"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." - Mike Tyson
How does that quote make you feel? Seriously, think about it. Are you uncomfortable? Are you scared? Does it give you that feeling in the pit of your stomach?
I often hear adages spoken through a warriors' spirit. “Stand up for what you believe in; Don't take the easy way out; Dare to stand alone.” But, the moment conflict begins to stir, the room fills with silence and passive-aggressive behavior. I had an old sergeant who used to say it like this, “Everyone wants to be a Lion until it’s time to do what Lions do!” I love that, It’s time to do some lion stuff.
Why do we fear conflict? Conflict is our story. We are attracted to conflict, we want to see the protagonist triumph over the forces of evil. Without conflict, “The Perfect Storm” would just be a movie with George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg catching fish off the side of their boat. But we keep watching the movie, we wait for the storm to build, so we can see how the brave commercial fishermen go to work to save the Andrea Gail. Conflict is not something to be afraid of, nor should it be sought after, but it is a part of our story that we must be prepared for.
Do we always win? We don’t, but in our reactions, we define our character. It is our opportunity to test our mental toughness, to examine ourselves internally. It is in these moments of conflict that we gain a better understanding of our inner workings, and to find out what we are really made of. I’ll put it this way, It’s really easy to say our "would've" or "could've" while we’re sitting comfortably in hypotheticals. It’s a whole other thing to stare conflict in the eye, make those hard decisions, and keep moving forward. So it’s not about the win, it’s not about the conquest, or gaining victory over someone. It's what happens to you during the process. What did you discover about yourself during the struggle?
Conflict drives our story forward, and for us that means growth. We’ve previously talked about this on the podcast, how oftentimes it is “challenge” that invokes growth. But with a challenge, there is an invitation to take part in the process. To agree, on our own terms, to participate. Conflict, on the other hand, comes without request. Conflict thrusts itself upon you. You are at odds with someone or something and you don’t have a say whether you want in. When the moment arises, and it will, we have a choice to make: fight for what you believe in, turn and leave, or sit down and allow your principles to be eroded.
Conflict doesn't have to be epic, it can come simply as a strongly worded email, or a moment where a coworker disagrees with your approach. In every small conflict, we build our character, our identity, and our strength. Earlier this week, while sitting at my desk, I was telling my coworkers how I was unhappy with the way our operations team was handling some upcoming customer training. “They just don’t want to do any work... I feel like I have to force them to receive a purchase order… They are the sales prevention department” I had the whole side of my office cracking up. “You’re wrong you know.” I heard a voice coming from the other side of my cubicle. Say what? I couldn’t believe my ears, someone was challenging me? “Okay, tell me WHY?” I responded. I sat back in my chair, as my worker explained that the requested training was a presale function, which meant it was actually my responsibility. The laughter in the room grew quiet. I sat lower in my chair. I had no response. I had just been proven wrong, dead wrong. Was I upset? Heck yeah, I hate being wrong. But had my coworker not spoken up to challenge me, I would still be going around the office pointing the finger at the other guys. With the room full of opposition my coworker faced conflict. He chose to disagree with the norm and to make sure what he believed to be true was spoken.
So conflict is essential for our stories and, when exercised correctly, strengthens our posture in life. My hope in this writing blog was not to encourage you to go pick a fight with a coworker or friend, but to provide you with a model of how conflict can be beneficial in your life. How by participating in it you actually strengthen your beliefs and If you don’t agree with me, I challenge you to change my mind.