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Red Rubber Boots: Getting Unstuck

Have you ever felt stuck? Felt like a deer in the headlights, unable to move? Most of us have experienced this at some point in our lives. But how do we deal with “stuckness” as a leader?

When I was about three years old my mom used to send me out to play in the back yard in my red rubber boots. Why rubber boots? We had just moved into a newly built house that had not yet been landscaped.

One particular spring day, when the back yard was a sea of mud, I was happily squelching around in my red rubber boots when my mom called me in for lunch. I started for the house, and in my first step my foot sunk in the mud right to the top of my boot. I tried to lift my leg. No good, stuck. I tugged at the top of the boot. No good, still stuck. No matter what I tried, I was still stuck. So I stood there, helpless.

My mom stuck her head out the door, calling out to me “come inside”.

“I can’t”, I responded.

“Of course you can” she said.

“I can’t, I’m stuck”, I wailed.

“Well pull your boot out” she said

“I tried that, and I can’t get my boot out of the mud”

“So just take your foot out of the boot and come into the house”.

“I can’t.”

She looked at me, “Why not?”

“Cause I’ll get my socks dirty, and you’ll get mad at me!”

When I get stuck, I often become my three-year old self.  When I don’t know what to do, I get stuck. I try the “old faithful” solutions.  If they don’t work, I stay stuck. I follow the rules. I stay stuck.

Getting unstuck is often about just trying something, anything. Getting some momentum to pull yourself out of the mud. Sometimes getting unstuck is about breaking of your own rules. It’s about being okay with getting your socks dirty (even if mom will get mad at you).  Sometimes it is about realizing that you are stuck because you are on a muddy road and you should take the paved path. Getting stuck is a signal that something needs to change. You just need to recognize it.

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Categories: Uncategorized

1 reply »

  1. I love it when I hear you talk about “Breaking the Rules”. That’s exciting enough to get a lot of people unstuck in itself, in particular, me.
    Getting unstuck may not be about maintaining or re-initiating momentum. If the mud that is bogging you down happens to be quicksand then you may want to apply the Garfield approach to getting unstuck. You simply stop all momentum, lie down and take in your surroundings.
    With this new perspective, quiet contemplation and willingness to just look and listen a Garfield, or even McGyver, solution usually becomes apparent.
    Bottom line is that you are right, it is a signal for change.

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