This weekend I had the immeasurable pleasure of watching the fifth through eighth graders of Crossings Christian School perform Disney’s The Lion King Jr. It was a fantastic musical, and the kids did a great job. Some of the vocal and acting talent, given their young ages, was stunning.
Additionally, my lovely daughter, who is a senior this year, co-directed the musical. She and two other seniors costumed, trained, choreographed, managed, corralled, and directed about 57 middle schoolers for an amazingly fun night (two nights actually).
Something that caught my attention during the performance was the warthog Pumbaa’s misquote of his meerkat friend Timon: “It’s times like this my buddy Timon here says, ‘You got to put your behind in your past.’”
Putting your past behind you.
We all need to know when to put our past behind us. We often think this mainly refers to failures or mistakes (as in Simba’s case), but it is also important for success and accomplishment.
Holding on to our past mistakes is often an excuse for not trying to overcome future obstacles. Blame and shame are often carried along with these past failures and cause us to hide from our true selves and from others. Past failures also allow self-doubt and fear to control us. Ultimately, we retreat not only from the challenges of the future, but also from the relationships of the present.
Holding on to past accomplishment is often an excuse not to change. The longer we are successful with an approach, the less likely we are to realize it is becoming ineffective. There is also fear and self-doubt with this past. Fear that we will mess up and lose what we have gained. Doubt that we are able to create something new. Ultimately, we hesitate to change, even when it is obviously needed. So we stubbornly continue to grasp what was, as what could be slips by every day.
There are two ways we can “put our behind in our past.”
One is to ignore it and hope it will go away. Simba was running from a past mistake. He tried a “hakuna matata” (“no worries”) approach. This worked well for a while. He was reasonably happy, carefree, and content. For us, the same is sometimes true. We can ignore the impact of what has happened (good or bad) and pretend it doesn’t matter or bother us. With practice, we might even believe ourselves.
However, in Simba’s case, his past soon found him, and he was forced to face it. This is where another important point comes into light. Our past—and more importantly, how we handle it—impacts other people. In Simba’s case, instead of leading, he ran away. All the animals associated with Pride Rock suffered from this choice.
In my case, I might not physically run away, but I sometimes simply fail to show up as a leader. The longer I let this go, the harder it is to correct and the more my people suffer for it.
When Simba realizes how his decision impacted his family and others, he does what he should have done first: acknowledge the reality of his past mistakes yet move confidently into the future. On the way to this resolution, he has some internal processing that needs to happen. This processing is difficult and painful, but it brings relief and resolve.
I have made a lot of significant mistakes in my life. Some of them caused the people closest to me immeasurable pain. They were costly and difficult to process. However, in some ways those are the “easy” ones because they will not be ignored. The more insidious ones are the small failures I experience each day.
An unkind word. A lack of attention. A judgment. A slight.
These are so easy to let go and ignore. Yet they impact my relationships and my leadership. They should be processed. Amends should be made. Relationships should be restored. They might be small to me, but they have significant impact.
I am much less concerned about mistakes we might make with money, or strategy, or business in general. I am more concerned that we resolve the relational mistakes we make. I am certain that if we take care of each other and love each other, the rest of it will work out.
I think that is The Kimray Way.