When I was twelve years old, my English teacher persuaded me to enter a speech contest. There were three rules for the contest. The speech had to be five to seven minutes long, it had to be memorized, and the subject had to be based on the topic, “I’m just one.” There was no guidance for the topic, but even at twelve years old, we inherently knew that it was about how one person can make a difference in the world.
Two interesting things happened this weekend that made me think about my speech making experience nearly 40 years ago. I was on my annual guy’s mountain biking weekend out in the desert on the border of Colorado and Utah. I was with a mix of guys around 50 years old, and sons and friends of sons who were in the early 20’s. The generational mix got me thinking about the legacy we’re leaving for the next generation, and how fast we’re all burning the non-renewable resource known as time!
In addition, I finally watched the documentary “I am” last night that I have heard about for months. It did not disappoint, as it was incredibly powerful. The filmmaker, Tom Shadyac, started out with the two questions: What’s wrong with the world and what can we do about it? His short answer, “I am.” We are. In the end, much to his surprise, he discovers what’s right with the world. His answer again is, “I am.” We are. The summary of what he found is as follows:
- It is scientifically proven that the entire human race is connected.
- It is human nature to be cooperative rather than competitive.
- If you don’t do what your heart wants you to do and follow your passion, it will destroy you.
Connections, cooperation, competition, and passion are key topics we discuss when debating the tenets of leadership. What’s old is new again, right? Excursions into nature always get me thinking philosophically. I had a 10-mile ride in the desert by myself yesterday amongst mesa’s, giant rock outcroppings, and alcoves. Places where petroglyphs still stand in testament to questions that have been asked for centuries. And today, I came across this poem:
It’s 3:23 in the morning and I’m awake
because my great, great, grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing
as the mammals, reptiles and birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
what did you do
Now that you know, what will you do? I’m just one… I am someone who is trying to balance cooperation and competition. I am someone who is trying to balance ego and humility. I am someone who is trying to teach the tenets of leadership based on passion, compassion, self-reliance, and collaboration.
The actor Jim Carey summed it up nicely, “What’s the secret of my success? I conquered ego — and that’s what makes me so very special and unique. I have transcended my grandiosity, and that’s what puts me a cut above the rest.” As just one, what did you need to transcend to make a difference for your team(s)… for the world?