I have a love affair with books. I started dating books when I saw Dick and Jane run after Spot in first grade.
I nurtured the relationship in third grade when The Scholastic Book Club let me order books from handouts my teacher, Mrs. Baker, would give us. I still remember reading The Furious Flycycle.
I married books in the fourth grade. Mrs. Fountaine held up a sign and told the class we would get a certificate if we read something like 8 fiction books, 5 science books, and 8 non-fiction books. I read more than a hundred books that year and haven’t stopped reading.
My love affair with books has lasted my entire lifetime and I probably have maybe around 3,000 books lounging together on shelves in my office and in varied rooms in my home.
My wife often tells me I have too many books and I say, “No, I do not have enough bookshelves.”
I did finally admit recently that I need to start cleaning out my overflowing shelves when I began to stack them in piles on the floor, so I started setting books out in a hallway outside my office for whomever might want them. I have been taking boxes to the local used books store. I have kicked them out on their own.
I feel unfaithful to these books. I hope they find good homes.
Cleaning out these books has been an exercise in learning how to let go of things that are important to me. I have learned that chasing some of my books out into the cold can be applied to many things I simply need to let go.
I learned letting go requires measurable goals.
I started out by setting a goal of removing ten books from my office. Once I removed ten books, I set a goal for ten more.
Like the books I am setting out into the wild, my goals stacked one upon another until I am close to 300 books removed from my office. Since I originally planned to remove 100 books, turning loose of 300 of them is a huge accomplishment.
You may be needing to let go of some object or emotion or practice, but you can have the most success starting with something simple you can attain, that is measurable, and that demonstrates progress. As a leader you see the big picture but start letting go with smaller pieces, the details of the big picture that give it definition. Work on the details to begin to achieve your goals.
As you try to let go, start with the details of whatever ever needs to go and work your way toward the big picture in measured steps.
I learned letting go is an emotional experience.
I can pick a book off my shelf and remember the chair I sat in when I read it twenty-five years ago. I can remember how it changed me, thrilled me, confused me, and even frustrated me.
I gave away some old books that were important to me a long time ago, but I have not opened them in decades. It was time to let them go because we no longer connected with each other.
I could not give away books given to me by someone else who had written a note inside. Those books tie me to specific people. I still have a relationship there.
There are things to which we all cling in leadership and we should be honest about the emotions that tie us to those things. The desire for the acceptance from others may keep us from making hard decisions. The embrace of fond memories may keep us from changing familiar practices. The joy associated with previous success may cloud an honest reflection that the current situation requires new solutions.
As you try to let go, be honest with yourself about your emotions because they affect what you can and cannot let go.
I learned letting go takes time.
I thought I could clean out my shelves in a week, but it took months and, in many ways, I continue to tell some of my books our relationship has changed. This process never ends.
Some of the books I have sent packing were picked up three or four times before I finally could let them go. I had to say good-bye to them gradually.
Letting go of old practices, beliefs, and allegiances takes time and we should not rush it. If I were going to rewrite some of the chapters of my life, I would certainly have taken more time to make decisions and lead people in new directions. As a younger leader I rushed too many important decisions that require letting go of things important to myself and the people I served.
Discovering the goals you need to set and being honest about all the emotions attached to the changes take time so do not rush moving in the new direction. It is really okay to take your time in this.
As you try to let go, give yourself the time you need to grieve and say goodbye.
I am just cleaning out bookshelves but our lives often become crowded with many things we need to release. As a leader what you do impacts not just your own life but the lives all those whom you serve so leadership as learning to let go calls for us to be thoughtful about what needs to be left behind as we move forward into the future God calls us to find.