For the Weary Leader


You are tired. You are frustrated. You are weary. Weary of feeling as though your dreams are impossible to reach. Weary of being told you don’t fit in, won’t make the cut or don’t have what it takes to play on the team. Weary of feeling as though no one appreciates the unique gifts, talents and skills you so desperately want to share with the world around you.

Any of this sound familiar?

These are the types of thoughts that mark seasons of weariness in our lives. Weariness is the state of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion that has been around as long as work and frustration. It’s a devastating form of fatigue that threatens to undermine our dreams, kill our creativity, and diminish our impact–a destructive lethargy that insidiously worms its way into every facet of our lives.

If we are completely honest with ourselves, it’s likely each of us can think of times when the burden of weariness tugs at us. I’m speaking of those moments in which we find ourselves operating in the present without joy, face an uncertain future with little hope or are seemingly pursuing a path with no discerning purpose.

A devastating form of fatigue that threatens to undermine our dreams, kill our creativity, and diminish our impact.

Often, we label such seasons of life as storms, trials, challenges, or low points. These are the moments which test us; which stretch us; which threaten to break us; but also which build us. For some of us, we successfully manage to push back on the specter of weariness and as a result, these difficult experiences are now seen as some of our most formative experiences. That is, hindsight has provided us new eyes to see how the pain of a difficult situation transformed us in some beneficial way.

On the other hand, there are likely remnants of difficult and daunting seasons that continue to weigh on us. Instead of these memories revealing how a particular experience helped set us on a journey of discovery which has enabled us to grow closer to becoming the best possible version of ourselves, we find ourselves still harboring unresolved pain; lamenting over unresolved hurts, and fretting over unprocessed guilt. Rather than coming to understand how life’s darkest storms are often well-disguised opportunities to grow into the fullness of our potential, we have succumbed to lamenting our circumstances instead of appreciating what they can teach us. Opening the door for weariness to creep into our lives.

The danger of all this is that, instead of recognizing how experimenting, failing, falling, and starting again (only smarter), is what equips us to become better tomorrow than we may have been today, weariness convinces us to resist change. The more we resist, the more we stagnate. The more we stagnate, the greater the opportunity for the energy stealing, resentment building effects of weariness to set in and undermine the important contribution we have to make to the world.

Experimenting, failing, falling, and starting again (only smarter), is what equips us to become better tomorrow

Let me leave you with a short, true story before I close.

A writer, in his fifties, had written a manuscript for a book and sent it to several publishers without success. He grew so discouraged by their repeated rejections that in a moment of weariness, he threw the manuscript into the wastepaper basket. As his wife tried to salvage the manuscript, he told her sternly, “We’ve wasted enough time on it. I forbid you to remove it from the wastebasket!”

I think you can guess how well that went.

She decided the manuscript should be seen by at least one more publisher. When she arrived at that publisher’s office, she pulled out the most unusual looking package that the publisher had ever seen. Underneath a wrapping of brown paper was a wastepaper basket still holding the writer’s manuscript. In this way, she reasoned, she was not technically going against her husband’s wishes. She did not remove the manuscript. Instead the publisher did it for her when he pulled it from the trashcan.

Everyone at one time or another is tempted to throw in the towel. Don’t let that be you.

The publisher read the manuscript and loved it. So he sent an unexpected letter of congratulations to the author of the story, a man named Norman Vincent Peale. The manuscript Peale had tossed in the trash was The Power of Positive Thinking. The book has since sold 30 million copies.

Although it is hard to fathom that the very grandfather of the Positive Thinking Movement initially gave up on the book that launched his career, this story should remind us to be wary of falling prey to the devastating form of fatigue that threatens to undermine our dreams, kill our creativity, and diminish our impact. It also should remind us no one is immune to weariness. Everyone at one time or another is tempted to throw in the towel. Don’t let that be you. Resolve to move past your weariness. Recognize that harboring old hurts, clinging to past headaches and lamenting over disappointing heartaches will not position you to do your best work.

Commit today to not allow weariness to get the better of you. Convince yourself not to quit when frustration is high and satisfaction is low. You never know, you may be on the verge of producing your greatest work yet.

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Image credit: melpomen / 123RF Stock Photo

John is a widely recognized expert in culture, strategy & individual and organizational change. The senior-curator for, he is an accomplished unconventional leader and proven status quo buster who has successfully led several multi-billion dollar transformation efforts. His award-winning work has been featured in a wide variety of articles and journals, including the Harvard Business Review. In addition to serving our nation as an active duty General Officer in the United States Air Force, John enjoys helping people learn to walk differently in the world so they can become the best version of themselves possible. He is blessed to be married to the most patient person on the planet and together, they have two amazing sons. You are encouraged to learn more about John at his website,

  • r/ally

    That is a great story!

  • AngelaMaiers

    Powerful and very timely post! Thank you John!

  • Greg Payne

    John, this is a great message. It is getting to be that time of year when folks check their goals and can become down if they have not executed they way they wanted or if they are fighting through tough resistance. This helps to remind me to never quit – never surrender.

  • Mark Moran

    John, this is a powerful post that everyone needs to read from time-to-time.

    Nothing worth doing comes easy, and we only triumph by overcoming a long series of low moments.

    Just yesterday I read the story of a sub-elite marathoner who persevered through a rough start to this year’s NYC Marathon, only to find himself crossing the finish line arm-in-arm with his hero, a champion marathoner who had been battling injuries.

    He explained, “I had made one commitment to myself before the race, and that was
    this: stay optimistic. Too many times I have given up on my goals mid-race, only to realize afterwards they were well within my reach, had I maintained my faith.”


    Ironically, as I was reading your example, I thought it was about another quite similar tale. Vladimir Nabokov set on fire the manuscript for Lolita, his most famous work, and tossed it into the trash. His wife, Vera, who had supported his entire 66-year writing career through the ups and downs, rescued the pages one by one, stomping on them to extinguish the flames.


  • Ben Simonton

    Great article John, full of wisdom. Allow me to add.

    You wrote – ” we have succumbed to lamenting our circumstances instead of appreciating what they can teach us. Opening the door for weariness to creep into our lives.”

    How right you are. God gave us all the power of choice. The most important choice we make is what we think because as Frank Outlaw wrote – our thoughts become words, our words become actions, our actions become habits, and our habits become our character, our destiny. I like to think about six rationales for making the right choices – we have the power to do it, what is best for #1 yourself, best for #2 & 3 your spouse and kids, carrying out your responsibility to love your neighbor, the Serenity Prayer, and a sense of perspective (we are not a Tutsi in Rwanda when Hutu were killing Tutsi).

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