Bruce Wilkinson wrote a wonderful book a few years ago called the Prayer of Jabez. It was a self help, spiritual, business crossover that made the New York Times best seller list. It’s worth reading, and here’s the Cliff’s notes: Jabez prayed to God: “Enlarge my territory.” Most everyone I know aspires in some fashion to have their territory enlarged. You?
I offer two stories of two ways to do that. For a couple of years I’ve been wanting to grow the size of my class from sixty to eighty students. I think I’ve got it nailed! Guess how, but be prepared for a really complicated answer. How? I asked. Yup. I asked. Probably should have asked years back. I’m not kicking myself for not asking sooner, but I am wondering: Well, what else am I not asking for to enlarge my influence and impact?
What was holding me back? I suspect the answer is rather simple. I’m pretty sure that most times like this I’ve held back because I feared some kind of rejection. “Maybe it’s better,” my unconscious offers in its courage-sapping whisper, “to patiently wait for that day when you’ll be asked to lead something great, rather than ask and find out you maybe aren’t all that great.” We all have an inner limiter, don’t we? A hidden voice that keeps us from striking out on our own, or (to play with words) makes us so afraid of striking out that we decide not to step up to the plate and take a swing.
Oh, there are always reasons not to ask for a bigger shot. There are always reasons why “they” may not take me seriously. They’ll think: He’s too new to Berkeley, not tenured, too old, too young :-), too political, not political enough, too white, too male, too aggressive, doesn’t fit our plan, and heck we just don’t have enough classrooms. But the limit comes back to me – why am I quitting before I’ve started. This also leads to the second story and point.
The second way to grow your territory is to grow someone else’s. The fact is everyone has these unconscious instincts that limit them from growing their influence and opportunities. Take my wife (no Henny Youngman jokes…please). I think the world of her and so do others. So opportunities come her way. But every once in a while, she tells me “I wish I could play a role in…” She idly said this to me about something last week. “You should do it,” I said, “Go for it.” “They wouldn’t want me,” she replied and continued, “I don’t even have an email for them.” I reached out to a friend on her behalf, and within an hour the friend relayed a message back from them: “Jennifer’s welcome to reach out to me on my personal email.” Jennifer has reached out.
I might not get a bigger classroom, and she might not turn up a viable chance at this opportunity to enlarge her territory. But we’re both in the game.
Whose territory could you enlarge? Who wishes they could do something, or hasn’t even imagined they could? How could you “lead by two,” enlarging your impact through suggesting, promoting, and encouraging another’s success? I learned a long time ago that I can make an impact by encouraging others who are way better than I am.
Whether it’s asking on your own behalf or encouraging another,