“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.” – Steve Jobs
Have you ever completely invested yourself into a project, a person or an event only to have your efforts torn down?
Five years I was speaking at an event and I experienced the joy of giving 100% of my effort and, then, the pain of being torn down after it.
I also learned three invaluable lessons in the process.
I was invited to speak at a conference in Canada. It was one of my first trips on a plane, my first time out of the country and the largest group I’d ever spoken in front of. I had only been speaking for about a year and I was totally petrified.
Needless to say, I did not sleep the night before. Instead I paced back and forth reciting and re-reciting my speech.
With the help of several coffees and a few prayers, I was ready when the president of the organization introduced me the following morning!
My aim was to share from my heart about my personal experiences as a child, the heroes who showed up, their profound impact on my life, the
lessons they taught me and – most importantly – how this connected to what the men and women in this room did each day in their business and lives. It was raw, passionate and authentic. Several hundred people danced to their feet when I finished. Looking over the room I felt emotionally exhausted, completely humbled and totally fired up…until it happened.
The president called me back on stage for an informal question and answer segment. I answered a series of questions: “What happened to your house?” “How’s your brother today?” “How’d you meet your wife?” Then, from the back of the room came the final question: “John, it is an entertaining story. Stunning really. Never heard anything like. But, John, and don’t take any offense, I don’t think any of it applies to me. John, why should I care?”
He crossed his arms and waited for my answer.
I took a deep breath, thanked the gentleman for his honesty and shared this truth: stories of individuals who overcome remarkable adversity hold the keys to how we, too, can overcome adversity in our lives. [Tweet this.] That stories of great leaders (like Nurse Roy, Jack Buck, my parents) remind the rest of us what type of impact we could have through our lives for those around us. And that often the reason we don’t take the next step in life is the self-fulfilling excuses why we can’t.
I answered with a smile, but below the surface was totally deflated. This experience, however, lead directly to three critical learnings:
- We grow most by asking and answering difficult questions. [Tweet this.] This does not mean that we should “let the noise of other’s opinions drown out our inner voice.” But, this question allowed me to critique and grow myself and my presentation. Every speech since, every handout, every exercise is now included (or dismissed) in light of these questions, “Why should they care about this? How does this positively influence them? How does this story challenge, encourage, inspire this audience in their lives?” These questions are important to ask not only in creating a speech, but in my every interaction, conversation and action.
- The only way to go from crawling to walking is by falling. As children, we learn this truth naturally. After every face-plant, we pull ourselves back up, wipe off the tears and try again. We fall hundreds of times before we walk. In growing a business, transforming a brand, improving a marriage, raising a child, making a difference we should plan on falling. [Tweet this.] The important thing is not to stop falling, but to keep learning, growing, improving, getting back up and walking forward.
- Motivation is an inside job. You can’t plead, beg or trick someone to feel inspired. Motivation takes an internal drive. Great leaders know this and live this. They also take the time to discern with their team members (employees, patients, children, neighbors) what lights each of them up. The best teachers and mentors inspire us to imagine what’s possible through our lives and then equip us to choose the next step for ourselves. Our job as leaders, then, isn’t to force people to drink, but to discover with them what makes them thirsty and then encourage them to dream, think, work and pursue that passion.
So, why should you care?
It’s a great question. Perhaps my greatest realization from the experience at the conference in Canada was this: ultimately no one can answer this question except for you. It’s your job. It’s your family. It’s your health. It’s your career. It’s your life. And it’s your responsibility to care.
The world is ready for you to be on fire for a message, a mission and a cause even bigger than yourself.
What do YOU care about today? Share in the comments! One lucky friend who shares will get a free enrollment into my Ignite Life Today program.
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