I am on a mission. When I speak to friends, business owners, teachers and leaders in our community, I am always amazed at the quality of people I encounter. The conversations and ideas we share make it clear to me that we have everything we need right here in our community. All we need is a way to tap into this unattended well and begin fortifying our local army by creating a reason for them to connect. The silos in which we currently exist have slowly deteriorated our sense of community and wrecked our morale and willingness to work together to create a productive environment that serves a greater purpose.
“A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.”
By providing resources, tools, and conversations that focus on discovering collaborative solutions, we can create an environment in which “Sleeping” Leaders (those who have not yet identified in themselves the leader within) can grow, learn and share – encouraging them to look within and find and share their greatness with the world. This will not be an easy endeavor. We will be required to make sacrifices, compromise our desires for the greater good, and be willing to fail along the way. And the biggest difficulty will be fear.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins by taking the first step.”
When I embarked on my own journey (Lakeland Business Leaders) several years ago, I began my “journey of a thousand miles,” as Lao Tzu says, by “taking the first step.” I took positive, intentional actions for the greater good of the community. I believed if others shared my vision, together, we would be able to make a difference in our community. I took many steps, consistently moving toward a simple goal: Bring out the best in the people around me, so that they can do the same for those around them. Every day, I celebrated the small, but wonderful things within my community – the people, the events and the businesses.
The things I did were not special or even unique: I checked in at local restaurants using social media, and told my friends how much I loved the food there. I shared events for people who were trying to get their messages out to more people, answering questions and sharing my knowledge with the community I was building. There was nothing special about these things. But each little action I took, followed by more, consistent actions, created something wonderful: a chain reaction. I discovered that people did believe what I believed. I wasn’t doing these things to get anything in return. But the connections I have made, the relationships I have built have been the most incredible reward I have ever known.
When you discover people who believe what you believe, it’s an amazingly satisfying feeling!
It was a little over a year ago that my friend Abby, (who came into my life as a result of some of the actions I mentioned above) shared a song with me. It wasn’t a new song, but I had never heard it. If You’re Out There, by John Legend is a song that calls out to whoever is listening, suggesting that we can change the world.
"If you hear this message, wherever you stand.
I'm calling every woman, calling every man.
We're the generation, we can't afford to wait,
The future started yesterday and we're already late."
When I heard those first words, I was inspired. I knew the words were directed at me. But halfway through the song, I began to cry. I remember exactly where I was – driving – when I started sobbing. At the point in the song when the lyrics said:
"I searched for a leader, but the leader was me."
I realized this was exactly right. As a result of the actions I had been taking, I had become a leader. People were following me. They believed what I believe. But these words struck me at that moment because, in spite of the successes we’d had, the people we were helping, the energy that was catching on, I was terrified. I am not talking about a little bit of doubt, I am talking about white-knuckles-stop-the-ride-I-gotta-get-off-NOW-terror.
Who? Me? A LEADER? What in the world did I know about being a leader? More to the point, who was I to believe I had any right to be a leader? I wasn’t equipped with the background, resources, confidence, education or experience that would qualify ME to be a leader. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! I was working without a business plan, there was no guidebook, no adviser, no one to say, “Yes, that is the right thing to do.” Or, “No, let’s not try that, it won’t work.” I was working on the only thing I did have, the one thing I was completely confident of, and about which I had no doubts: My Passion.
Follow your passion? Yes! It’s there for a reason.
Admittedly, that’s not always they best way to move forward, but it was literally all I had. My passion and my partner and best friend, Craig. Craig believed in me, but he didn’t always understand what I was doing, or WHY. There was one day about a year and a half ago, that we were discussing my efforts and I was feeling very frustrated. I was emotionally charged and he was questioning whether any of this still made any sense. He didn’t like the toll it was taking on me personally, and he asked me if I was ready to quit. I thought about that question for a few minutes. I considered what that would mean. I imagined how nice it would be to have the pressure taken off my shoulders; to not have to worry so much about so many different things. And yet, there was this voice in my head. I told Craig, “I can’t explain it, and I have no idea where this is going to go, if it’s ever going to become something valuable to us or not, but I feel “compelled.” There’s a force bigger than me, calling me, and I have to believe it’s calling me for a reason. Please don’t ask me to explain it, but I feel like this is what I have to do. I have to keep doing what I am doing. I am here for a reason.”
Today, I believe I have discovered why I exist.
As humans, we all want to make a difference. Yet, for whatever reason, we fail to see ourselves as someone who can make a difference. Is it society? Our upbringing? I don’t know, but I want others to find within themselves the sleeping leader. It’s time to wake them up from their slumber and start challenging the status quo. We need more leaders in this world. Maybe the difference we make will not end war, or starvation. Maybe the difference we make will not mean much on the global radar, but the difference we make can be the difference one or two people need to make it to tomorrow. The chain reaction starts by helping those around us, making a little difference, helping others make a little difference, and on and on. It’s not a new idea. Nothing brilliant about the concept of starting where we are to inspire the sleeping leaders in our community. But I believe I exist to inspire everyone I meet to awaken the leader within themselves, to become the leaders we need in the world – leaders worth following.
Calling all Leaders and Sleeping Leaders
Join me on May 9th, 2014 as we bring Leadercast to Lakeland. If you trust me, if you’ve received any inspiration from me in the past 3 years, if you are someone who believes what I believe, you’ll be there. It’s an entire day of inspiring leadership experts sharing their messages, and experiences to inspire our current leaders and to help awaken all the “sleeping” leaders in our community. If you’ve ever thought to yourself that you might be a leader, but you didn’t have the background to actually do anything about it, here’s your chance. If you’ve never even considered the possibility that you might be a leader, I guarantee you’ll find some powerful messages that just might be loud enough to awaken the leader within you. The details of the event are here: http://lkld.co/Leadercast