As I work with leaders, change makers and business owners, I’m increasingly intrigued and perplexed as to why some people succeed and some people don’t. I was pondering this the other day and remembered an article I had written years ago.
As I reread the article, I realized that The Wizard of Oz’s powerful allegory of owning your own truth and power is surprisingly relevant today. In this time of winds of change and uncertainty, we seem to find ourselves in the Land of Oz, not quite sure what’s ahead and a bit unsettled by the “spooks” along the way.
I have always been the most fascinated by the tin man, the lion and the scarecrow. For me they represent the three main ways we get stuck and forget our most powerful inner resource. Take a moment and think about when you get “stuck.” And then ponder which of the characters most represents your shadow side. The lion, the tin man or the scarecrow…?
Are you like the scarecrow, avoiding taking risks by convincing yourself that you’re not smart enough or educated enough? Maybe, like the tin man, you’ve become paralyzed in your own “stuckness.” Or are you the lion – scared of the uncertainties that lurk around every corner?
Let’s take a closer look.
First is what I call the Scarecrow Syndrome. It goes like this: A client comes in excited about starting a business or launching a new life venture. Before they have a chance to fully imagine what they want to do, they say, “I think I need to go back to school” or “I need to get more training.” I recently asked a client with a double Master’s degree: “Why?” There was a long pause. “Because I don’t know enough.” Pause. “For what?” I asked. “Well,” (very long pause), “there are people who have a lot more knowledge than me.”
Yes. This is true. And you may need more training. But I recently found out that only 27 percent of all adult Americans have a secondary education degree. Wow – blows that theory! So, now that we’ve defined the scarecrow, let’s dig a bit deeper.
Next, the Tin Man Tendency. As Dorothy releases him from his self-corrosion, the tin man confides, “I’ve held this axe up for ages, when about a year ago it rusted in place.” After years of doing what we think is expected of us, we can suddenly become estranged from our heart and paralyzed by life.
Once emotions return, they can seem overwhelming and unsettling. The tendency can be to get lost in our emotions and feel helpless. It’s neither fun nor pretty.
And finally the Lion’s Lair of Fear. It’s at times like this that nothing seems more elusive than courage. When every ounce of sensible thinking says, “What the heck are you doing? Who do you think you are, wanting that?” When family and coworkers ask, “Why don’t you just get a job?” courage fades and fear takes over.
What makes these characters so memorable is how together they keep moving forward. I often find that the people who really embrace their “shadow” side to find their way back home to Self are the ones who, in the end, find the greatest pleasure in success.
If your tin man is at play (at work or in life)…ask yourself, “Where have you shut down your passion and stopped believing in your dreams?” Write down your answers. See which ones “hurt.” Really. And then slowly start to bring some of those dreams back into your life. Much like the tin man, as they slowly oiled his joints, he found more strength to take on his bigger challenges.
If you’re the scarecrow, thinking that you still need more knowledge or comparing yourself to others, make a list of all the strengths you do have. As we’ve seen with the leaders of technology, street knowledge can be far more powerful than academic knowledge. And in this age of uncertainty, leaders are often the ones who “know” things that others aren’t yet talking about. So, start talking about what you know. Take a risk. And, like the scarecrow, feel free to take your time. Test out your ideas. And with each successful connection you have, take a moment to “do a dance” and celebrate. It’s those little steps that add up.
And finally, the lion. Ah, courage. It takes courage to step beyond the status quo. It takes courage to keep going when you’re not sure where exactly it will lead. This is a great time to create a support team of people who believe in you, who can tell you “true,” AND who will keep you moving forward.
Because that is one of the biggest lessons of all, to move forward. Let your passion exceed your uncertainty. Be determined. Keep your eyes on the prize. And make sure you take things step by step as you travel that yellow brick road through all its twists and turns.