Have you ever had someone encourage you to dream big? Someone who said you could be anything you wanted to be? Maybe you were lucky enough to have a parent or grandparent who convinced you that there are no limits. Or maybe a teacher or coach inspired you to consider opportunities that otherwise might have seemed beyond your grasp. It even may have been a boss or mentor early in your career who helped you see what you were truly capable of.
When the going gets tough, how long does it take for someone to ask, “Who’s to blame for this mess?” Unfortunately, the answer is not very long. We live in a world in which everyone wants to place blame.
In 1987, Michael Jackson released a song titled “Man in the Mirror.” The theme of the song is clear: If you want the world to be different, if you want it to be a better place, the change needs to start with you—the person in the mirror. The song included the lines, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. . . . If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”
We live in a world of “What have you done for me lately?” And when we say “lately,” we mean today or this week. Our society suffers from an acute case of instant gratificationitis. Wall Street wants to see a return on its investment—now! It’s not necessarily concerned about seeing a company being built for the long haul. I bought the stock yesterday; what’s it worth today? Sports fans want to see their team win now. It doesn’t matter if the coach inherited a team with a losing record in desperate need of an overhaul—can you win today? It’s the only thing that matters to impatient fans.
It’s October, which means it’s time for the baseball playoffs. Usually at this time of year, I watch with casual interest as the best teams in the game eliminate one another until the World Series champion is crowned. But not this year. This year, my beloved Chicago Cubs are in the playoffs. They have my full attention. And after winning the wild card playoff against the Pirates and taking the divisional playoff series from their rival St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs are deeper in playoffs than they’ve been in over a decade. Is this year the first time since 1945 that they’ll make it to the World Series?
For each of us, our career is a journey. It can take us many places. We may change locations, employers, or even professions. And each experience we have along the way provides us with knowledge we can use at some point in the future—what to do differently or what not to do. Every experience gives us something we can use if we pay attention and really want to learn.
In the 2000 movie Pay It Forward, a seventh grade social studies teacher gives his students an assignment to create and put into action a plan that will change the world for the better. Young Trevor McKinney, played by Haley Joel Osment, comes up with a plan in which the recipient of a good deed performs a good deed for three other people rather than for the person who did the original good deed. The plan, which was seen as overly ambitious and probably a bit naive, begins to work as Trevor commits himself to doing three good deeds and telling the people he has helped to “pay it forward.”
A few weeks ago, our company held its annual strategic planning session. In a meeting of our executive team, a consultant we work with shared an insight that I want to pass along. What did he say that I found so profound? He told us that successful leaders “make it clear which behaviors are most valued by the organization.”
Last week, my wife’s grandmother passed away at 98 years of age. She was a special lady who remained alert and curious until her last days. She was active on Facebook, keeping up with her great-grandchildren’s lives.
Sometimes it’s not about how you win but how you lose. That was the lesson Coach Dave Belisle taught his Rhode Island baseball team last year when they lost 8-7 in a Little League World Series elimination game. This video clip shows the story of the team and the words the coach used following their devastating loss.