Losing Control, Part I

In early April, I cut my own hair. Not a trim, by the way. That was the plan but it didn’t work out that way – I couldn’t get it quite the way I wanted so I just kept cutting.

Which nobody in my family is particularly happy about, even though we all know that, yes, eventually, it will grow out. 

“But why?” my fashion conscious 14-year-old Sophia asked me, partially bewildered, partially accusatory. “Why would you do that?”

It’s a great question. I had other options: I could have let it grow out or let a family member cut it (surely they would have done a better job).

But after considering it for a minute, the answer was obvious: Control. Cutting my own hair gave me control over something, in a situation where I feel so little control. 

But before you go out and cut all your own hair off, you should know, it doesn’t work. While the idea of cutting my own hair was comforting to me, the result – in every way – not so much.

I still feel the stress and uncertainty of not knowing when work will return to normal or what our revenue will be or when I’ll be able to travel or whether someone in my family will become sick, or when I or people close to me will die.

Because we are all in a moment we don’t control.

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and prolific spiritual writer, wrote a book called Adam’s Return that focused on male initiation rites. He found 5 consistent lessons embedded in these rituals that crossed all cultures, lessons meant to bring young men out of their child-like sense of self into the reality of life. And while he specifically studied male initiation rites, these truths are equally relevant and important for women as they are for men:

  1. Life is hard. 
  2. You are not important.  
  3. Your life is not about you.  
  4. You are not in control.  
  5. You are going to die.  

I know, not pretty. And you may be tempted to argue against them.

But read the list again; You cannot ignore the deep, pervasive truths that lie within those 5 statements. 

In other words, it is not just now that we don’t have control. It’s never. We’ve never had control. It’s just that now it’s obvious, present and impossible to ignore.

Which actually gives us an opportunity. 

Let’s not fight these five truths, let’s embrace them. Let’s use this moment to get good – really good – at living life in reality. This can be our initiation.

There’s a surprising thing we receive when we accept the truth of these truths: Power.

Knowing that life is hard takes some of the pressure off. And once you truly accept that you are not important, that it’s not about you, that you’re not in control, what you’re left with is a tremendous freedom to act, try new things, experiment for a greater good than yourself. Failure is fine. So is success. It’s not about you. 

And knowing – in a deep and intimate way – that you are going to die, confirms that it’s not all about you and, at the same time, adds a motivational nudge to act.

The best, strongest, most capable leaders I know and with whom I work, lead and live from the reality of these 5 truths.




  1. Charlie Coiro says:

    Well said and well timed. And I like the new haircut!

  2. Robert McErlain says:

    Truth (John 8:32). Richard Rohr is an awesome Teacher, Spiritual Guide and Leader. Will need to read “Adam’s Return”. Excellent, thank you for your very timely and insightful article Peter!!

  3. Francisco vergara says:

    I already cut my hair instituively
    And now you gave me the Reason, I like it very much
    Incredibilidades articule

  4. Ray Kennedy says:

    Very insightful and so true. Too many people are upset because they have feelings of despair of the loss of control. All while, we never had control in the first place. Thanks Peter. great words.

  5. Louise Brandy says:

    Love this!! Even though it’s from male rituals, it applies to all human beings!!

  6. amhashu says:

    thanks peter for the article, been having a difficult week with seemingly impossible projects on very dwindling resources.

  7. Harsh Chopra says:

    Another problem with our craving for control manifests itself in founder managed companies. Often founders are so obsessed with control of their companies that they end up with stunted growth.

  8. While I am not in control of all my thoughts, I can think and decide to act. Then I can try to act. We win some and we lose some. We are responsible for the outcome. so we are careful in our choice to act. This is where morality, sin and responsibility enter in. The outcome of our choice is based on our desire to do the right thing, chance, knowledge and prior experience.
    We hold ourselves responsible for the outcome even though it may not work out like we desire. We gain or lose. However, if we make a choice based on these things, that is the best we can do! God knows!

  9. Veronica Goerke says:

    As I sit at my work desk on a Sunday, this grab from Rohr and Niebuhr shaped by Bregman (love daughter’s photo & post) has helped me let go of that feeling of being overwhelmed. Thank you Peter

  10. Ellen Keable says:

    This time has taught me to ease up, be more curious than judgmental, and to “enjoy your peace” (Thich Nhat Hanh). So much less striving and a lot more gratitude these days – for everything!

  11. Kim Derderian says:

    Peter, I’m discovering this article nearly two weeks after it was posted … and I’m sure your hair has grown in some and you look terrific!

    As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of the late Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, who said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.”

    If we choose to exercise our freedom … and “are willing to feel everything,” our often unconscious need for control becomes a moot point. And the tradeoff is so powerful because it’s consciously intentional!

  12. Neil Garbacik says:

    I can definitely relate to this article. I have realized a lot about my life and what things I have been missing, cherishing my moments with my children and my wife, more now than ever. We have been making the best of this experience, although it has been a different kind of stress at times. I actually did something similar and it was uncomfortable, but I let my 8 year old daughter cut my locks on the corona-cation and it was an interesting feeling because I wanted to take control and tell her how to do it, but I let it go and the result was amazing. I felt happier, my daughter was proud of her hair cut job and we all had good laughs and fun afterwards. My daughter was then inspired for a few weeks or so to be a hair dresser when she grows up. A couple days later I had to deliver a speaking event virtually and apparently my hair looked good enough I received compliments from the coordinator! Sometimes you just have to let go and realize control is not always a good thing and not something we always have control over anyhow even though we may think so.

  13. Coop says:

    In my community there is a saying, “It is what it is.” While growing up my often said, everything is where it should be, regardless of how we want to control them. Thank you for this article. Control is something I’ve struggled to keep all my life. I will consider reading the book Adam’s return.
    All the best,

  14. Pansy Yeo says:

    God bless you, Peter! Thank you for this insightful article. It’s a good anchoring read. I’ll certainly read Adam’s Return. Btw, Nice hairdo!

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