Samantha Mansfield

Director of Professional Development & Community, CPA.com

Growing through Discomfort

I love Audible! This year I have been able to consume so many more books while doing yard work and running (which I don’t love). Currently I am reading, “On Fire: 7 Choices to ignite a radically inspired life” by John O’Leary, bestselling author and keynote speaker for Digital CPA 2017. As I was listening to him narrate his book, I was struck by how similar one of his lessons was to that of John Engels, leadership coach, who combines family systems knowledge with the science of evolutionary leadership.

At Digital CPA Conference 2016, John Engels challenged us all by asking, “Why do you want to keep others from discomfort?” His point being, we learn from challenges and failures, but we try to shield colleagues, friends and family from it. While running, I listened to John O’Leary retell how his mother refused to help him eat his dinner upon returning from a four month stay in the hospital due to burning 100% of his body at age nine. He had lost his fingers, he was still heavily bandaged and yet when his sister tried to help feed him she was ordered to put down the fork. At nine years old, John’s mother was challenging him to commit to a mindset to solve this problem and all the others he was about to face.

Think of the discomfort in that situation. Any parent hates to see their child in pain, frustrated and suffering. Here the child is hungry, frustrated and probably scared; he couldn’t even feed himself. Yet, mother and son prevailed. O’Leary’s mom knew he was going to be confronted with many more obstacles in his life and he needed to find ways to succeed from the start. John did figure out how to feed himself that night and has grown to have a full and successful life.

This poignant example, is a reminder of the bravery it takes to lead others, and own your own leadership. We each must find our role in any situation.

  • What is my role in the cause of the situation?
  • What is my role in the resolution?
  • What is my role in the long term success?

It comes back to accountability. We can’t look to our manager, mentor, or parent to fix the issues. They play a part in guidance and instruction, but we are responsible for developing our own problem solving and leadership skills. Look back in your career and find a pivotal point; what contributed to your success or failure? What did you learn from it?