The Paradox of Becoming Both Full and Empty

Abundance Contribution Purpose


Story: On a cold, misty morning in late Oct. 2017, after 11 previous attempts, Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds broke the standing speed record for climbing the Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park – with an unbelievable new time of two hours, 19 minutes, and 44 seconds. According to Wikipedia, The Nose is one of the original technical climbing routes up El Capitan. Once considered impossible to climb, El Capitan is now the standard for big-wall climbing. In 1958, it took a team more than 15 days to climb it the first time. Then, three guys who looked like a hippy rock-n-roll band, were the first to climb it in one day in 1975. Today, for the fittest of climbers, the ascent still takes two to four days. Could you imagine in 1958, telling the first group (who were treated with much fanfare for their feat), “well, 60 years from now, two guys will do it in a couple of hours.” WOW!

Key Point: I’m writing this while lying in my hammock, under the shade of a motherly maple tree. It is about 34 degrees Celsius (93 F), with a soft breeze. Emotional yum! I am feeling totally full of gratitude after wrapping up a wonderful climb of my own over the last few years, and also surprisingly empty. It’s a rather satisfying kind of “empty” though, as in: Spent, depleted, and ready to be rinsed out too. Perhaps for a refuel? Refill?

What I wonder about, drifting aimlessly during my lazy afternoon hammock swish, is what it would be like to live in a world where one billion people truly loved their work. The prevailing data is that most people hate or are ambivalent about their jobs. Could thousands of organizations adopt a common set of powerful guiding principles, and still uniquely apply them to create phenomenal organization cultures everywhere? Why not? Someone had to ask: “How can you climb El Capitan in less than 2.5 hours?” and then did it! So, I guess that’s why we need to get to empty? So we can ask ourselves what the refill or refuel could be? Right now, I’m just enjoying snoozing, dreaming and letting “wouldn’t it be cool if?” questions drift into that warm lake breeze. Hmm.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. We know that people cannot stay in the performance zone continuously. One has to intentionally rest, refuel, and perhaps even refill differently. Getting to full and empty is important. Staying at empty for too long is unhealthy. Recognize that with us humans, feeling totally full might also mean we may be close to empty. A peculiar paradox. Where are you?
  2. I’ve had this hammock for years. I’ve put it up every summer, and never once laid in it for more than 10 minutes. Now, I’m wondering why? This weekend, promise yourself you will put up a hammock or do something similar. Maybe it’s as simple as an afternoon snooze. Everything will be ok without you for 30 minutes. Refuel. Refill. Even a little. You’re worth it! You might even dream BIG!

Full and Empty in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: My initial thought is that I truly don’t know anyone who sincerely “hates” what they do for a living. But, maybe that’s me being naive. After all, it’s a common enough study, and perpetuated by mainstream music and media. In real life though, who would want to admit that? It is worth some reflection, and perhaps some refueling and refilling on a Saturday to ask yourself why what you do on Monday is truly what you want to get out of your metaphorical hammock for. It couldn’t possibly be harder to answer than climbing The Nose, and if it is, maybe that should hit you on the nose. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis