Christ in the Rockies recently had the unique pleasure of interviewing Mike Haddorff, director of Christ in the Rockies, and his daughter Stacy Haddorff who is actively involved with Yoga teaching, philosophy, and practice.
In Life’s Journey Part I: Life Paths, Mike and Stacy talked about the path of resentment and the path of joy. What follows is Part II of this transcribed interview where Stacy and Mike discuss the ideals within Yoga philosophy and how those ideals relate to Mike’s personal journey, Christ in the Rockies, and Christianity in general.
The source of this transcription is a phone interview. It has been edited but has favored the spoken English of the interviewees. Even though the transcription has been edited for readability, the original spoken interaction has been preserved.
In Part II, Mike talks about the Stockdale Paradox, which he discovered in Jim C. Collins’s Good to Great during a difficult time in Mike’s business and life. In light of witnessing her dad’s resiliency, Stacy discusses how personal challenge builds strength and cultivates a more full sense of joy.
Christ in the Rockies (CITR): Stacy, you have been talking about discipline and specifically the discipline of practicing contentment. How would you say that discipline, important at a young age, relates to western spiritual practices like prayer or mediation?
Stacy Haddorff (SH): I think that’s a big one. When it comes to how we structure our time, it’s an art form. A steadfast, disciplined use of our time is no small task to undertake. Like Dad was saying, he felt like he was in a rut for ten years.
One thing I’m really curious to hear more about from Dad with this idea of Tapas, or discipline and purification, is how he approached moving forward and through a difficult time. Was it like digging yourself out, Dad? Was it just a time of continuing on or was it a time of really looking at the decisions you were making?
I know I sometimes I feel like “am I making the right decision if it’s this hard? Is it supposed to be this hard?” [Stacy laughs] How do you know if you’re on the right path versus just punishing yourself?
Mike Haddorff (MH): Well, I guess we’ll talk in apples and oranges for a minute because the rut I was referring to is what begins as a path, maybe in our 40s, and it’s about choices and perceptions we make about life. There’s only two and I think you nailed them. You either follow the path to joy or resentment.
My only point was that you begin walking that path, probably in your 40s, and you build up judgments and perceptions about how life works, and then you find yourself in your 60s in a trench that you can’t get out of. You and I make our choice. And to get out of that, outside of God’s grace coming down and just being overwhelmed by the love of God, it’s really hard to get out of that trench of resentment and anger because everything is cast on what it should have been or what it could have been. As long as you live from that perspective, and not the perspective of gratefulness, you’re stuck.
I actually read a business book that was just a huge Godsend to me in the early 2000s. It’s called Good to Great. It was a study about businesses that were mediocre but then they went great, to a very high performing business for years and years.
What they did in the book Good to Great was to identify five to seven common similarities in businesses that were on the verge of bankruptcy, how they had their turn around, and became great businesses. One of the ideas was the Stockdale Paradox.
It was named after Vice Admiral Stockdale who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. It talked about those people who were prisoners of war in this horrible situation, that the ones who survived, survived by one thing. It was that they never gave up hope. It was the idea that if we continue on, we will someday prevail, we will someday get out of it.
But he made it very clear that you don’t set goals. You don’t say “okay, in six months we’ll be out of here” because that can set you up to break your heart. But you just keep hope that if you continue to get up every morning, put on your boots, go to work, and do the things you’re supposed to do, and if you keep doing that day after day, you’re going to prevail in time. But you don’t know when, that’s the idea.
What he came up with is that you have unwavering hope, unwavering faith, but yet you must face the brutal realities, the brutal facts of where you are because otherwise you live in a fantasy world.
So what I resolved to do back in 2000 when we almost lost our company was “I’m going to get up everyday, I’m going to put on my boots, and I’m going to courageously face the day, go to work until the day I show up and the doors are locked. And that’s never happened! [Mike laughs]
So I don’t know if that answers your question, but there was a lot in that book that ties right into my Christian faith. By doing that process, I’ve learned to live in the moment, right now, not that I’m always perfect at it. But I’ve learned how to not project out in worrying about tomorrow, worrying about this afternoon, or worrying about Monday. Those things will come soon enough. But to be in the moment and to capture the moment for all it is because right now is the only opportunity I have to do anything.
My challenge is not about setting objectives, or goals, or thinking in the future. My challenge tends to be projecting out and missing right now. Does that make sense?
SH: That’s really practical advice.
MH: Some people live in the past. Some people are always digging up the old bones, what it was, and those people tend to be the resentful people. My natural tendency is much more of a person that goes the other way “we got to deal with this, we got to deal with that,” always being a step or two ahead and missing the value of the very moment.
It is pain that has taught me how to be fully present right here right now. Without going through pain, a person thinks he’s okay. As I said earlier there was a time when I was much younger that we were doing so well as a business. I thought I was so smart. But really I didn’t have a clue. It was just because the economy was good. It was during the times of difficulty that the weaknesses that were there all the time came out. It wasn’t because I was smart.
SH: But you did accomplish something. I think it’s important to still maintain self confidence even through pain, or even through something you might perceive as a failure. I think that’s hard to do. It’s hard to maintain self confidence every day.
MH: Oh, I lost a lot of self confidence, Stacy. You know when you go to a banker and ask for money and they turn you away like you have cancer. I had financial cancer. I viewed myself for years, as sick, inadequate, not up to speed, not worthy. You see, I had to work through all that.
But if I wouldn’t have gone through the difficulty, I wouldn’t have gotten through that. I had to learn how to change to where I look for and gain my identity as a human being. I learned it’s not what I can produce, and not how “successful” I think I am as a business guy. But rather what does God think about me regardless of what I produce, and what I can create. That’s a huge change in thinking.
SH: I think that God would prefer us to stay true to our nature. We’re not supposed to be super people, good at every single thing. What I see happening sometimes, and I’ve done this too as an entrepreneur, are people trying to be everything at the expensive of not cultivating they’re real strengths. And maybe one of the reasons that you’ve developed joy, Dad, is that you’ve kept teaching all these years. And that’s really a place where you shine. It’s a very natural ability for you.
MH: I think there’s a lot of truth to that. It’s kept me growing in other ways. There has been a handful of things that have come to me in my life that have been earthshaking. I didn’t realize it at the moment but when a friend asked me over twenty years ago to start a Bible study, I had no idea of the impact that would have on me. Teaching the Bible has kept me learning and growing and has been a real source of joy for me.
SH: In that sense, you’ve stayed true to yourself through the ups and downs. At the end of the day, it seems like “how can we know God if we don’t know ourselves?” I think it’s a process of being really honest with ourselves about where we’re at. I’ve seen people in business who just get more rotten. They get mean and are sometimes just grueling people to be around. I think that it’s maybe because they abandoned their true self long ago, thinking they have to be a certain way versus just allowing themselves to be human.
MH: I think that’s exactly right. I view it as the process of stripping off the false self primarily through painful experiences, stripping off what we think we ought to be, or what we think others think we ought to be, to come to the place where we find our true self. For me, it’s been a long journey. And for everyone, I think it’s a journey not a moment.
SH: Being with the same company for your whole career, Dad, it’s bound to take certain shapes. If I look at what I’ve done for work, I would say there were certain jobs I held that really weren’t drawing on my strengths. Those always felt like a failure. The only reason that it didn’t become my identity was because it was only wrapped up in that job, which I could easily leave. But if it’s a company you’ve built, so much of your identity is tied in that business. It’s not just a job.
MH: Yes. And then when you see it failing, “I am the business so I’m a failure.” It took me years to work through that. That’s the stripping of the false self.
SH: Well that hits on another Yoga idea that is a little tricky to wrap our heads around what it means, but it’s the value or practicing detachment. It’s not so much being aloof from your life, but it’s putting the effort forth and being detached from the outcome. So you put all this effort into your business and when you saw it failing, the practice was becoming detached from that feeling of failure just because that was the state of the business.
MH: Detachment is huge. That’s exactly what needs to happen. There’s only so much a person can do. We can’t save anything. All we can do is do what we need to do that day. “So what am I going to do? I’m going to get up tomorrow morning, put on my boots, go out in the dark, go to work, and I’m going to do the best I can tomorrow. And leave the results up to God.” And so you do. To be able to live like that is extremely freeing. Otherwise you find yourself needing to control outcome and that in itself becomes misery.
What you learn in life is that we are so out of control. All we can do is what we can do at the moment. You have to leave the results to something greater. To me it’s God. In a practical sense, you wake up in the middle of the night and think “I’ve got this to do and that to do.” I’ve had this happen on several occasions and thought “this is crazy. There’s nothing I can do about this right now. It’s robbing me of the sleep I need. So we’re done.” That’s putting it aside.
SH: Exactly. There’s real freedom in being able to step outside the thought process and say “wait a minute. I can control this. I can go back to sleep. This is a choice that I’m going to make.”
MH: Well for me, these lessons about life came as a result of hardship and pain. I don’t know any other way.
Thank you and make sure to read Life’s Journey Part III: Life Stretches, where Mike and Stacy continue their discussion with Christ in the Rockies.