The Lie We Were Told As Children:
You Are An Influence No Matter What
Hope for the Future
One thing I truly enjoy about life is my ability and opportunity to mentor others, in particular youths. I look at them and see hope, energy and the future. In many ways, I see myself in these young leaders. For years, my wife and I have awarded The Michael and Vivienne Siervo Scholarship Award to deserving young people who have fought through adversity and simply earned the right for a monetary reward towards their tuition. These kids deserve a level playing field and the best chance at achieving their goals. Interesting is that although I am the benefactor, I also benefit greatly from how it makes us feel.
In awarding these scholarships, Vivienne and I really got to know some of these kids. One in particular stood out. His name is Jasfer Nerio. In conversation I asked him, “What is your goal? What do you want to be?” His answer was simple. “One day I want to be a successful CEO.” To this day, I introduce Jasfer to everyone I meet as Mr. Future CEO.
When I was 8 years old my parents asked me a similar question. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My response was recorded on a cassette tape. Some of you reading this won’t know what a cassette tape is but it’s an old school form of recording sound using a ribbon that we wind up. Yes I know. Weird but they were awesome. Back to my story, when asked that question, my emphatic response was “When I grow up I want to be President of Canada!” Now Canada doesn’t have a president as we have a prime minister but who knows, our political structure could change. At that time I didn’t know. I just knew I wanted to be successful.
Thought to Think About
Think about this for a moment, how many kids say “Someday I want to grow up to be Vice President of the United States?” I would guess, none. If a child has any political aspirations, the odds are they want to be president someday. If he or she is like Jasfer and has aspirations towards business, they will likely respond like he did and dream of being CEO or president. Few people aspire to reach the middle.
Yet most people will never be at the top of their field, their industry, their company or their country. They will spend their careers somewhere in the middle. Is this acceptable? Is this harsh truth a tough pill to swallow? Should we ignore the odds and dedicate our lives to being the top of the heap, king of the hill, leader of the pack?
The reality is that we were lied to by our parents and teachers as children. We were led to believe that we can be anything we want and should aspire towards some form of greatness. When a parent says you can do anything you want, my reality is that no matter how hard I try, I can never be a star center in the NBA. I just don’t have the leaping ability. Okay fine. I also don’t have the height, genetics, athleticism and youth to make it happen. This is my reality and I accept it.
I believe that people should strive to be the best of themselves. They should strive to be the top of their own game, not their organization. I read a piece in a book called “The 360 degree Leader” by John Maxwell. In this book he cites Former Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney has enjoyed a remarkable career in politics. He was the White House staff to Gerald Ford, a congressman for 6 terms, who served under George HW Bush as Defense Secretary and Vice President to George W Bush. He has all the credentials, influence and clout to run and successfully hold the position as President of the United States. Maybe people will even say that he was the one pulling the strings and was the real president behind the second Bush. Regardless of any conspiracy theory we may think, he knew that the top dog position was not his best suited role.
Regardless of his role, you could put him anywhere and he could make an impact. Those who knew him would say that he is an excellent example of someone who knew his environment, his skill set and the best way for him to make a difference. It is the leader like Cheney who knows how to influence others from whatever position he finds himself in.
Scottie Pippen won 6 NBA championships, was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame and considered one of the top 50 greatest players of all time. The fact that he was the sidekick to Michael Jordan never diminished his achievements. He was one of the leaders on the defense end of the greatest Chicago Bulls teams in history. Like Cheney he was highly self aware and knew his best position to succeed.
Moment of Realization
As I grew older, I quickly realized that I will never be the President of Canada. Unless Canada joins the US, this is impossible. In addition, I have lived a successful life and continue striving to achieve SMART goals that push me out of my comfort zone. I am aware of my capacity and understand that it is important to position yourself for the greatest probability of success. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to climb a corporate ladder. It simply means that I can choose which ladder I decide to climb. And regardless of position, as long as we put ourselves in the greatest probability of success we can still influence the outcome of our lives. If we can accept this truth, guys like Jasfer and I will achieve the highest peak of our own game of life. I know the rules of the game. I’m ready to win.