I’d like to start off by saying: “I don’t care what you think.”
Not what you think of the things I do; of the things I say; of the way I act; of the choices I make.
But we all know that’s not true.
I do care. And, sometimes, that’s the problem.
* * *
Because honesty’s the only way to tell a meaningful story, I’ll give you an example.
Yesterday, my sister had a party at her new home; a really good party. Practically every person in Arizona that we have as a family friend was there. There was a good food, good drink and good conversation.
There was also a swimming pool. I love swimming.
But I didn’t go swimming.
Because half the people from my gym were there. And after 4 years of Ironman training and 2 years of Crossfit, I still wear a spare tire (it’s probably gone from a pickup truck tire to a Hyundai Excel tire … but still) around my mid-section.
And I was embarrassed, or ashamed, or … what? … something. Nevertheless, I didn’t take off my shirt. I didn’t go in.
I missed out on cannonballs and back flips and tormenting small children all because of a little misplaced vanity.
All because I cared what other people would think.
* * *
I woke up unhappy with that choice.
I woke up recognizing that I still let my insecurities rule my behavior.
And lately, it’s become painfully clear that these tendencies are holding me back. They’re leaving me short of my potential – of which I know there is much.
Though it may not be perfectly clear, I’ve always been ashamed – I’m not sure ashamed is the right word – of the potential people say they see in me as a leader. Maybe uncomfortable is a better way to describe it.
Why do I get asked to serve on boards; why do people tell me “you should run for X or Y office”; and, lately, why me for Tempe Leadership?
On one hand I see why; but on the other I feel like really embracing the leadership role comes off as arrogant.
It’s a bizarre mental balancing act; and I’ve often hesitated discussing it publicly because on one hand, I always feared I’d look like an attention-hungry fool seeking more affirmation while simultaneously coming across as boastful.
But with each passing day this week, the thought has been building inside me: “You’ve been asked by your city, your company, your mentors and your friends to lead. It’s time to stop ignoring it.”
Of course, throughout the whole week, too, the old me would push back.
It’s funny the things that tip you over the edge – in this case, a swimming pool and some love handles. But that’s what insecurity does, it gets in the way of you, it gets in the way of life – in ways big and small.
So this morning I woke up and said, “It ends here.”
You think I’m a leader?
I think so, too.
* * *
What really triggered this train of thought was my acceptance last week into the Tempe Leadership program. It’ll start in September; around the same I’ll take a seat on the board of Tempe Community Action Agency.
It got me thinking: What is a leader, not as it applies to their outward behavior, but as it applies to their inner thinking?
And more importantly – if this agency is going to invest time and money in me – do I think like one, do I treat myself like one?
I drew a few conclusions, in no particular order.
1) Leaders aren’t afraid of their potential.
2) They don’t take actions that limit their potential for good – unhealthy choices, illegal behavior.
3) They tell the truth, always, even when its hard, or uncomfortable, or embarrassing.
4) They live without fear of judgment, especially if they believe the actions they are taking are right and good.
Needless to say, there’s work to do.
* * *
The last 9-months have been interesting in that, from a day-to-day life perspective, everything has changed.
With Heidi and I both working jobs that require us at a desk 8 to 10 hours a day, and two kids in school (plus after-school activities), we don’t have time for much a social life.
So the people I once spent so much time with; the people whose opinions once mattered so much to (and influenced) me, don’t really have much pull anymore.
Not because I don’t care about them … but, because, well, in a world in which you see your best friends a few times a year, their thoughts have very little impact on your life. Hell, you don’t even know what they’re thinking.
As a result, I’ve learned that its possible to let just four people guide my life – me, my wife and my two children.
And while that lesson was forced upon me by the necessary routine of middle-class living with two kids, the lesson is no less valuable.
Most of the satisfaction we get out of life is going to come from the very simple day-to-day choices we make: Big Mac or Salad, whiskey or iced-tea, bed at 9:30 or Ricki Lake rereuns until midnight? All that stuff comes from within and its cumulative – each little “best-possible-choice-for-you-and-your-family” decision building upon the next.
This busy family life has made seeing it easier; made it easier to break the routines I established with friends in my 20s and early 30s, and build new ones.
As the old routines seem less important, the possibilities of new directions have become more clear.
The thing I once feared – leaving behind what I knew and going after what I think is possible (to lead and change lives) – is now the thing I want.
* * *
What’s that all mean?
I’m not sure.
I can only fall back to the conclusions I drew about a leader’s internal thinking and behavior and start there.
So, let’s start at the beginning.
And I think that means working to maintain a healthy mind and body to start. I’m tossing aside alcohol for now (don’t worry Bang, we’ll still celebrate in Boston); focusing more closely on sleep and eating and making a commitment to reading for leisure again: feed your mind type stuff.
And I’m going to stop bitching.
Negative leaders create fear, flame hatred and blame others.
That’s not the person I want to be.
That’s not who I’m supposed to be.
The real me wants out.
After too many years of bars and locks and chains, look out people, I’m opening the gate.