The 5 Ls of Life: Knowing When It’s Time to Leave
If you look back at the course of your life so far, how many unexpected twists and turns were there? How many roles, opportunities, and relationships presented themselves, developed, matured, became other things, and led to new things? If you're like most people, and most people are, you can relate. You're probably mentally replaying a lot of those situations you experienced in your own life right now.
With that high-level view of life in mind, what I want to look at today is when to know or realize when it's time for a new challenge, chapter, season, endeavor, or what-have-you in life.
In my November 2020 blog, I talked about love, laughter, labor, leisure, and leave — otherwise known as the 5 Ls of a balanced life. As chance would have it, my old college rowing buddy, Sal LaGreca, is the author of the soon-to-be-released book: The 5Ls — The Gift of a Balanced Life.
Sal is the co-founder of Unparalleled Performance, a training and leadership development company that addresses employee engagement issues. He attended a Harvard Executive Business gathering wherein the world's top business leaders discussed the definition of success. This meeting inspired Sal to write his book, a straightforward, science-supported look at how anyone can achieve and sustain an ideal work-life balance.
Of course, I'm going to plug his book and recommend you read it, not because he's my friend, but because the 5Ls is an excellent source of real-world tools, not just high-minded theory, to succeed in these five key elements of life. Sal's strategies have helped countless people through difficult and stressful times by empowering them to attain and sustain their mental well-being.
Every beginning has an end, and that's the L we're going to look at today — leave. Prepare your mind by thinking about the last time you decided to leave something that had significance in your life.
In early May, I decided to let go of something that had been an essential part of my life for many years — rowing. As many people know, rowing (sometimes called crew) has been instrumental in my personal and professional development and began during my freshman year at St. John's University in Queens, NY.
One day, I was working out on the track, and I noticed a group of guys running the stadium steps while an old-school coach yelled at and berated them. I couldn't help but notice and stared just long enough for him to see me and call out, "Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to man up and join them?!"
I decided to join since it was clear they were getting a better workout together than I was alone.
I soon learned he was the rowing coach, and we made a deal that he would have me in shape for track tryouts if I worked out with the team. At the time, my only knowledge of the sport was the two-second video clip played during the introduction to ABC's Wide World of Sports T.V. show.
From the first time I got in a rowing shell, it felt natural. I never looked back. Not only was rowing and its forward trajectory becoming the metaphor for my life, but it also changed the trajectory of my life. I met many people, doors opened, and opportunities became available. Among the most valuable is my lifelong friendship with Sal LeGreca.
Because St. John's rented space at the New York Athletic Club's boathouse (www.nyac.org) and we often trained there, the head coach of the NYAC noticed my rowing and invited me to train and compete for them. It was there that I received the coaching that propelled me to become a four-time member of the U.S. National Rowing Team and compete in four World Championships. I won many National Championships in eights and fours (eight guys in a racing shell; four guys in a racing shell). One memorable year, I was even honored by the NYAC as the Outstanding Elite Crew Oarsman.
Like I had discovered at St. John's, it wasn't just the NYAC coaching that was beneficial, it was what became available to me by participating in the sport in that environment. While training and competing, I developed friendships with other rowers who had previous international experiences, such as the great musician Frank Pisani, who trained and competed with me in three World Championships. He and others taught me how to win at the National and International levels. Back to May 2021. I was training to compete in this year's U.S. Rowing Masters National Championships in Oak Ridge, TN. Now, I take racing seriously. I am known as someone who shows up on race day, ready to compete at the highest level. I know the time, discipline, dedication, perseverance, and teamwork it takes to accomplish this, and I know how to align it all so that it works.
I also knew that I was done racing and that this would be my last competition.
I'm proud to say that I raced in six races and won two gold, two silver, and two bronze medals. One gold medal was with my training and racing partner of three years, Ken Gates. I'm attaching some pictures from the various races. If you are interested in learning about the sport, I highly recommend checking out the book The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. In my opinion, it's the best book ever written about the subject.
Now for the moral of the story.
You're probably wondering how I knew it was time to leave racing. What was the thought process and, perhaps more significant, the feelings that led me to that realization? Well, I had spent the past 12 years as the only parent to my three sons. My youngest is in his last year of college, so I will soon be a full-time empty nester. While I will always be a parent, it's my time to put my needs closer to the front and create a better life balance.
One of my burning desires is to travel, including adventure travel. In fact, I had plans to spend a week cycling in Croatia this month, but I found out shortly before the Master's National Championships that I had malignant cells in my thyroid. So, instead of cycling in Croatia, I had half my thyroid removed on September 13. Fortunately, the recovery from this surgery is quick, and I am now looking forward to replacing my identity as an athlete with simply being athletic.
Do you have something in life that you've lost passion for and have been considering leaving behind? There's a natural ebb and flow to our interests, but if you're getting deep-down inklings that it might be time for a new season in life — and you know if you are — I encourage you to be honest with yourself about it and be open to the excitement of exploring new opportunities.
And sometimes, it's not a matter of losing passion, it's just the realization that we've gone as far as we can go. This is common in business and can be a sign that you might be ready to give back and take on the role of a coach or mentor. Or that it's just time to take on the next challenge.
If you've noticed that your vision has changed, or it's no longer in sync with the organization you're with, or if you feel like you no longer fit, or styles have changed, or perhaps you're just honestly more interested in what's happening somewhere else — have these feelings. Embrace them. Use them to figure out what's next for you.
And, frankly, this is another reason it's so important to have coaches in life. Have you ever noticed that it's easy to be conflicted in your own mind when weighing options in a decision, but if you ask a trusted friend for advice, they have a knack for cutting through the fat and looking at the situation with a lot more clarity? Seek out the advice, counsel, and wisdom from your coaches.
If you don't have those people in your life, or maybe you like what you read here and are interested in gaining some insight from me about what's in front of you in life, reach out. Let's set up a video meeting to talk about what's going on with you and work on untying the knots so you can move forward.