choose pain to growI am using poetic license and borrowing from an outstanding talk that I heard at an Ekurhuleni Business Network (EBN) networking Captains Breakfast a few days ago by Max Moyo.

Max spoke of leadership pain and the aspects and elements that we need to experience in order to shapeshift into the leaders that we could and should be – If… that is the path that we choose.

He shared that leaders are required to push through the pain barriers that limit them in order to grow; that they need to welcome and lean into pain so that they do indeed break through. Growth is not, nor can it be possible, without pain.

This was another serendipitous experience in what has been months of seemingly random events and people that have crossed my path over the last few months. The Unthreading Exhibition at the Nelson Mandela Foundation; The Human Rights Festival at Constitution Hill for Human Rights Day; Liliesleaf in Rivonia; so many conversations over the last few weeks and so many amazing people and then to top it off, there was Max.

Max’s talk evoked in me the realisation that we as a nation, as the people of a country so filled with and in rich in promise, have experienced incredible collective pain because of our history. This is true too for the African Continent. And if pain is a necessary pre-requisite for growth and is a hallmark of and for leaders is their ability to engage, to welcome, to embrace pain, then by all accounts, South Africa as a nation should be a world leader. So why are we sitting at the bottom of most of the rankings of the significant numbers and measures that speak to the financial, economic, social, psychological indexes that relate to the health of countries around the world?

It is simple, because we choose to be. We choose disempowerment. We choose to perpetuate learned helplessness. We choose to endorse corruption and greed. We choose to continue to look for rescuers who will save us from being who we are meant to be. We choose not to step up. We choose to make excuses and to blame our current situation on our abysmal past. We choose as Max said by all accounts to reject pain; to run away from it; to avoid it at all costs. Most of all we choose not to be who we are meant to be. The pain of staying stuck where we are for most, is more favourable than the pain that is involved in breaking through. So we choose to stay stuck.

We are a country that suffers from collective post-traumatic stress disorder on steroids. We choose to stay stuck in our drama – collectively and individually. For the alternative would mean that we would need to choose to embrace the pain of breaking through limiting beliefs, to discard the stereotypes, the falsehoods and lies that we have been indoctrinated to believe; to let go of old patterns that whilst they have served us are no longer relevant, not in a global, technological ever changing world.

Powerful leadership comes down to a choice. A choice to step up; a choice to be counted and in my own leadership journey, I have experienced what Max speaks of – the pain of pushing through my own limiting beliefs; through pain barriers that have been views I have held of myself as I looked to the world for external validation; the pain of being unable to clearly articulate what my business offering, business and financial models are that have kept me trapped in playing small; the pain of my ego in thinking that I knew it all and that rendered me unteachable; the pain of needing to be right, because if I wasn’t, then I would be wrong and if I was wrong, then I would not be good enough and the pain of what I thought to be true that has kept me separate from, alienated, isolated and afraid.

So today I take on the challenge that Max issued to us all. I choose pain and not because I am a masochist. I choose pain and pushing through barriers, to deconstruct my self-induced glass ceilings that I have allowed to stop me from being all I am; I choose pain so that I am for ever in the process of birthing something new and wonderful. And as I choose pain – so can you. I choose pain as it is one of the greatest mechanisms that tells me I am fully engaged, fully alive.

And if we collectively, as a nation, choose to learn to embrace our pain and the lessons contained within, then we will be unstoppable because in so doing, we have accessed freedom – the freedom to be all we are meant to be; the freedom to live a life of contribution and service and the responsibility to do what has been done for us – to walk with one another when they too choose to break free.

This blog is dedicated to the wisdom of mentors that I have been privileged to experience as they enabled me to push through my pain barriers – My dad, Mike Lazar, Pumeza Bam, Viv Brown, George Joubert and Mark McClue, Founder members of the Fourways Community Chamber of Commerce. All I can say is thank you. And to you too, Max Moyo, and your wise words about Leadership and Pain.