When was the last time you had to give up something valuable to gain something else?
Yesterday, I had one of those super proud parenting moments. Our nine year old and oldest son had to go in for a tooth removal. He had a baby tooth come in crooked and it was pressing against a permanent tooth, not really uncommon for kids. However, because this baby tooth was pressed against another, the adult tooth underneath couldn't push it out. Our dentist made the call two weeks ago during a normal cleaning, "That sucker has to come out," he said to me as the apparent adult in charge.
When your kid gets their first tooth everyone celebrates. It's nothing but high fives and grins as each tooth comes in. This kid is one step closer to being self sufficient. You and I have had similar experiences when we started something new - like a job, or a business, or a relationship. In the beginning, when things are new there's only growth and there's a lot of happiness supported by this growth.
On the car ride to the dentist there were the expected questions, "Is this going to hurt? Are there going to be needles? Will I feel anything?" These were all good questions by a nine year old. I've never had a tooth removed so I didn't have the answers he wanted. But I did say, "Buddy, I trust our dentist and he said for the new stuff to grow right, the old stuff has to go. You're going to have to trust the dentist and be brave, which I know you can do."
Can you believe that? The once prized growth was now obstructing the growth of something better, something more healthy.
We walked to the chair area of the dentist office and my son made a quick stop to the restroom. I asked the nurse since he was away, "Is he going to feel anything?"
She said, "He's going to feel the popping of the tooth before it comes out."
I said, "Oh."
She said, "Make sure you're sitting down in case you're watching and feel like you're going to pass out."
Things just got real.
But then I watched my son stroll over to this chair, lay back, and open his mouth. Not a tear. He was SO BRAVE. I watched the dentist insert a needle in his lower gums. I watched the dentist use four different set of pliers, wrenching his tooth back and forth. And then it happened - that tooth came out. The dentist in a surprised tone said, "The entire root came with it." Have you ever seen a tooth connected to it's entire root?
I can't stop thinking about this experience.
You and I experience something like this everyday we wake up and decide to lead.
We are both the dentist and the patient at the same time. We have to be brave enough to have a vision for what could be, to look at what was the prized growth and see its obstructing something new from growing. In your gut you know the whole damn thing has to go, all the way to the root. It has to go if something better is going to grow in it's place.
We also have to be brave enough to be the patient. For us to go to new places personally we have to let things be extracted from our lives. If only we had an x-ray device for our futures. The Dentist had showed me the x-ray, I knew the fear and the pain would only last so long and new growth would follow once the tooth was out. Yes, starting new is scary and requires strength but it requires a higher level of fortitude to take once prized growth and uproot it. You have this happening in your life just like I have it happening in my life.
The question we have to battle with is, "Will it be worth it?" My nine year old doesn't have the foresight to know he is going To want straight teeth as an adult. Not to mention the immense pain he is avoiding from what would be this permanent tooth trying to press it's way past the baby tooth. I can see a window of time in my life where I knew extraction needed to happen but I made sure to avoid it. The pain that followed was far worse than the extraction would have been. I was asking, "Will it be worth it?" instead of asking, "What would a great leader do?"
What about you? What have you found to be the healthy side effects of uprooting once prized growth?