Every life counts, without exception. You probably haven’t heard of Charles Clark, a custodian at Trinity High School in Euless, TX. I only heard of him last week. But his story stopped me in my tracks.
Charles Clark says he is the most blessed man alive. He is an example of living the INPowered life: taking the initiative to make life better for yourself and others. His story explains it.
The links below give you two takes on the story. The first one is from CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman. The second is from Charles Clark’s perspective as posted on Huffington Post.
When you make a difference in the lives of others
the way Charles Clark does,
you also will be
People successfully imagine themselves into failure: failure meaning that they never take the first steps toward success.
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / GeraKTV
I enjoy swing dancing, although I am mediocre at best, but I avoided learning to line dance for reasons that escape me. I guess I just though it looked silly, and I didn’t want to look silly.
Then I read a recent blog post I wrote and decided I should take my own advice and stretch my comfort zone. (See Do you run to the edge?) So I went to my first line dancing class this week.
In the process, I learned three things about myself that I think might apply to most of us.
1. Self-consciousness is over rated.
I think of myself as a rather laid back guy. Truthfully, I take myself way to seriously. I want to look competent in front of others. The dance leader told us, “Don’t worry about doing everything perfectly. A mistake is just a new dance step. You’ll get the hang of it with repetition.”
Making a good impression is a good quality unless you take yourself so seriously that you are afraid to try something new or different.
Once I got into the dance, I realized that most everyone else was stumbling through the steps same as me, but they were having a good time doing it. Then I thought, how much farther along would I be as a dancer if I had started years ago instead of thinking I was too good for it?
Lesson learned: get over yourself, and get on with having fun like everyone else.
2. There are no critics on the dance floor.
People who are doing don’t have time to criticize.
I noticed that I was so into my own moves and getting the steps and patterns down that I didn’t have time to be critical of anyone else. Other than the four dancers immediately adjacent to me, I didn’t notice anyone.
How true it is. The critics line the walls and judge those who are actually doing something. In the meantime, the critic hasn’t participated materially in any of the activity.
I know I have a lot more practice time to put in on the dance floor before I’ll be really good at any of the dances we learned. In the same way, I might not be doing everything perfectly in the way I teach and write, but I believe the way I’m doing it is far better than the way the critics aren’t.
3. If you want to learn to dance, you have to get on the dance floor.
Dancing is not an intellectual pursuit. You can’t learn to dance by reading a book or watching a video. You have to get on the dance floor and move your feet and body.
To learn anything, you have to do the work associated with it. You must engage–get into the game, get onto the dance floor. After you take the first step, the next ones get easier, and you get more comfortable and confident.
Leadership lesson: if you want to become a leader, get out there and take the lead on something so you can get a feel for it. Don’t worry about being perfect, or being criticized, or whether you have done anything like it before.
Take the first steps,
and before you know it, you’ll be more
Not one great leader set out to be known as a great leader. But they did set out to make a difference when they saw that a change was needed.
Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial. Photo courtesy of the National Archives
Martin Luther King, Jr. is the INPowering icon of the civil rights movement, although many others were involved in leading the cause. The celebration of his birthday brings to our national consciousness the scope and impact of that movement, which continues today.
All change of any scale, whether it’s a national movement, such as the civil rights movement of the 1960s, or a culture shift in a single company, will go through the same six-phase progression.
INPowering leaders know they must guide followers through each of the six phases if the cause is to be effective and last. This progression is true for any lasting change: in a neighborhood, a community, a business, a state, a nation, or around the world.
Phase 1: Inception
An idea takes seed. One or more individuals see a need for change and shape the first images of what can be . . . if only. A core of true believers forms and begins to share their dream with each other; then, with others. The idea is born.
Phase 2: Vision
A storyteller emerges from the core group who is able to express the goals of the cause in a vision of what can be. They tell the story such that those who hear it can envision themselves, and their place, in the story. The storyteller becomes the embodiment of the vision and often emerges as the iconic individual who represents the vision. This chief storyteller might also be the leader of the cause.
Phase 3: Inspiration
Those who hear the story are inspired by it and what the cause represents. They find purpose and meaning in the mission to make the dream a reality. They feel changed by the power of the story. They tell others about the cause and the storyteller.
Phase 4: Enrollment
The ranks swell as converts join the cause. They communicate with other believers and seek opportunities to meet and share their vision and commitment to the cause. They recruit others.
Phase 5: Engagement
Recruits take action in the name of the cause to achieve its objectives. Passion must have an outlet. There must be something to do–a mission, a quest–or else interest wanes and believers lose interest. Followers look to the leader for motivation and reassurance. Leaders might take on a larger-than-life persona among the rank and file as the mission overcomes obstacles or accomplishes impressive objectives.
Phase 6: Perpetuation
Leaders find and develop other leaders to perpetuate the cause or to expand its reach. INPowering leaders understand that their number one job is to develop new leaders. Unless new leaders emerge, the cause will die with its founder. New leadership might also reshape the cause to meet changing objectives as the circumstances change.
All great movements have followed this progression. See if you can pick them out in the stories of America’s founders, or in the epic stories that inspire us, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ, or Abraham Lincoln.
Or see if you can pick them out in the stories of social entrepreneurs, “Uncommon Heroes,” changing the world from stories shared by the Skoll Foundation, whose mission it is, “to drive large scale change by investing in, connecting and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them solve the world’s most pressing problems.” (www.skollfoundation.org).
Tell your story of change with passion.
Others will listen and respond.
