I have a colleague who was watching with dismay some of the changes happening at her former place of employment. Decisions were being made that were in contrast with the direction she would have chosen and it was painful to her to think about the implications without being able to influence them.

“It’s not your circus, not your monkeys,” I said, quoting a popular meme.

“Yes,” she replied. “But I put up the tent.”

It is challenging to want to control things over which we have no control, and futile to waste energy trying to do so. As I wrote about on Friday, our impact and legacy live on far beyond our tenure in an organization. But our emotional attachment needs to remain in the past, not in the present.

“It is very difficult, if not impossible, to relinquish and attach at the same time,” wrote Erin Hilderbrand. They are wise words to live by.

Let yourself walk away from the old circus and focus your gifts on raising a new big top. Because you pitched the last tent well, the show will go on – without you – and your new monkeys need all you have to give.

Source: Summer People, by Erin Hilderbrand, 2010, p. 113.


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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