A Leadership Lesson from an Eclipse

Yesterday at 3:26 pm, my city experienced a 97% solar eclipse. In other words, we were just off-center from the path of totality. 

I ventured outside at 3:15 p.m. with my eclipse viewer. My dog ran around the backyard. Across the street, a neighbor had 20 people at their house for a joint birthday and eclipse party. 

And I noticed that my 85-year-old neighbor was sitting inside his house watching the eclipse on his television. I knocked on his window, and he came out. He said, “I wanted to come out, but I don’t have those glasses.” So, we shared my viewer and stared at the sun together for 15 minutes. 

And as my hometown paper used to say, “a good time was had by all.”

Was the eclipse overblown in the eastern USA?

Probably.

Was it a life-altering experience?

No.

But it was good. It was good because people stopped and enjoyed the moment for a few minutes.

If I want to improve as a human and a leader, I need to improve my ability to enjoy the moment and have fun

In the book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of Quick Fix, Edwin Frieman states, “A major criteria for judging the anxiety level of any society is the loss of its capacity to be playful.”

When I read those words, I felt haunted. It described our anxious society clearly, and we need to get better. 

Here are three things I will try to make fun a reality.

1. Find a daily eclipse moment. 

I will search for 15 minutes a day to be in the moment and enjoy it.

When I finish typing this, I will walk in the sunshine with my dog, leave my phone at home, listen to nature’s music, watch squirrels play, and watch birds fly.

2. Stop acting like everything is so important. 

I have some important tasks in the next few days, but they are not THAT important. 

Last week, I learned that a childhood friend passed away suddenly at 53. I hadn’t talked to him in 25 years, but it still was hard to hear. 

An old proverb says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of cheer.”  On its face, it makes no sense. Cheer is better than mourning. 

But mourning gives a deep, unsettling perspective, so I will try and stop acting like everything is so important. 

3. Choose activity over passivity.  

The men’s NCAA championship game was last night. Instead of watching the first half, I chose to play basketball. It was a good choice. 

Participating in something you enjoy creates an emotional jolt that watching something you enjoy never will.  

So, I will choose to participate rather than watch more.

One final interesting tidbit. Fun is one of the best ways to change human behavior.  

A few years ago, Volkswagen Sweden conducted an experiment in a subway station. They installed a piano staircase next to an escalator. According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of commuters who chose the stairs over the escalator increased by 66%.

So here’s the lesson: Figure out how to make routine tasks fun for you and your team.

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Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Chief Operating Officer for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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