Are You the Lightning or the Rain?

This just might be the most important question you answer this week.

I believe there are two kinds of people in the world: Lightning and Rain. This is a new metaphor I’m playing with, so bear with me.

Lightning strikes fast and hot. Rain is predictable and reliable. Both are powerful. Both are extremely valuable and important, but people sometimes get confused about which one they really are.

And living as someone you’re not is one of the greatest causes of self-induced suffering in the world today.

This article will attempt to help you sort it out….

Lightning is Brilliant and Transformative

Lightning is those of us whose genius comes in a hot flash. Our power is in our ability to surprise, to shine light in dark places, and to create such intense heat and energy that we can literally transform events, people, and businesses. We are catalysts for rapid change and creators of keen insights.

Lightning can also be random. You never know when we’re going to strike, and what combination of beauty and damage we might cause. The presence of lightning makes things brighter, hotter, and more exciting, but it can also cause chaos and destruction if not channeled correctly. Lightning can be created (more on that below), but it cannot be contained — not easily or efficiently, at least.

And although Lightning is not absolutely critical for our very existence (like you will see Rain is), it sure makes everything exciting and awesome — if only for brief periods of time.

Rain is Powerful and Reliable

Rain is those people who are steady and reliable. Their power comes from their rhythm and persistence. Over time, they move mountains. Their cooling temperature soothes. Their essence is the nurturing and patient.

Rain runs on a predictable schedule. It loves routine and thrives in a channel or framework. Rain is also unrelenting. Give Rain a boulder to move, and it will push and push and push until that f***er is gone.

Rain is also critical for existence. Without it all life would perish. Forests would burn to the ground from the fires caused by the Lightning. Rain can also be harnessed to create more Lightning — that’s how most power plants work. Water and steam turn turbines, and electricity is created.

We Can Thank the Interplay of Lightning of Rain for Building the Modern World

If you look around, you see the impact of both Lightning and Rain in everything we’ve built as a species. Creative Lightning has a vision, and practical rain makes it a reality. Reliable rain creates theaters, highways, and space shuttles, and visionary Lightning writes plays, designs sports cars, and points to the moon and says, “Let’s go there.”

We all fall somewhere along the spectrum between Lightning and Rain, and knowing where you fall on that continuum is critically important to your success in life.

Lightning Cannot Pretend to Be Rain

As a self-diagnosed member of the Lightning Tribe, I can personally attest that there is nothing more painful for Lightning than pretending to be Rain. Rain likes schedules. It likes clear direction on where to go. It seeks it’s own level and finds resolution in arriving at a vast sea and feeling at home with others just like it.

There’s NOTHING wrong with being rain. In fact, as I said above, rain is absolutely critical to cycle of life.

It’s just that for Lightning, all those things feel completely unnatural. Lightning goes to the office, sits at his desk, and wants to die. He speaks up out of turn in meetings with a great idea and is told “we haven’t come to that part of the agenda.” She says exactly what needs to be said to Rain, and Rain’s temperature starts to go up and he boils.

Lightning living as Rain suffers from depression. He feels like it doesn’t fit in. She day dreams constantly about “making a difference,” “doing something on my feet,” and “working directly with people.”

Lightning pretending to be Rain looks at Rain with searing eyes of envy wishing he were more organized, more methodical, and more responsible.

Lightning living as Rain gets really bad performance reviews. He sits in the back of class getting bad grades while knowing all the answers. Lighting living as Rain develops a weed or pill problem to numb the pain. She quits her “Rain Job” out of nowhere and takes off to travel the world for a year without a plan or destination.

Rain Cannot Pretend to be Lightning

Rain pretending to be Lightning has his or her own set of problems. Lightning detests schedules and order. Rain requires it. Lightning lives to delight and bedazzle. Rain would rather die than stand in front of a crowded room and be tasked with “delighting” anyone.

At work, Rain pretending to be Lightning wonders why no one thinks his ideas are brilliant. She is tired of all the meetings and team building shit, because frankly, Rain just wants to do her fucking job and be left alone, thanks.

Rain living as Lightning feels a constant nagging sensation of not being enough — not fun enough, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not anything enough. Rain living as Lightning gets told to speak up, to stand taller, to wear more dresses, to loosen up…

Rain pretending to be Lightning lives with a constant anxiety. She drinks to be funny. She wears a lot of make-up to be pretty. He looks at Lightning with a boiling envy that he’ll never be as spontaneous, cool, or fun.

If he quits his job to travel, it’s to do a Fulbright Scholarship or to volunteer in a program somewhere. She would rather add value somewhere than just roam about meeting strangers.

So, Which One Are YOU?

If you’re like me, you are probably a mixture of both, but you lean heavily in one direction — you probably read the above and identified much more strongly with one scenario than the other.

BUT THE MORE IMPORTANT QUESTION IS did you identify with the Lightning or Rain living in alignment with itself, or with the Lighting or Rain trying to live as the other?

If it is the latter, we have a problem. You are essentially living out of alignment with your truest self. And like a wheel on a car, if you are out of alignment you will always feel like you are wobbling, rubbing, and wearing out.

Some people like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are equally both. They are true geniuses — the rarest of birds. If you’re like that, more power to you. Go save the world, will you?

I’m a Reformed “Lightning Living as Rain”

I lived out of alignment for years. At some point, a Rain convinced me that I had to learn to live like Rain, or I would never be taken seriously. I was too inconsistent, too commitment averse, and too loud, funny, weird, etc. I needed to conform to the ways of the Rain to make it in a Rain’s world.

Which is exactly right. But why did I need to make it in a Rain’s world? Anyone who worked along side me in my various attempts to work in Corporate America can tell you that I simply did not fit in. In no way was I supposed to be donning a suit, reporting to work at 9am, and trying to contain myself all day.

But here’s the problem: Life as Lightning is Hard. Most artists, writers, musicians, and entrepreneurs are Lightning, and it is hard waking up everyday and waiting for Lightning to Strike. Inspiration runs on its own schedule. Writer’s block is a real thing. Staying dedicated to a start-up idea when all the Rain in the world is trying to drown you out is next to impossible.

But we must shine on.

Being Rain Isn’t a Walk in the Park Either

Hello, Rain. God, we need you. You quench our thirst. You make ideas come to life. You provide structure, flow, and consistency long after us Lightnings have blown a fuse.

Yet, sometimes you feel unappreciated. You don’t end up on the cover of Inc and Forbes (unless you’re Warren Buffett or Bill Gates — not bad company to keep). You often work in the background while Lightning takes all the credit.

I know that must suck sometimes, but I’m here to tell you something everyone implicitly knows: Behind Every Flash of Lightning is a Powerful Torrent of Rain.

So, go out there and keep on moving mountains like the bad ass that you are.


Thank you so much for reading. This is an entirely new idea and metaphor I just came up with today. It kinda struck like Lightning. ;) If you liked it (even a little), please click the little heart below. It will help other people read it, and it will mean a lot to me. Please also feel free to comment below with your thoughts. I’d love to develop the idea further with your input.

Edward Sullivan is the founder and head coach at LeadWell.co — a boutique coaching and training organization that helps start-up CEOs and corporate executives navigate the challenges of leadership with authenticity. With offices in San Francisco and New York, LeadWell helps leaders and their teams optimize their performance and overcome obstacles to growth. He can be reached at edward@leadwell.co.