This is a lesson I learned a few years ago, and I want to share the story with you. I was observing my son play as we waited for my wife to try on some clothes. We found a less than optimal play room. It had a little train set on it which was great for my son! He loves trains. The set was not complete, and had an interesting mix of toys quite obviously gathered from different play sets. Being the “Intelligent, Rational, and Experienced” adult that I am, began criticizing the toy arrangement in my mind.
But here is the turning point where I learned three valuable lesson in leadership from a two year old.
1. Things don’t need to be perfect to get started!
My son didn’t notice the things that were wrong with the play set. He also wasn’t going to wait until the conditions were “optimal” for him to begin playing. He went with what he had and made the best of it. He loved being in the moment while figuring out how to enjoy what he had. Too oft we as adults will stare a good thing in the face and decide that the “moment is not quite right.” Just like when I started this blog, I had been waiting for the right moment, for things to be a little less busy for me, to have a little more money to put into it, to have some pre-made content etc., etc. All I had were a bunch of excuses as to why my project wasn’t going to work. I was listening to Dan Millers Podcast when he talked about not needing to wait for the right moment. He inspired me to get going on this blog and figure it out as we go. So if there is anything crazy it’s Dan’s fault!! (But seriously check out his work)
2. Make do with what you have!
Your beginnings don’t need to be lavish. A lot of times the best ideas come when you have to struggle a little. Everyone that is embarking on a new venture, whether it is a new business or a new idea for taking care of your home, wants to have all the nicest things that are available to them. When we make do, we free ourselves from pressures that come with buying the latest and greatest. We have ample time to figure out new ideas and to begin to develop a sense of self accomplishment. When my son was playing all of the pieces were not there, the track didn’t always connect, and there were obvious deficiencies with the train set itself. Porter (my son) didn’t let any of that keep him from having an enjoyable time playing. He took pieces that didn’t exactly fit, and made them do the job. Much like the above lesson, things don’t have to be perfect. We don’t always need the best things just to get going.
As I look back at my life I can see this lesson played over and over again. Statistically I fit a lot of criteria to not have acheived the things I have acheived. I am latino and come from a single parent home (42% of latino chldren), I was raised in poverty, English is my second language, My mother didn’t drive, no one had ever gone to college, ….etc, etc, I could continue, but I won’t. The thing is that not having everything handed to me made me hungry for success. I made do with what I had. I looked for opportunities where they weren’t apparent, much like my son arranging the mismatched tracks and having it be ok.
3. Hey you, Take the Lead!
Porter took the lead and told me what he expected of me. Sure he told me to pull the train and build him a bridge, but the lead was taken. I was still busy analyzing how this play set wasn’t going to work. Great leaders will motivate their team under all circumstances. Your road will not always be smooth, but you can definitely help your team see why it is necessary to make it through to the other side. Compulsory means will get things done, but they do not provide you with a strong team. They usually end up in resentment.
A good level of respect helps you get places with your team, but you will get a lot further if they admire you instead of being afraid of you. Good leaders aren’t afraid of jumping in and getting dirty and working side by side with your team. Don’t be afraid of your team member being smarter than you, that is why your are working with them. My uncle gave me a book when I was a teenager, it was called “Don’t worry, Make money!” the quote the affected me the most was “don’t be afraid to work with people that are smarter than you.” Respect and leadership are the takeaway from this lesson.