I think I finally understand the meaning of sacrifice in leadership now. For many years, I assumed sacrifice was all about taking yourself down a peg. It’s as though being born in a first-world country was somehow an unearned privilege, and that you have to make a sacrifice in some way to avoid being a bourgeois pig.

Now that always struck me as a guilt trip, and I hate those. So I relegated the notion of ‘sacrifice’ to the dustbin, and went on with my mission to improve my lot in life. And after my umpteenth frustrating time trying to get work done on my side business whilst packed into a noisy sweaty train, I realised: I’m sacrificing.

It flipped my realisation: sacrifice isn’t a guilt trip, some way of paying back some of what you owe, as though your position of privilege has endeared you with some kind of karmic debt. No – it’s just the nuts and bolts of what is required if you are going to do something with your life.

I could be riding my motorbike to work this morning. The riders at work think i’m crazy not to. But instead, i’m on the train, working on my laptop, gradually making progress on iPhone apps that one day will increase my family’s income. I’m certainly not paying off a guilt debt, i’m working hard towards improving my situation. It’s the polar opposite of my original thought of what sacrifice was about, but i think it’s the more accurate of what sacrifice is about.

All good in theory, but how does this affect my life, though? Well, your perspective on sacrifice affects the type of sacrifice you’ll take. Let’s say you have some unsavoury personality trait that you aren’t particularly proud of. For me, i get too impatient and lose my cool. Well, if I believed that sacrifice was about ‘paying back’, every time i lose my cool I’d go off on a guilt trip as my sacrifice. However if I believe in sacrifice as ‘paying forwards’ towards a better tomorrow, instead of wasting time on a guilt trip I’d be engaging with the painful work necessary to deal with my issues – hopefully with the outcome that i will eventually beat that flaw of mine. Now think – which of those two approaches is more worthwhile? Hands down the latter, in my opinion. Guilt trips will get you nowhere.

Sacrifice isn’t about the past. It’s about the future. It’s the struggle of getting through the tough times necessary to build a better future.

Thanks for reading! And if you want to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you: chris.hulbert at gmail.