In “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” there is a scene where King Arthur and several knights must cross over the “Bridge of Death” to continue their quest.
The bridge is guarded by an elderly gentleman (inside info – “the old man from scene 24”), who queries each member of the party as they approach:
“Stop. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.”
Those who answer the three questions correctly cross over and continue their quest. Those who fail are ejected into the seemingly bottomless pit underneath the bridge.
This Sunday we “cross the bridge” into a New Year. Usually accompanied by much fanfare as we “ring out the old” and “ring in the new.”
This process symbolizes leaving behind the past, and wiping the slate clean with renewed energy and anticipation for the year of promise that lies ahead.
The proverbial “New Year’s Resolutions” often accompany this process.
As leaders, most would agree that both our character and our competence are important.
Our character – our inner self – represents the “human being.” To lead authentically, we have to lead from the strength of who we are inside.
Our competence – our skills and abilities – represents the “human doing.” Those are the things we do well and practice as a daily part of our leadership.
Many times, I think, when we consider resolutions for the year ahead, we place more emphasis on the “human doing” side of the equation.
Why? It’s easier.
“Doing” can easily be measured or put into a metric. You complete a class, you improve your numbers, you read a certain amount of books, etc. Done – check it off the list.
On the other hand, “human being” objectives are squishy and harder to quantify.
Although more elusive, “being” is just as important, and the two are inextricably linked.
Having great character but no skills renders you ineffective in practice. Having great skills but no character makes you a shell of a person and a machine of sorts, susceptible to breakdown and not compelling for people to follow over the long run.
As 2023 approaches, I’m going to ask you to allow me to be the bridge keeper, and to “answer me these questions three.”
All three are “being” questions. All three deserve serious thought. In fact, they may be the most important questions of your life, not just the year ahead.
First – Who are you? The question of identity.
Second – What are you worth? The question of significance.
Third — Why do you exist? The question of purpose.
Approximately 80% of people, when asked to answer the third question about their life’s purpose, do not have a ready answer.
More and more of my time as a leader and coach is being spent on helping people anwer these questions.
If we could collectively move the needle from 20% who have a clear sense of purpose to 30%, just think about the amazing difference that would make in all walks of life.
Happy New Year.