Face Reality or Perish

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
-Desiderius Erasmus, (1469-1536), Dutch Scholar


Following my heart surgery more than five years ago, I embarked on an extensive journey to help others achieve a successful surgery, heal quicker and enhance their lives. The result was “Five Keys for Living an Exceptional Life.”


These five keys are universal in nature and can be applied personally and professionally. The first and perhaps the most important key is: “Make friends with reality” – or see things as they are not as you want them to be. This is monumentally important on a number of levels because it gives you the opportunity to control what can be controlled and let go of wasting your energy on the rest.


What specifically prompted me to write? I just found out that, because of a repaired upper-stomach hernia, I will not be able to lift over 20 pounds for the rest of my life. This piece of information will have to be digested and reflected upon. I lift weights five days a week, have no issue with lifting the end of the couch so a rug can be moved, and routinely haul heavy bags to the airport.


Personally: The importance of seeing reality as it is and not as you want it to be gives you the chance to examine health and habits, finances and relationships. It helps you focus attention on what needs to be done in order to live an exceptional life. In health, facing reality might mean to stop ignoring your high blood pressure or high cholesterol and take medication to reverse these lurking potential bombshells, confront your addictions or get the physical that you have been putting off for five years. In relationships, it might mean facing reality and admitting that, in spite of your long, hard work, repeated bad behavior and anxiety-producing actions can no longer be tolerated. Most challenging, it might mean that it’s time to step outside the comfort zone, confront the discomfort of change and let go of a marriage, partnership or friendship. In finances, it might mean finding a financial manager to assist you or cut back on your spending.

Professionally: There are many potential landmines for leaders who do not let go of rationalizations and excuses and face the reality of the corporate world today. With globalization and technology, old rules of leadership have shifted. Yet, many leaders ignore obvious warning signs that they are on a path to destruction. The refuse to streamline their systems, educate their workforce.

In his book, “Straight from the Gut,” Jack Welsh lists six rules that leaders who want to be effective in today’s business world, must follow. The second rule is: “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it were. ”

This is especially challenging because leaders must lead by vision of what is possible, of what has not yet happened. At the same time, a leader must be objective and realistic enough to balance living in the illusion of fantasy of vison. That involves balancing vision and illusion. Even if, as John Maxwell writes in “Leadership Gold,” you think positive, have a high belief in people and want to protect them.

As for me, I must learn to face that 20 pound reality, change the way I see myself in the world and make the adjustments that will continue to allow me to live an exceptional life.