Layla Land

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I sat across a large conference table as the clock struck a quarter past eight. A mild scent of freshly brewed coffee lingered in the air as the machine gurgled in the hallway, slowly bringing the small office to life.

I held my gaze at the instructor, listening intently to each word as he spoke. He had an easy way about him and an Irish accent that made his wise words sound even wiser.

“I often find when we are struggling to be comfortable with the process, that perhaps what lies underneath is a lack of trust. And when we find that we are unable to trust, it is worth inquiring of ourselves, ‘why?'”

We were meeting for a one-on-one coaching session regarding the program methodology I was there to learn, and I had just shared with him where I saw my skill-set to be weak and where I felt it was strong.

He was referring, of course, to the process we were studying, yet I had a sneaking suspicion his words were speaking to my life on a deeper level, without him even knowing it.

Trust.

Perhaps it was a lack of that five letter word that had me wound so tightly, grasping for some sense of control in a process that felt unnatural and uncomfortable. I could see it surfacing in the classroom for sure; but as his words replayed in my mind, I was beginning to see that in many ways it was seeping out beyond those four whitewashed walls as well.


I stood up to throw my lunch plate in the trash, and looked up at the clock for a time check. The small hand rested contently at 1; the large hand just ticking over the 12.

One.

Looking at the small number on the clock, my mind drifted off to that place teachers love to hate: La La Land. Or perhaps I should say, Layla Land. (Layla is Big Fisch’s name for me; in many ways my alter ego).

Ones were circling around in my mind.

One year of life at Harvard Business School completed; one year left.

Time was flying. Especially this lunch break.

One year had brought so much change; change which I had wanted to delay and resist. But it had come anyway, as I knew it would, and not only had I survived it, but I had begun to accept it as my new norm.

I sat a little taller, still engrossed in my train of thought.

“Five more minutes, and then we’ll continue on with our learning!” The instructor hollered from the hallway.

Learnings. One year had contained so. much. learning. Lessons of life; myself; others. It was nonstop.

A quiet laugh escaped from my mouth as I thought about how I had deliberately come that week, on my own accord, to learn yet another something new. Was I crazy?

Maybe.

But my soul stirred within me, telling me I was absorbing something I really needed to understand, and it reeled me in.

I had been feeling this stirring of my soul frequently for the greater portion of one year now; but was it in fact soul-driven, or was it just my uneasy gut jostled around by so much change?

Sure, in one year I had waved my flag of  surrender at change, but… had I trusted it?

It’s one thing to accept, but it’s another to trust. The former enables one to simply continue to exist; the latter enables one to flourish.

Trust the process. His words rang in my mind again.

Was I allowing myself to flourish?


Earlier that morning, his counsel to me had continued. “The middle of the process is where the real work happens. We will not be successful at reaching our desired outcome, if we are unwilling to give the process the due diligence it deserves.”

He had done it again; spoken deeper into my life then he knew. I nodded along as the familiar concept settled on me in a new way.

At the beginning of my training, I wasn’t convinced each step in the process was fully necessary. I was prepared to tell him what he wanted to hear and pretend to agree, all the while planning to pick and choose the parts I wanted, accomplishing the same end goal in my own way.

But he had proven to me I was wrong, and it showed in my inability to reach the intended outcome.

Following his previous advice, I inquired of myself as to why this was, and it dawned on me that the process required me to relinquish more control than I was comfortable with. How did I know it would work as I needed it to? How did I know it would prevent failure and anguish?

Wasn’t it safer if I set the rules?

In the context of the classroom, these underlying emotions felt a bit dramatic. But it wasn’t really just about the classroom, was it? I was seeing this pattern weaved throughout my own life.

As soon as the thought passed through my mind, it was like I could hear him asking me, “and how is that working out for you?”

Ahh. I squirmed in my own seat. Not so well, if I was honest. Not so well.

“You mentioned yesterday that your faith is very important to you, correct?” he inquired.

“Yes”, I nodded, surprised he had remembered.

“So then think of it this way; the process has been designed by a designer who sees the bigger picture and knows where you need to get, to reach the intended outcome. Your role becomes navigating through the process, trusting the design; knowing that all is as it should be; even when it feels uncomfortable. And it is happening for your own good, to equip you for the next step. Perhaps this resonates with you?”

Perhaps? I smirked. “Yes it does.”

Had someone slipped him a note beforehand, letting him know I was skeptical of just about everything as of late? 

“The more you practice trusting the process, the more natural it will become.”

His words fell gently on me, sinking deeper into my conscious as the day went on. In some brilliant way, he had taught me in a new light how flourishing does not necessarily mean one has arrived at a state where all discomfort and unfamiliarity and risk and anguish has been eliminated.

Rather, some might argue that the presence of hardship or discomfort is an indicator that we are drawing closer to our end goal; that we are in the midst of the “real work”, sorting out what must be sorted.

We cannot skip over critical parts of the process, try as we may. Picking and choosing our hardships are rarely within our control, but trusting is.

The clock ticked passed 8:30am, and our coaching session came to a close. He gathered his papers and before he walked out into the hall, he paused and looked back once more.

“One more thing.”

“Yes?” I looked up in anticipation.

The calming smile returned to his face and with a wink he said “you will be just fine.”


1:10 pm

“Alright everyone! Break is over. Please return to your seats and flip to section 3-10 in your workbooks.”

I snapped back from Layla Land as he spread out bright, colorful markers and blank flip charts across our desks.

“Let’s have a little fun while we’re at it, shall we?”

Yes. I smiled inwardly. Fun while we’re at it. It sounded like a great plan to me.

 

 

– Tiny Fisch