because it tests us; it asks us to reassess what we want everyday; and it is only in moments of resistance that we can grow stronger.
A quote I love drives to this point: “When your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.” Napoleon Hill. We can simply change his word desire, for our word vision. Nelson Mandela, I feel, had “superhuman powers to achieve”, but only because he chose to look up and invest.
Another quote by Napoleon Hill goes: “The path of least resistance makes all rivers, and some men, crooked.” And I venture to say that this doesn’t make ‘some’ crooked, but the vast majority.
If you wish to be extraordinary, you cannot walk the same path everyone else is. If you wish to leave a legacy like a Mandela or whomever else you feel was a seamless leader, you need to live a life like them. Men and women who choose this path understand that “all movement in life is accompanied by resistance”, and they embrace it.
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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.