The fathers of Robin Williams, Fred Rogers, and Ulysses Grant all wanted their sons to go into business like they did.
Instead they each chose a different path, and went on to become one of the funniest stand-up comics and finest actors of his generation, perhaps the most popular and impactful early childhood educator in history, and the general who saved the union in the United States.
You can carve out a new path for yourself and be whatever you choose to be. It starts with the part about you carving out the path you want for yourself.
I like definitions. Sometimes I get them from Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and sometimes I create my own definitions. Once we land on the meaning of a word then we can use it in many situations.
Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition of a metaphor: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money).
I believe a great way to gain new insights into your organization is to describe it using metaphors.
Steve Jobs famously said about the original Macintosh computer, “It’s a bicycle that helps you have control over where you go.” His point was that the personal computer was not something for a hundred people to use at the same time, but rather for one person to use.
I think of my work as a one-stop shop for mountain climbers. Not real mountains, but metaphorical mountains like achieving an important goal at work or growing your company’s brand. Mountain climbers need tools, training, guidance, support, and experience. That’s what I provide to my clients. You choose the mountain. I help equip you for the climb.
Now define your business using metaphors. What is your business like? Write down 8-10 metaphors. And then use those metaphors to guide your decision-making going forward.
In my work, I think about what I can do to better equip business leaders to achieve what they are trying to achieve.
What should you be thinking about that fits with your metaphors?
Rote Learning is where you’re told how to do something and then you do it that way over and over and over until you can replicate that procedure on a test. The best rote learners get A’s on a lot of activities both inside and outside of school from teachers and bosses and society members.
Reflection learners think about a situation, combine ideas together to make new ideas, and then discern what they think are the key ideas to extract from the situation and then apply those ideas in new situations. Reflection learners don’t get A’s on a lot of activities because their teachers or bosses or society members don’t agree with their conclusions.
Which is a better preparation for life and adulthood and responsibilities?
(Hint: It’s not the first one.)
On page 22 in the book, The Good Neighbor, Fred Rogers is quoted as saying the following:
“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”
I love that quote. It’s not enough just to make a choice. The real challenge is to make sure the choice fits with your purpose, values, character strengths, passions, and talents.
In other words, your choice should come from who you are rather than what you think other people want you to do.
The year is still fresh.
Before it really gets going into full swing, clean off your desk. Take everything off your desk, go through every item, and then only put back on what you really want on your desk.
Go through your closets and remove anything you haven’t used in the past two years. Just get rid of it or donate it to someone else.
Just those two actions can allow your brain to ease up, shift gears, and move forward.
For the past 20 years I’ve often said that the best book on leadership I’ve ever read is The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., which was edited by Clayborne Carson.
It’s not really an autobiography. It’s a collection of speeches and writings by Martin Luther King, Jr. that essentially go from 1955 until the night before he was shot in 1968.
The reason why I consider it to be the greatest book on leadership that I’ve ever read is because it’s a pure example of how to influence the way other people think. King had no formal power or authority over other people. He was named the president of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) when it was formed in 1955 after Rosa Parks sparked the bus boycott, but that was not a big corporation or a government position. It was an organization that was formed to gain some momentum in what became known as the Civil Rights Movement.
Martin Luther King influenced people through delivering written speeches (including most of his sermons), through extemporaneous speeches (most of his I Have A Dream speech was different than his written text for that day), through letters (and his most famous letter was his famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail), though actions (his active involvement in many marches and sit-ins), through strategy (he based his approach of Non-Violent Resistance off of what he learned from studying Mohandas Gandhi), and through examples of personal courage (he kept on going even after his home was bombed and he received multiple threats on his life).
He did not have a lot of money, authority, or big titles in a big corporation. He was not a political figure. He simply influenced people all day long toward thinking differently about race, race relations, and equal opportunity for everyone regardless of the color of their skin.
I read this powerful book in the spring of 1999, and it has stayed in my mind ever since.
When you are on a quest to fulfill a purpose or achieve an objective, you take one step after another. Step by step by step. The reward is in the doing, the striving, the learning, the caring, the achieving, the failure, and the frustration. You won’t always win. You won’t always achieve the objective. It’s the sum total of the whole experience that matters.
Not winning doesn’t take away from the experience at all. Not even a little bit.
I love to watch Roger Federer play tennis. He’s my all-time favorite player to watch followed by Bjorn Borg. Those two tried, they worked, they prepared, and they gave everything they could in every match.
Today Roger Federer lost in the 4th Round of the Australian Open to a 20-year-old player from Greece named Stefanos Tsitsipas. He strove, he tried, he worked, he prepared, and he lost.
Doesn’t matter. The beauty is in the journey.
If you feel called to fulfill a particular purpose at home, in your extended family, in your community, in your work, or in the world, go for it. Don’t place your sense of self-worth on the outcome. Just go on the journey. Sometimes it will go well, and sometimes it won’t. Doesn’t matter. Just go. Built into the journey is the enormous value of being on the journey.