If Your Meet Your Mentor On The Road Kill Him

A similar Zen saying inspired Sheldon Kopp’s classic book on psychotherapy, If You Meet Buddha on the Road Kill Him and it has nothing to do with violence. In fact, quite the opposite. The “killing” is letting go of concepts like perfection and control, while living fully as you and courageously embracing the uncertainty of life.

Recently, I attended a great thought leadership session hosted by an honored international consultant. Like several others I was amazed by the breadth and depth of his work, much as a student often is with great teachers and mentors. How can I approach what he has accomplished over many, prolific years? How could I ever be that smart? This is actually where many of us lose our way and try to value ourselves and our work in terms of others.

Business leaders struggle with the same issues of evaluating who they are and who they hope to be. When we attempt to define ourselves in terms of someone else, like a Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs, there is diminished hope that we will be satisfied with the results, unless we can see that it makes sense for us separately. The message we heard in our seminar was very simple: If you want if for yourself, you will execute with discipline on a consistent basis. One day at a time. Or not. Big goals and dreams can actually work against you unless you act each day in your intended direction, with relentless and imperfect determination.

The implications for business leaders are multiple – understand who you are (not who you’re supposed to be), behave in a thoughtful manner, stay the course consistently, support others in their efforts to be honest about themselves, and help build organizations that can prosper with this in mind. You will learn from others, but simple adulation and imitation is ultimately an empty experience.

You may have to “kill” Jack Welch or Peter Drucker along the way. Don’t worry, they will respect your courage.