The saying goes, “It’s lonely at the top.” Who do you talk to when you’re the boss?

Edgar Schein, Professor Emeritus at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, observed that the most common self – image among business leaders is that of the “Lone Warrior – Hero.” I have found this to be true among funeral home owners and managers. There is a sense of isolation and aloneness that pervades. At conventions and seminars a sort of bravado often emerges. People seem to be under pressure to look good or capable or secure when, actually, no one is any one of those things. I found this out, personally, when I began following up on some of the program presenters and discovered that their claims were… shall we say…somewhat embellished.

As I have grown older two of the things that I think are the most profound lessons are:

Our struggles, doubts, experiences and frustrations are never unique; and I have never met a whole person. By this second observation I mean that many of us think and behave like we should be perfect. Hence the preoccupation with persona. The bare – bones truth is that everyone has issues, disappointments, blind spots, failures and so on. The various coping mechanisms we employ may differ but it is more likely that you are no better and no worse than anyone else.

People have been saying of me lately that I am very intelligent. Make no mistake, I like hearing that. But it is not true. I know a lot about what I know about just as you know a lot about what you know about. It just so happens that I know a lot about things you don’t know about just as you know a lot about things I don’t. In other words the range of human intelligence is very narrow. In fact, I believe that, if we want to, we can know more about what each other knows. We can be smarter than we think we are.

All that said, one other lesson of my life is that age does change you. Many of us have less energy, less enthusiasm for adventure. Risk becomes a bigger word. More to the point for many, many business leaders as they get closer to the end of their career is the very profound struggle of succession. So, here are 6 warning signs that indicate (very strongly) that you should find someone you trust to talk with. All of us can tolerate an incredible amount of unhealthy thinking UNTIL we hear those same thoughts roll off our tongue. Talking openly with a trusted advisor or friend can literally catapult you into a much clearer and less frustrating world.

  1. You find yourself fighting over things that don’t matter.
  2. You find yourself just getting angrier as you get older.
  3. You worry your identity is too tied up in your career.
  4. You are not sure you can trust those who will succeed you.
  5. You are unwilling to hand over what you created.
  6. Thinking about change just makes you tired