Find the Acceptance in a Holiday Butt Kick

Tis the season for a kick in the butt?!? Well, not exactly. Truly valuable leadership lessons can happen anytime. It’s what you take away from it that makes you feel like either a frosty and resentful boss or a happy and courageous leader. The key to the latter is the measure of acceptance you find within yourself.

The leader who gets too cozy with their inflated ego, who loses sight of the actual PEOPLE behind their PEOPLE, are the ones who will feel the inevitable thwack. That kick means that they’re off their game, their leadership is called into question, and that they’re on the ropes. The embarrassment and humiliation cut deep. After all, it’s probably been a long while since someone made them feel right-sized. Consequently, the event is initially painful. The end result is that good and rewarding things can grow out of the pain. But, bear in mind, the growth is contingent upon the acceptance.

Here are five tips that will help you choose acceptance over rejection:

  1. Answer the holy question. Here are the four most important words in the English language: What do you want? Think of your answer in lifelong terms. What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of ideals do you want to stand for? What kind of mark do you want to leave on the world? When you see your butt kicks as events that can actually move you closer to your desires, do they become less threatening?
  2. Be courageous. Initially, you feel raw and vulnerable. It takes courage to allow yourself to feel these feelings. Courage isn’t found in comfort.
  3. Control what you can. We don’t get to choose, for example, the timing of the kick, who delivers it, or how much it hurts. But we get to manage how we react. Acceptance is easier when you have some semblance, however small, of control.
  4. Reduce judgment, increase honesty. When your butt kick comes, don’t waste time obsessing about all the ways you’ve let yourself down. Instead, get out a piece of paper and list all the ways you may have contributed. Be rigorously honest. Identify the lessons you’ll carry forward to prevent similar instances in the future.
  5. Surrender. Nearly all of life’s greatest lessons come down to these two words: let go. Only by releasing your tight grip on how you wanted things to be can you fully accept things as they are. Let go of the condition that existed so you can grab hold of the better leader you can be.

To be sure, the butt kick doesn’t feel good in the moment regardless of when it takes place. It’s not supposed to. It’s meant to jar you awake and refocus your priorities. Once you weather the punt gracefully, you’ll possess the seasonal gifts of acceptance and humility and that is worth the temporary discomfort. Now go forth, make merry, and be good to the people you’re fortunate enough to lead!

About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is the author of The Leadership Killer, Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance, which he co-wrote with Captain John “Coach” Havlik, Navy SEAL (Retired). For the last two decades, Treasurer has worked with thousands of leader across the globe, at such organizations as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, UBS Bank, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more at:

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