Traveling for work has a funny way of blending weeks together. The months seem to pass as a blur, tough to remember what week was what, and where you were when. Sometimes, you get lucky and have a week that stands out.
A couple weeks ago, I was blessed to travel with someone I respect and look up to, her name is Izabela Lundberg. She has a truly inspiring story and wrote an international best-selling book “The World Messenger”, I strongly urge you to go to http://www.theworldmessenger.com and purchase a copy of her book. It’s a phenomenal story of the human spirit.
Traveling with Izabela is enjoyable because our thoughts on leadership align. There is no ego, we don’t try to one-up each other, just honest conversation about today’s business world and the best ways to make a real difference.
One evening, we were sitting in Panera for what must have been an hour and half. When we walked into the restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice a young man sitting at a table in the back. He was facing the front of the restaurant, he set himself up what seemed to be a little impromptu office. He had his computer set up with papers sprawled across the table, a baseball in a display case, an American Flag in a small stand, and a Mason emblem propped up against a book.
Honestly, I just assumed he set up shop to try to offer some type of service, or was maybe meeting someone there. Didn’t really give him much thought. About an hour into our conversation, the young man came over to talk to us. He told us he couldn’t help but over hear the conversation and thought we may be able to help him. He told us about how he was eighteen and majoring in bio-mechanical engineering. He was a type one diabetic, he aspired to engineer prosthetics to help diabetic amputees.
He was well dressed, wearing a pressed white button up shirt and a light black jacket. Buttoned to his jacket was a small gold Mason pin. On his left hand was a black compression glove with the index and middle finger missing. He explained that he wore it because of his diabetes. I didn’t understand the need for the glove. Turns out it is bring awareness to the common amputations that happen when diabetes goes untreated properly.
Then he asked us a question, “The two of you seem very business smart, what advice can you give a young college student to help him on his way?”
Izabela and I glanced at each other, not really knowing what to think of this young intruder. Looking back at him for a few seconds, I thought about how to respond. “Well”, I softly replied, “I think the best advice I can give you is this: You need to know that nobody owes you anything.” He looked at me with a puzzled gaze.
Better clarify a little. “What I mean is this; when you are in class, it is up to you to learn everything you need to learn. It is up to you to study and do the best you can in class. You hold the key to your future, go get it.”
He seemed to understand, he thanked me and headed back to his makeshift office. Izabela and I went back to our conversation and we soon left and went our separate ways, we never said a word about the young man.
Reflecting on him, I remembered what I used to say to all my new employees. One of my favorite things to do with a new hire on the first day was sit them in my office, close the door, and tell them the following:
In my years in this business I have learned one thing that has stood out. The majority of people that are working today treat their jobs like they don’t matter. They don’t try, they aren’t self-motivated, they only do the minimum needed, the result of their poor effort is garbage. The pride in a good honest day’s work is gone. If you want to succeed, you simply need to just do your best and try. All you need to do is try.
These few blunt sentences were a tremendously effective way of getting the new hires attention. We’d then have a productive conversation about expectations for both of us. Having grown professionally since then, my perspective has changed. Given the chance today, I would change my approach.
“To know what is possible, we need to seek, embrace, and act on the impossible” – Izabela, The World Messenger
This quote from Izabela’s book has really inspired me. I read the line over and over to get a good understanding of what it meant. To simplify for myself, I have broken this down to two words: be bold. To make a difference in your life, your career, your relationships, your attitude, all you simply need to do is make a choice. You can stick with the status quo or you can be bold and make a change.
There is a saying that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission, but I say why ask for either. The best advice I can give to you, is to look and find opportunities to better your environment, then fearlessly make the choice to be bold, and do it. You don’t know that you won’t succeed until you fail, but if you are bold enough to give it your best, it will be worth it. Clearly, I am not saying to completely just go rogue, you need to understand your boundaries and respect the chain of command, but there are always areas to push.
Starting this blog earlier this year was an act of bold rebellion. Unfortunately, I have not prioritized writing as much as I should. I took the summer off for exploring and then this fall has been spent coming up with innovative ideas for work, but I am back and committed to writing again. I encourage you to find something like this. Ask yourself, is there something you want to do and are too scared too? You find yourself complaining about something at work? Ask yourself how it could be better.
Make the choice to be the one to make it better. It is that simple, I promise.
If it was possible to re answer the question for that young man, I would absolutely change my answer. While it is important for people to know their own success is up to themselves, it is more important to know that it is OK to be bold. Stand up for what you want and take it. What happens if it is doesn’t work out for you like you planned? Don’t worry, learn from your mistake, and try again.