Circular Thinking: Life Out Of The Huddle

'OK, Line up!'

What does that command bring to mind? Good memories or bad? Will you run to the head of the line, or elbow your way to the back? It depends, of course, on the purpose of the line in the mind of the one commanding it. Your reaction might also depend on whether you engage in circular thinking or linear thinking.

Lines and Circles

The command elicits memories of high school football practice for me. A hot, dry late summer afternoon…thirst and fatigue…a sharp whistle…Coach Roncase shouts, “OK, line up!”

“Uh, oh,” we’d all think, “this won’t be fun.” And it usually wasn’t. Often the line was for the purpose of blocking or tackling drills. The biggest, strongest linebacker on the team pitted against each of us in the line. Can we avoid his tackle…run through it…make a few hard-earned yards against him? Or will we be pounded back for a loss of several yards as soon as we touch the ball?

The fast, strong running backs would head to the front of the line, happy to take on the challenge: skill against skill, strength against strength. A skinny and slow kid usually slinked toward the back and hoped the coach got bored before he reached the head of the line. I spent a lot of time at the back of those lines.

Lines, you see, form naturally into first and last, head and tail, start and finish. Lines sort us into individuals: fastest to slowest, tallest to shortest, best to worst.

I remember another Coach Roncase sound from those football practices: “OK, everyone gather around. Take a knee.” At that command, we’d surround him, take a knee and listen to what he had to say. Nobody was first, none was at the end; we were together, a team, integrated. We were in a circle.

Linear Thinking and Circular Thinking

I thought about this as I contemplated the Super Bowl played yesterday. Football is played in lines: offensive line and defensive line matched against each other attempting to gain or prevent the ball’s movement a few yards.

The lines are formed by individual characteristics: fast, agile, and smaller on the outside to large, powerful and slower on the inside. Each player has his own design, his own assignment, his own objective on every play.

Did you notice something, though? Before the beginning of every play, this line forms into a circle: the huddle. In the huddle there is no beginning or end, first or last. There is only team: all together, defining purpose for the next play, understanding one’s role within the integrated whole. Unity. The line draws its purpose, its design, its meaning from the circle.

What would it look like if the line never joined into the circle? A split end with a hankering for long passes every play…a right guard who loves to pull and block the outside linebacker…a left tackle who is more happy grinding it out against the defensive tackle…each player working from his own strengths and desires without reference to the whole. It would, of course, be ugly and for sure would not draw 13 million Americans to watch it for four hours on a February evening.

Our Integrated, Circular Life

At Leadership Design Group, we design leaders through mentorship. As we do, we think in circular patterns. Our Circle of Life model has 8 Dimensions emanating from our core purpose and values. Each dimension is individual. But if we live a life of individual, stovepiped, unrelated dimensions, our life will be disjointed, separated, disunited.

We encourage developing leaders to live out of the huddle: to see each of their 8 Dimensions of Life as part of the integrated whole; all unified by the purpose and values of the core; each thriving, healthy and contributing to the flourishing whole.

We invite you to join us in living as whole people. We invite you to join us in mentoring people to be whole.

(Oh…and we are glad the Broncos won.)

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Written by

Tim is uniquely designed to think strategically into the future and build plans to move an organization from the present to that future. He has a passion for developing young business and military professionals. In his role as CEO for LDG, Tim exercises his unique personality to serve, help form and co-lead LDG’s new initiatives. He has the creative responsibility for delivering world-class leadership design through mentoring to a variety of business, educational, government, arts, sports and non-profit organizations. Tim also helps to oversee the selection, training and management of a network of Leadership Master Mentors for Leadership Design Associates.

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