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Know When to Let Go

Greek mythology relates the sad tale of Sisyphus, King of Corinth. Due to his insane pride, Sisyphus is tasked with rolling a giant boulder up a huge hill again and again. Right when he reaches the hills peak, the boulder slips from his grap, and he is forced to repeat the process for the rest of eternity.

How frustrating! Your at the cusp of completion, only to see success literally slip out of your grasp again and again.

In the real world you probably will never have to roll a giant boulder up a huge hill repeatedly.

But we all have our Sisyphus moments.

The mother demanding that her child give up all sweets only to find a secret stash of candy in the child’s bedroom.

The boss demanding that staff stay an extra hour after work until the project is complete only to find staff less focused overall.

At times, we become attached to a specific outcome.

Attachment can blind us to all the different possibilities open to us. Rarely is there ever only one way to complete a project. And rarely does life go according to plan. But if we cannot let go of our insane expectations, we cannot clearly see the path in front of us.

You have to learn when it’s time to adjust your plans and when to let go.

In 2002, Marine Corps Officer Paul Van Riper was given a special assignment to lead the red team in an epic wargame called Millennium Challenge. The wargame pitted two opposing teams with opposite beliefs against each other.

Van Riper (red team) believed that war was essentially asymmetrical. One could not know clearly what the other side planned. Instead, he trusted his team to make quick innovative decisions in real time. He gave blanket commands but allowed his officers to adapt in real time.

In essence, he let go of the reigns and allowed his team to follow blanket goals without giving too much direction that would choke innovation.

The blue team believed in a pragmatic approach.

With the help of advanced satellite technology and supercomputers they believed that they could accurately predict when and where the enemy would strike. By taking down microwave towers and cutting fiber optics, the blue team thought that the red team would have to use satellite and cell phones to communicate.

Van Riper did not do what the blue team expected him to. Long story short, the blue team got destroyed.

They directed their entire naval fleet to the red team's base and gave Van Riper an ultimatum to surrender. Van Riper’s team struck first, and with the element of surprise launched missiles from all sides. Five of the six blue team boats sunk.

In life when you think you can control every outcome through carefully weighing every option, you often run out of time.

This is not to say you should not prepare. But in your preparation you should be open to the possibilities. Things will not always turn out the way you want them to.

But if you practice enough you can train your mind to make quick decisions in the moment.

This can only happen when you learn to see the world as it is and loosen your grip on a specific outcome.


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