Freedom of Forgiveness

Abundance Personal leadership Resilience


Key Point: I read Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken just after the hardcover was released and was mesmerized by the real-life tale of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini. The account of his horrendous experience as a U.S. airman and prisoner of war during World War II was a jaw-dropping read. Over the holidays, the story was released as Angelina Jolie’s movie of the same name, and Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell) displays acts of astonishing resilience that keeps him alive in the face of the savagery of man’s most feared adversity… Other men. (Although, sharks do compete for air time). It’s an incredibly inspirational story.

What’s most unique about the Zamperini story is a theme not often found in similar stories: Forgiveness. For those of you who have not read the book or seen the movie, I won’t give away spoilers so you might fully enjoy reading or watching the journey to forgiveness unfold. 

According to a blog in Big Think by Robert Montenegro, A new short film directed by Oscar-winner Ross Kauffman and released by the John Templeton foundation delves into how forgiving his past oppressors helped save Zamperini’s life. Unbroken: The Power of Forgiveness features interviews with several of Zamperini’s family members who muse on the late vet’s post-war rebirth. The film strives to convey the power and strength afforded to those who forgive their enemies. The following image shows up at the end of the 6-minute film.” 

What I find remarkable is that some people like Zamperini find their way to look beyond the most atrocious barbarism and understand that being forgiving and generous of spirit, truly sets one free. And I find the opposite amazing as well; some people carry around grudges and all the associated burden, even for the most comparatively trivial reasons. 

This “I’ll get you back” thinking is naturally resident in the workplace and is such a waste for all involved. Unlike what Zamperini experienced, most people do not willfully intend to hurt others in every day situations. Still, we do so for all kinds of reasons, because we are so ridiculously human and incapable of perfectly navigating a relationship with ourselves AND others. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Recognize that forgiveness of others is something you and I are most deserving and worthy of. Carrying around and/or acting on revenge, while dramatically appealing in many award winning TV shows like House of Cards, Suits, Sons of Anarchy, etc, is just that… TV… It’s fake. In real life, it’s relentlessly painful and a source of chronic grief. It is not a gratifying release at all. Awards are not given out for hateful revenge in real life. Tons of research (notwithstanding centuries of spiritual wisdom) bears this out. Forgiveness may not garner “awards” either, but it quietly helps us feel better.
  1. Empathy involves recognizing that the hurtful acts of others often come from their own complicated shortcomings. This is not to say that such behavior is right or just. Of course it’s not. I’m also not suggesting that we accept abuse. And I know that inflicted hurt is a long and complex continuum. Ideally, we can avoid being around those that repeatedly cause us pain. But why add to it by rubbing salt into our own wounds? Forgive… Heal. If Zamperini could, well maybe we can too? 

Forgiveness in The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: So Zamperini can forgive the atrocities committed against him as a prisoner of war in WWII, but you can’t even look at “Cheryl in accounting” because she beat you out for that promotion? See. Petty, right? I like putting these issues in perspective, because I think as a millennial, 99 percent of us can’t even fathom Zamperini’s experience. But it seems we have developed a new, evolved rule regarding “forgiveness.” Since very very few things are “Zamperini Bad” anymore,  it’s just unappealling to be “that person” that won’t let something go, or won’t forgive. These people are the dwellers, the self-righteous victims, and the person unable to recognize a different solution or path to success… That attitude looks ugly on everyone. (I’m clearly talking about when someone steals your stapler or writes you a “harsh toned email,” not serious/criminal situations). Your path for personal success is out there, but unlike your newly leased car, it doesn’t necessarily have a colorful touchscreen GPS display to help you find it. That’s ok. But revenge can drive you in the wrong direction. 

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Your Call! Super Bowl XLIX and Leadership

Accountability Resilience Teamwork


Key Point: Perhaps the most painful leadership lesson is this: When your team doesn’t win, when mistakes are made, when you make a call and it doesn’t turn out, there is only one person to accept responsibility for the outcome… YOU. I’m not talking about wasteful self-blame and flagellation. I’m talking about authentically, and thoughtfully accepting responsibility for a bad outcome.

If you were one of several hundred million people watching a phenomenal Super Bowl classic this past Sunday, Feb. 1, you witnessed the Seattle Seahawks throwing an interception in the New England Patriots‘ end zone, with less than a minute remaining in the game. Seattle seemed poised to win. They had the field position, players to get the ball in the end zone, and a plan to do so. But they didn’t execute. Credit must also go to Patriot Malcolm Butler who made the great interception.

Accountability has to be taken for a questionable play call and poor execution by the Seahawks. And the leadership lesson is this: However frustrated and heart broken Seattle was, Head Coach Pete Carroll did what he must do… Take full responsibility for the outcome. Yes, players play the game and coaches are not on the field to execute. Yet, it’s the coaches, ending with the head coach, that set the game plan and call most plays; as they did on this occasion.

Listen to Carroll’s explanation here:

He could have said things like, “we executed poorly, the offensive coordinator called that play, the quarterback should have called time out or should have thrown the ball where it couldn’t have been intercepted,”or a bunch of other things to deflect. He didn’t. He shouldn’t. Great leaders simply, “own it.”

Character Moves:

  1. When your team succeeds, let them bask in the limelight. The focus should be on them.
  1. When things go wrong, have the integrity and courage to take full authentic (not phony) accountability.
  1. Remember those moments of failure, especially when accompanied by feelings of despair, often become pinpoints of remarkable learning. Our response to loss defines our ability to persevere, improve, grow, and regenerate. Pete Carroll was fired twice early in his career. That learning led him to championship wins in both the college and pro levels. This will likely be a time to reset and gain even more personal leadership learning. 
  1. Losing also helps us reconnect with humility. We need to be confident. And yet, when we’re winning, we need to be humble enough to know that a loss is one poor decision, or someone else’s “great play” away from our failure. Stay humble. Take calculated risks. But never assume it’s always going to be a win. 
  1. Remind ourselves that one way to know we are fully alive is to passionately “play the game.” This includes sometimes taking a chance or making a decision that ends badly. The only thing horribly worse is standing on the sideline wishing and watching.

Owning the call in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Yeah, this one hurt. A lot. As a Seahawk’s fan, along with millions of other 12’s, everyone seemed to have the answer as to how NOT to mess this game up. Twitter exploded, begging time to be reversed and for the team to simply “run the ball.” Carroll’s explanation is as honest and blunt as they come. He’s spot on, as if saying, “well! Sometime’s $#*t happens.” Even with the best of intentions, things can turn into a nightmare situation in less than five seconds. Most true Seahawk fans on social media that I’ve seen, despite their frustration, understand this… Just as fans wish Malcolm Butler didn’t make that phenomenal catch (interception) to win the game, it’s our job as Hawk fans not to get too caught up on the defeat. They’ll be back.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis