Follow Your Bliss & Blisters: Leadership From the Inside Out

As we step a fresh foot into a New Year, many of us are still running in low-battery mode, reeling from the aftershocks of 2020 - and now 2021. We may see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we are most definitely not out of the tunnel.

With no simple answers at hand, may our blisters also be our blessings. 

Follow Your Blisters

In What You Should Follow Instead of Your Passion, the author suggests that following your passion is a bit too glib for reality. Instead of the Follow Your Bliss bumper stickers he used to see on hippie cars in North Carolina, he’s decided his bumper sticker would read: Follow Your Blisters. He continues:

"A blister appears when something wears at you – and even chafes you a bit – but you keep getting drawn back to it. What I like about the phrase is that it implies something about perseverance and struggling through tasks even though they are not always blissful."

He reflects that the work he comes back to over and over again, even when he doesn’t succeed and the process is arduous, is where he is most alive.

Personally, I’m loaded with blisters. I’m often the goat climbing straight up the mountain without any obvious foothold. But this endurance is drawn from my well of YES within. Like a moon-shadow, my YES is a place of mystery that is infused with so much longing, that I simply have to follow it into the unknown.

Follow Your Bliss

Yet there is equal merit to following your bliss. So let’s talk about this expression, which decidedly is not fluff. It comes from the work of Joseph Campbell, a prolific American author and editor who wrote on the universal functions of myth and culture and their relationship to our lives. In a conversation with Bill Moyers, Campbell explained:

"If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be."

Weaving It Together: Rose, Thorn and Bud

Here is a simple yet focused New Year’s reflection called the called Rose, Thorn and Bud. It can be equally effective for a one-week, one-month, even one-day look-back and analysis for business partners, teams, grown-ups and kids alike. It goes like this:

  • The Rose: Reflect upon and share a highlight, success, small win, or something positive that happened and has a positive impact on you.
  • The Thorn: Reflect upon and share a challenge that you experienced or something where you will benefit from more support.
  • The Bud: Reflect upon and share new ideas that have blossomed, something you are looking forward to, or places where you are curious to learn and grow.

So how does this all relate to thriving in chaos and creating safe places where we and others can blossom and thrive in this New Year?

The most successful teams integrate a diversity of perspectives. In this safe environment, all perspectives are welcomed and situational leaders emerge at every level. There is infectious, positive energy, a bliss that accompanies the blisters of growth. Dialogue is embraced with respect and rigorous dissection, and problems are discovered before they become crises.

But we can’t get there without knowing one another, without talking about the things that matter to us personally and professionally. So crack yourself open. Model vulnerability. Be the leader from the inside out. And celebrate and share the bliss and blisters of your individual and collective experiences together. 

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