a camel in a field full of cows

While it should be said that it’s remarkable in itself that my 8 year old was helping me do the dishes, it’s what he said that has had me thinking.  We were discussing his current overuse of the word “epic” and he informed me that one of his compatriots is no longer using the word.  When I inquired about this sudden change in his friend’s vernacular, Sam informs me that another boy they know has deemed it as a “dumb word” and so his friend has decided to eradicate it from his list of word choices.  I say nothing and we continue to rinse and dry and a moment or so later Sam says, “I like the word.  So I am gonna use it.  Life’s too short to try to be anyone but yourself and I just want to be me.”  Okay.  Makes sense.

I’ve often remarked about the story of Secretariat – the horse that won the triple crown when and wasn’t supposed to.  He defied all odds. What was interesting about this story was not that the horse was a winner.  I mean, okay, every race has a winner.  But what was interesting is that the owner and trainer of Secretariat didn’t treat Secretariat like any other horse.  As they  approached the end of the triple crown series, most of the expected winners were being rested and refreshed.  But the trainers and the owner of Secretariat knew their horse’s needs, what drove him.  So they ran him.  Again and again and again.  And coming into the last race, many others around them felt that it was the end of Secretariat – that they had pushed him too far.  And then not only did Secretariat win the triple crown, but set records in all three stakes that still stand today.  That racehorse had to run.  He had to be himself.  Being himself is what made him a winner.

So then as far as leadership…   well, we’ll come back to that.  First let me just quickly tell you about Mona.

In the San Juan islands, just outside of Friday Harbor, as you drive along the quiet road that takes you through a cross between island life and country life, you’ll wind through pastures that are really pretty predictable.  And nice.  There’s some beautiful fields and some cows along the way and it’s good.  But it only becomes remarkable when you meet Mona.  Mona the camel.  The CAMEL.  I mean really, who pulls over the car to look and see if they really see a cow?  But if you think you see a camel in the middle of an island pasture in Washington State, you think:  well that’s different.  Am I really seeing that?  That’s interesting.  I might want to learn more about that.  What’s the story there?

So that seems pretty obvious when it comes to marketing.  Hit the fringes, the masses will follow when the fringes get obsessed, fanatical and start talking.  Get noticed.  That’s easy enought to get.  But in getting back to being a leader, what does this mean?

What if we stopped interrupting those who don’t care about what we are selling, our purpose?  Like in sales and marketing.  Winning brands know their market and who they are trying to talk to.  They know who their steadfast fans are and who they are trying to interrupt.  Winning brands use those fans as foot soldiers in their branding and in spreading their message.  So in leading teams, what if you let the genius of your absurdities and your differences loose?  What if you said “to hell with it – I love the word epic and I am gonna use it” and I am going to appeal to those that my brand speaks to.  What if we regularly embraced our uniquness instead of trying to stifle it so that we could blend in and be more acceptable and safe.  I wonder about the possibilities we might open up in ourselves and in others – the fringes – who might just get fanatical about the purpose that we serve as leaders and then become leaders themselves in that purpose…  and so the purpose, the idea, the way in which we lead…  spreads.

Anyway, interesting to think about. I’ll just end with this:

Use words you like, even when other people say they are dumb.  Make sure your “trainers” (mentors, leaders, managers, coaches) know what you need and don’t rest you when you really need to run.  Be a camel in a field full of cows. And even if you don’t find anyone follows you – “life’s too short to be anyone but yourself.”

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saying how awesome you are is… awesome

I wanna be awesome.

I’m learning I am not alone in the fact that writing my self assessment at annual review time could possibly be the single thing in the work world that I detest doing the most.   As I sit here and reflect on why that is, it really takes very little time to get to the heart of it.  It makes me feel weird.  And saying good things about myself makes me feel all braggy.  Which, again, makes me feel weird.  Mind you, I can go on and on and on about the places where I could use work.  That part comes easy.  But it’s not the whole truth and it’s also not gonna win me credit for my time and energy that I put in, credibility from my experiences, and it sure isn’t gonna make me popular with my leadership team!

I came across this article the other day that was titled “The Right Way to Speak to Yourself”  and I thought,”Well duh, of course, that makes sense.” I mean when I look at my son Sam, who is 8, I so often marvel at his willingness to share an honest assessment of himself  “Oh yeah, I’m not very good at shuffling cards yet, my hands are kinda small”  and “I’m a good dancer because…  well because I am awesome.”  We come into the world with clear vision into ourselves only to cloud it – or at least the ability to speak about it, along the way.

http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/08/teach-yourself-to-have-a-healthy.html

The article is interesting becuase it’s a quick read on remembering to think about this as we manage our relationships with others as well as ourselves.  The idea that “possibly it’s because we grow up in an academic setting that emphasizes critique over admiration. Perhaps it feels arrogant — unseemly even —  to speak to ourselves with the effusive praise and positivity that Dorit [the first grade teacher] spoke to her class. It might even feel dangerous to go easy on ourselves. If we did, maybe we wouldn’t accomplish anything at all. Maybe we’d devolve into laziness.”  Hmm.

I read on.  And then there it was.  The word.  Love.  Could I answer the question if I am worth it to myself, could I love myself enough, to carve out time each week or month to support and care for my own story?  Could I take myself to the classroom once a week to spend a few minutes reflecting back on mistakes I’ve learned from this week, things that went well, places I shined?  Could I privately mark down progress I’ve made?  Progress I want to make?  I think know I could.  So will I?

The article made me want to spring into action – to try to get a tactic, something tangible, that can help me take myself to the classroom once a week.  I didn’t surface alot of ideas that felt right for me, so for now, I pledge to at a minimum – carve out the time in my calendar once a week to create space to write a few pages of my story and mark my work.  My hope is, when mid year and annual review times come along, this space will help me turn self assessment loathing into love (or at least like), and that I’ll not only be able to call out where my hands are too small for shuffling, but also when I’m…. well awesome.