Because you are
Even though we expect leaders to help us go places we cannot or will not go by ourselves, that does not mean they will have all the answers up front. What INPowering leaders do have is the ability to connect and improvise and synthesize ideas from all sectors to help people find the solutions that fit their unique circumstances.
Leaders do not have all the answers.
As a consultant I tell my prospective clients, “If a consultant tells you they have the answers to your problems, run from them as fast as you can. But if they tell you they will help you find your answers to your problems, they might be worth listening to.”
That reminds me of a sales presentation I made to a local chamber of commerce committee that was looking for someone to lead a project to revitalize community spirit and generate more tourism interest for their city. The gist of my pitch was to develop a community driven project that would let the ideas for tourism opportunities bubble up from the interests and talents of the citizens. I explained that would also generate structures for volunteerism and sustainability. I believed the the improvisations, synchronicity, and serendipity of the journey was as important as the destination.
The chairman of the project listened to my pitch, then said, “I’m not interested in any of that self-help crap. I want someone to come in here and tell us what to do.”
They retained a consultant who promised they could deliver on that. The whole project died within four months for lack of participation and interest.
INPowering leaders help others learn how to find their own way. There simply are never any pat answers.
Improv is a leadership talent
Improvisation is the skill of thinking on your feet, connecting with others, and helping everyone interact at a higher level.
Actor Alan Alda conducts inprov workshops for students, scientists, and other groups to stimulate interaction and communication. He pointed out that improv is a method of connecting and interacting so that your own performance flows from being absorbed in the story. You must accept what the other actors give you and work with it. Improv is relating and responding, not just delivering memorized lines.
Improvisational leadership is relating and responding to lift the level of engagement among all participants. It isn’t hogging the show or upstaging others.
Our current political climate is like watching actors on stage compete for lines and the spotlight. No one is listening to the others. Everyone is just spouting his or her rehearsed talking points.
That’s why I am so uninspired by our current political environment at all levels. And it’s also why I’m optimistic that a new breed of leader, seeing the banality of what’s going on now, will come onto the scene with a whole different approach to leading.
My objective with INPowered2 LEAD is to promote a fresher approach to leading in which leaders learn to connect and interact. However, this style of leadership is not just shooting from the hip. Great artists in all disciplines are first, and foremost, excellent technicians of their craft. INPowering leadership is no exception.
“The more you know, the more you can improvise. You do have to know what you are doing, but once you have the skills, you can make it up as you go along.” Charles Reid, American watercolor artist
We are hungry for this type of improvisational leader who desires to take on the task of setting a new standard for leaders. They will be leaders who connect and interact with each other and with their communities to elevate the quality of solution finding and community building.
These improvisational leaders
have the skill and the flexibility
to show everyone how to be
This week is the fifth anniversary of my second lifetime. I got a new lease on life five years ago on the first Monday in January. A triple heart by-pass gave me a new appreciation for fresh beginnings.
When my computer is acting contrarily, I can usually fix it by resetting, refreshing, or rebooting. Sounds reassuring. Don’t like the way things are going? Then, just click an icon; press a button. Done.
Life is a little more complicated, but we do get a reset opportunity anytime we want it. While we can’t make all the consequences of poor choices disappear, we can redirect our course to make amends and set out in a new direction.
The INPowered life is always under review for improvement. The transition from one year into the next is a reminder of that; hence, New Year’s resolutions. I believe in them.
Back to the triple by-pass. I begin 2015 reflecting on three INPowering lessons I took away from my heart surgery five years ago.
Most crises sneak up on you; so pay attention.
My condition developed unknown to me over time until I suddenly found myself in dire straits. I never felt ill until suddenly I was. Fortunately, I did not have a heart attack. Truthfully, I knew I was at risk for health complications long before my crisis; yet, I continued to make poor life style choices. I just denied the facts and indicators that were in plain sight.
Self-awareness turns out to be a good habit. Every day is filled with decisions about how I will live. I also have ways to observe or measure the situation in all areas of my life: health, finances, goals, and relationships.
Now, I’m more watchful of the indicators that I might be slipping into bad habits. I’m keenly aware that I make choices every day over which I have absolute control.
Extreme intervention is painful.
I carry a fading, but noticeable, seven-inch scar over my breastbone where the surgeon had to break through to make the repairs. It’s a visual reminder of the pain and discomfort for several weeks following the surgery. Extreme measures were called for. At some point there are no easy fixes.
Moreover, my situation disrupted the lives of others who cared for me during my recovery.
My conclusion: it’s better not to have to go through such drastic interventions. Most are avoidable; yet, we keep relearning lessons the hard way.
I can make better choices, self-correct, start in a new direction anytime I choose. I can do it today in whatever aspect of my life I decide to improve. Repeated small actions reap large rewards over time. Sooner is better and easier than later.
Rehab is critical to a new direction.
Rehab is a positive acknowledgement that you’ve made a commitment to set a new course and to get back on the right path. More of us could use more of it.
At first I thought it was penance for being a bad boy, and I resisted that I needed it. Then, I realized that I had actually been a bad boy for a long time, and I had a team of professionals available who could help me turn it around and establish some good habits.
When I got my attitude right and owned up to my responsibility, I was able to take full advantage of my opportunity to heal and grow.
We can rehabilitate anything: health, finances, relationships. There are pros available to guide us through the process. Seeking help is not an admission of failure, but an acknowledgement that you’ve made a commitment to a new start.
Start the new year with a commitment to
take the small daily steps that will make you