Why You Sometimes Need to Let Others Hold You Back

Sometimes, if you want to change the world (or even just an organization), you have to let others hold you back.

Wait a minute, Matt? Aren’t I supposed to be a hard-charging, take no prisoners, chase after my dreams, world changer? Yes, but sometimes you need to let others hold you back…

From your own overeagerness. From your blindness to potential problems. From your own stupidity.

Let Others Hold You Back

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Last weekend, my wife Tara and I completed our second Fort4Fitness half-marathon.

For most of the race, it looked like this:

Matt and Tara McWilliams Running Fort4Fitness

Tara, running comfortably in front of me. Me, lagging behind with a grimace on my face.

The reality is that she could have smoked me. She could have run a good ten to fifteen minutes faster than me. And yet she waited…and waited…and waited, often looking over her shoulder to see me dragging behind.

But we both finished. Together.

Matt and Tara McWilliams Running Half Marathon

Without her waiting, we would have never enjoyed that experience together. Without her letting me hold her back, we would have never shared that joyous moment of crossing the finish line.

And I certainly would not have looked like this as we ran the outfield fence at the baseball stadium here in front of hundreds of cheering fans from our church.

Matt and Tara McWilliams Running Race

Waiting on others to keep up

When I first led a team of others ten years ago, I found myself constantly waiting on them to keep up.

At the time, I was an egotistical leader who thought that I was faster than everyone else.

I wanted to move fast. Check off items. Get things done. Shoot first, apologize later (or maybe not on the apologize part).

I was outpacing my team. I was outpacing my fellow leaders. I was getting ahead of even myself. And it always led to one of three problems.

The 3 negative results of moving too fast

1. No one is with you and you go it alone.

Ah, yes, the rugged individualist who ignores his naysayers, goes it alone, and saves the world. Like Batman…oh, that’s right, he had Robin.

When you move too fast and don’t let others hold you back, you will find yourself tackling big problems with a small army…of one. You will have no support group, no one to delegate to, and no one cheering you on.

It’s a lonely place that often leads to problem #2.

2. You get bored by yourself and give up.

Sure, at first, the prospect of saving the world alone is exciting. You are gung-ho as can be.

Who needs cheerleaders and who needs someone to share the responsibilities when you have your kind of energy, focus, and determination?

But then you hit the wall. That moment when you are no longer checking off items from your list. That day or week or month when it seems you make no progress. That task that you hate and really wish you had someone else to delegate it to (usually involving spreadsheets or PowerPoint).

So you get bored and quit.

If only you’d had someone to journey with, help you, and cheer you on.

3. You actually succeed…and have no one to celebrate with.

Sometimes, however, you actually will succeed. Sans cheerleader. Doing it all yourself. You even get through the parts you hate.

Now it’s time for high fives…oh wait. Pop open the bubbly and share it with…that’s right, no one is with you.

Even though you’ve succeeded, you’ve alienated and abandoned everyone else. Not only do you have no one to celebrate with now, you have no one with which to tackle the next project.

Eventually you will fall victim to problem #2. You will eventually get bored and quit. And you will still be all alone.

The real problem

Ten years ago I saw my rugged individualism as a plus. I thought my “screw the world, I’ll do it myself, stop holding me back attitude” was a positive.

By gosh, I was going to change the world and no one could stop me.

Even ten weeks ago, I felt the same way. As I’ve talked about many times on my podcast, I wanted to launch the podcast in July. Tara said that was too soon (and she was right…I needed at least two more months). I promptly through a fit, declaring that she never wanted me to be happy or do anything great. She was just holding me back! (You can send my Husband of the Year award to….)

I saw my attitude as a positive. I saw it as me sticking to my guns, standing up for what is right, and marching for truth, justice, and the American Way.

But what it really boils down is two words:

Impatience

Selfishness

Wow, it sure is fun to think of myself as impatient and selfish. But it’s true. When I leave others behind and don’t allow them to hold me back when necessary, I am proving those two things to be true.

How to let others hold you back

So, how do you fix this behavior? How do you let others hold you back and when is it right to do so?

It starts with the right mindset. You must acknowledge that most of the time when others lag behind you or are reluctant to jump on board with your plan right away, it means you need to slow down.

You are surrounded by others for a reason. Often that reason is to give you valuable insight that you can’t see otherwise. This is true of a marriage, with friends, and even at work.

when-your-team-says-you-suck-small

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Here are three reasons why others might hold you back:

1. It’s a bad idea.

2. It’s a good idea, but the wrong time.

3. It’s a good idea, but it’s missing an ingredient that you must wait on.

When someone is holding you back, slowing you down, or reluctant to jump on board, you must:

1. Stop.

Withhold your first emotion. Don’t say anything in response to the other person(s).

2. Think.

Consider the three reasons listed above. Is it perhaps a bad idea? Is it perhaps the wrong time? Is there something missing from the idea?

3. Ask. 

Ask why they are reluctant or unwilling to support you.

4. Repeat 1-3.

Again, withhold your first emotions. Consider their answer. Ask followup questions.

5. Find.

Find some common ground you can agree on. Perhaps you agree on the idea itself but not the timing. You can work from there. Or perhaps you now agree that it’s a great idea but you need to enlist the help of someone else, who isn’t available right away. Find the common ground and work from there.

When you work together as a team you find much more joy.

Like my wife and I crossing that finish line holding hands, our successes are much more fun when achieved together.

Our failures are less devastating when we have others to lift us up.

And sometimes we even find that by letting others hold us back, we arrive at a better place.

Question: Is there something you need to be held back on? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • I can get too emotional and rush ahead too quickly before thinking it through or consulting God. Thankfully my spouse is more level headed than me.

  • Great lesson Matt. Thanks for being so open and honest about the struggle to let others hold you back. I’ve seen this played out in business (and in a run like you mentioned).