The Tough Choices

When it comes to life lessons, the hardest are often the most valuable. I had two conversations yesterday that reminded me of one such lesson I learned years ago and I am pleased to share it with you today.

The principle around which this lesson centers is simple and well-known, but not often heeded: cut your losses. Odds are in life that you will not win every hand. Those who play to win every hand often find themselves sacrificing integrity for expediency or foregoing caution out of ego. They have to win every time and they’ll do whatever it takes to get there.

I know an old card player who advocates the previously described approach. He once told me that if you play to win every hand in cards, you’ll eventually get yourself into trouble. His observation that knowing when to fold was just as important in the long-term as knowing when to hold, and at there was no shame in saying “I’ve done what I can here, any further would be foolish”, provided of course that you have honestly given it your all.

Some hands aren’t worth winning. Some people, for instance, prove themselves unworthy of your generosity over time. To pour good money, time or energy after bad after that line has been crossed is a sign of inefficient management if not poor judgment. As uncomfortable as it may be, when the line is crossed, you must seriously consider severing the connection to prevent further abuse or collateral damage.

Nobody respects a weak leader. If your are weak and in a position of leadership, people will walk all over you in most cases. To be respected, a leader must set the bar, define what is acceptable and what is not and stick to his guns when the going gets tough. Allow too much in the way of abuse of the standards you’ve set and your position as a leader will erode quickly.

This can, of course, be done lovingly, without fear, anger or disrespect. You can be tough without being a jerk, dedicated to an ideal without being a zealot and uncompromising without losing your centering and self-control. It takes work to get to that place, but love has two sides to it in the sense that it can both attract and repel.

Love attracts that which is consistent with its nature and repels that which is in opposition to it. Love is not always warm and fuzzy. Love may manifest as a stern warning, a sharp reprimand or a forceful expulsion, provided of course that you do not lose your centering in love in the process.

7 thoughts on “The Tough Choices

  1. Coco

    Love is often confused with sympathy and enabling. Wanting to help others is a noble motivation but understanding that making it easier to keep the bar low has nothing to do with love. Tough love only became a popular juxtaposition to love because of the lack of understanding about the truth of love. Thanks for a clear look into this usually clouded subject.


  2. Vincent

    What you describe here is a crucial skill that comes more easily to some than to others. It is especially important to note the difference between weakness and kindness. Why would one continue to pour resources and time into someone or some project where there is no real pushback? There can be lots of strange reasons for an unwillingness to fold strategicaliy that are just ego coated with artificial sweetener!


  3. Steve Ventola

    Thanks you for sounding the word of love. It is good to see what is not working and cut losses accordingly. It does open the way for coming into union with the nature of love.


  4. Kolya

    This is excellent advise. To continue putting your efforts into a losing proposition is a waste – whether it be a relationship, friend, project or business endeavor.


  5. Teryl Worster

    Thanks so much for a great post reminding me of the principles of love and leadership. This is very relevant to me in my world as I look to create a positive and productive work environment. It is my responsibility ultimately to make the decisions that will allow this to occur and being centered in love will take the guess work out of it as the principles naturally create the changes needed.


  6. I find that the problem within my own self, is my ego, I need to think that I am better than I am, that I am doing more than I am, rationalizing behaviors that were wrong. When a correction is given, it is stinging to the pride and our idea of our own selves. But if I can step back, stopping to look openly at the experience, and with some special people the love that was behind their correction of my behavior, I know that I can grow and change, moving slowly closer to the person that I was always meant to truly be. All of us know right actions from wrong ones, and the choices are always given to each of us, we only need to learn the delight that comes with integrity and honest deeds.


  7. Colin

    It always amazes me when people think that love equates with weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Love is a position of strength. People think love is weak because they vacillate between the hard choices that live sometimes demands and being sympathetic. Doing that leaves you wide open for the unscrupulous to take advantage. Always look to how you can help people in their progress, etc., and give them the chances they deserve, but don’t let someone (including yourself) off the hook just because the path of love is uncomfortable. It often is that way, but it is always the right way.


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