Endgame Leadership Lesson #1: Turning Pain into the Power to Change
Who knew that 10 years worth of backstories would finally converge in such an epic way? Thanks to the genius of Stan Lee and the creative team at Marvel, we’ve experienced the ultimate in story and character development on the big screen (with killer special effects).
Beyond the suits, armor, and capes, there are deeper lessons. First, the fact that we’d left off in the last movie with half our heroes dead. [Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the movie, think twice about reading on…] Remorse. Guilt. Depression. This is the opening of the story. Loss. Loss of friends and family. Even loss of meaning.
How often have we experienced that in life and leadership? Failure. Loss of a business. An idea stolen. The death of our dream. Or the literal death of a loved one. I’ve experienced all of them at one time or another. It sucks.
The amount of dark, or inverted energy such moments create cannot be overstated. In the words of U2, to be “stuck in a moment, and…you can’t get out of it.”
That was the plight of the remaining Avengers. Forget the fact that Tony Stark and Steve Rogers had bad blood that ran deep from a self-inflicted civil war. Set aside the dissolution setting in for Thor, realizing his entire planet no longer existed. Then try to ignore Black Widow’s plight of having no one except the Avengers as family. Half the human population was gone because they failed.
Enter hope. Her name: Captain Marvel. No surprise. She missed the first shellacking from Thanos, so didn’t have all the PTSD to deal with, that same PTSD that had sent Hulk into an emotional coma.
Captain Marvel skipped feeling sorry about it all. She had a plan. Get Thanos. And end it. Again. Of course, we know things later get complicated, and they have to consider how they’re going to alter the time-space continuum. But the point is everything started with hope.
How often do we face a major setback and suffer with it for too long? I heard from a healthcare CEO recently who had pulled a business out of the abyss of unprofitability and inefficiency. He said when he showed up as the new site manager, everyone was skeptical. Nothing was working. They were down. Down on themselves. And on the future.
His answer? Hope. He shared a vision that inspired his core team to think deeper, innovate higher, and shift the culture. They took an entire division of customer reps who had dreaded their jobs and were facing high attrition with their whole focus on efficiency (shortest phone time with customer, etc.), and turned them into ultra-engaged, powerful advocates for people with their new goal centered on meeting the needs of others. The culture shifted, as the reps now proudly wore badges that said, “I save lives”, and they were treated that way.
Sometimes we get skeptical of simple solutions. We may think the plan’s not good enough. We can refine it. We can build on it. Get the right people in the room. Fuel our focus to find answers that have never been, just like the Avengers did, so they could defeat Thanos once and for all.
In life, this means everything. I faced a moment recently, a realization that I’d largely been operating on auto-pilot, cruising across life, skimming at the top. Listening to my wife while tapping at the keyboard, assuming I was doing both well, while turning my relationship with her into a transaction. Missing the point completely. I was doing the same with my kids. It took a revelation to awake my whole self to the stark reality: that I’d gotten lost in distractions. Lost in texting, checking social media, and getting caught up in the trivial.
That one realization freed me. This often takes more momentum than we can produce alone. So I pulled together a team of family members, friends, and thought partners to co-create this powerful shift in my life. And it’s making all the difference.
It’s still early, and my personal Thanos is brutal and unrelenting. But I know that by trusting and working together with the right people, we can change it all — even if it takes avenging a past we helped create.
We can all do the same. What’s your pain? Who will you work with to turn it into the power necessary to change the world together?