Hey Leader: Take the first step

Back in 1989 I remember tenderly touching Jennifer’s swollen midsection and saying, “I think I’m going to hit the next person who says, ‘your life will never be the same.'” I knew having a child would change our lives forever – and I knew with a knowledge that would admittedly deepen over the years – that it wouldn’t be all kitty cats and rainbows. But I also knew this was surely one of life’s greatest gifts, and I resented and rejected the tones of warning, doom, and gloom!

Fast-forward 30 years, and I started to weary (geez, I’m irritable, aren’t I?) of “Words can’t express how wonderful it is to be a grandparent.” Come on. Seriously. Well, one year in, all I can say is: true dat!

Touching baby skin is unspeakably, emotionally tender. And just watching Dylan Azul is candy for the mind. He is at once perfect as he is and, as his mom said the other day, we can hardly wait to see what’s next. It makes me wonder: with all your consciousness, all your experience, your values and connections . . . perfect as you are(!) where will you grow next? Dylan is in this super-cool place where he can move across a room, holding one thing and the next, on the ground like a monkey grabbing vines in the trees. It’s clear to me: He has everything he needs to walk. I’ve let him go when he’s distracted for a second – he’s standing! he’s taken a step! – but when he realizes there’s no tether, whooosh, those knees buckle and he sits himself down.

Forget about kids and grandkids:  Perfect though you are, what growth opportunity provokes your ancient fears and buckles your knees?

On Monday the 23rd I begin teaching a leadership seminar and I’m adding a wrinkle, inviting each of us – myself included – to straighten up our knees and take some first steps we’ve been afraid to take. I’ll provide the students a list to prime their imaginative pumps, like the one at the bottom of this blog. But as a leader, are you intrigued? Leaders always invite (others to) change.  And change is always hard. And leaders model the way. So, what change might be hard for you, but advance you down the road? To greater freedom, agency, satisfaction, or effectiveness. What (false) fears like Dylan’s keep you from taking a new step, modeling courage and vulnerability and moving forward? 

I’m thinking about how I might be “perfect like Dylan” and yet choose to risk some growth, a couple steps forward in a new direction to lead with my best self. When I figure it out – and if it’s not too personal – I might share it in the comments. Care to go first? What steps might you take to

Lead with your best self.

Here are some ideas, some of which I’m considering 

Apologize for wounding another.
Ask someone for help.
Quit something (beer, wine, pot, high-fat food, avoidance, victimization thoughts) in order to CHOOSE to move forward to something more healthy.
Pick up that guitar.
Do romantic acts for your spouse.
Start that business (idea).
Reach out to that mentor.
Start therapy.
Do Duolingo.
Write a political piece: maybe on abortion, Ukraine, racism, PC-ness, or climate.
Spend a full day . . . in . . . total silence . . . and really . . . listen. 
Sign-up for a run.
Pick up an instrument.

What strikes your fancy? 

  • Not a fan of the new e-mail format. Is it just me but the font (Raleway 9) is tiny and there is a gigantic amount of gray space on each side. Is someone from marketing trying to steer people to your website by making the emails unreadable? Enjoy your content and when the changed format took place I hoped someone would notice how horrible it is but maybe I am the one to speak up or the only one who has ‘old’ eyes.

    • Hi Kevin, thank you for letting us know about this display issue. We will look into making the formatting more readable, and appreciate your dedicated readership.

  • Dan, that is just awesome. Enjoy Dylan. He does sound perfect. And your description is exactly the way my son described his son a few months ago- just not willing to trust that he was really ready to walk! Thank you for the timely wisdom on learning to walk, even if for us it’s “one more time.” I can remember when Jennifer was expecting. Now, as grandparents, we know how our parents must have felt!

  • I’m inspired to spend a day in silence – thanks for the idea. I feel the “buckling” in my stomach.

  • On May 17, I wrote that I would spend a day in silence. Today, just about one month later, I took the first Dylan baby step. 2 hours in silence. A combination of meditation, yoga and sitting and sitting with lovely trees. I’m ready to do a longer period! Thanks for the inspiration Dan.

    • Cathy,
      Way to go! I was listening to a book where the author talks about four existential fears. One is being alone and quiet.
      So easy to avoid. So wonderful to explore!

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