Countless people have influenced my leadership, and many more will help me grow in the future. However, the short list of key influencers would have to include my mom. She shaped many of my deeply held beliefs about life and leadership.
Mother’s Day is this weekend. I don’t know about you, but I don’t say thanks enough to my mom for all she has taught me throughout my life. Not only did she invest untold hours trying to help me become a fully-functioning adult (she was partially successful on this one), her example directly impacted the leader I am today.
I’ve said on many occasions, people always watch the leader. Kids also watch their parents if they are fortunate to have them in their life. As I watched my mom, I saw hard work, a great attitude, unwavering faith, a servant spirit, perseverance regardless of circumstances and a thankful heart. All of these I continue to strive for in my life!
One of my favorite “teachable moments” with my mom came after I was an adult. Almost 30 years ago, I was leading a group of leaders through a team building experience involving a ropes course. One of the high elements revolved around a telephone pole approximately 30 feet tall. The activity involved climbing to the top of the pole, standing up… Some of you are you wondering: Are you kidding me??? No, and there’s more – the final part of the challenge was to jump off the pole and grab hold of a trapeze bar placed about six feet in front of you. Seriously?? Yes, it was serious!!
So, since I was leading this group, I felt the need to complete the various elements as well. I remember my first time up the pole. I was terrified. I don’t know how long it took me to climb the pole – it seemed like an hour; but I do remember getting to the top and being unable to stand. I was paralyzed with fear. To stand up meant stepping up on one foot while pulling the other leg up to a platform less than 12 inches square. All of this was predicated on my ability to maintain my balance, and then you were supposed to jump! After what seemed like an hour – I finally stood. It was a strange combination of fear and accomplishment laced with adrenaline.
Then, without much thought, attention or focus, I took what I believed to be a giant leap to catch the bar dangling in front of me. I caught it with one hand and quickly fell, only to be caught by my teammate who had been patiently holding the other end of the rope during my ordeal.
The next time I saw my mom, I told her this story. I really don’t know what I expected – maybe deep down inside, I wanted her to say, “Congratulations for conquering your fear. It took a lot of courage to stand on top of that pole.” Or, who knows, maybe she would say, “I always knew you were crazy – this confirms it!” No, she didn’t say these things, she said:
“I guess you quit before you were finished.”
She was right, I quit too soon. I lost focus on the real goal. My objective was NOT to stand on top of the pole; it was to catch the bar.
I’ve thought about that conversation often over the last 25 years. I don’t ever want to lose sight of the real goal regardless of the situation, and I never want to quit before I finish.
Thanks, Mom for loving me and challenging me to be all I can be. I promise, I won’t quit until I’m finished![GLS_Shield]
Author: Mark Miller
Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.