Too Busy for Opportunity

It may be true or just perception, but the 21st century seems to find people busier than ever.  Human civilization has never known so many choices for passing the time.  Naturally we’ve responded by cramming an extraordinary amount of stuff onto our calendar, which some find pleasing and others find disturbing.

“If you observe a really happy man, you will find… that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours each day.” — W. Beran Wolfe

“Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn’t seem to be working.” — Anonymous

One of the consequences of our bounty is that we have become experts at using our hectic lives as a shield against change.   “This week is bad for me.”  “I’m swamped.”  “We’re having a minor crisis at work.”

“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” — Henry Kissinger (1923- )

“A schedule defends from chaos and whim.” — Annie Dillard

Ah yes, little white lies!  That’s what the “lack of time excuse” is.  The truth is, people can always find time to do what matters most. (Remember the parable of the mayonnaise jar.)  So it’s hard to understand why anyone would use this type of worn out excuse, especially in response to an opportunity.  For example, I imagine being offered the chance to play golf with Tiger Woods at Augusta National.  Do I jump at it?  On the surface there would appear to be plenty of reasons not to.   “The timing is bad.”  “I can’t possibly get away from work.”  One thing I do know, if I ever passed up an opportunity this big because of a phony issue with my calendar, my golf buddies would smack me silly.

“Calendars are for careful people, not passionate ones.” — Chuck Sigars, The World According to Chuck weblog, September 8, 2003

The idea of bad timing is totally misunderstood.  People tend to think timing is all about their own situation, when it’s really about the timing of the opportunity.  To capitalize on opportunities, we must understand that we all have some measure of control over our own schedules.  If something is important enough, it is almost always possible to rearrange the calendar for an opportunity.  On the other hand, we have much less control over opportunities, which come and go with or without our prior permission.  Instead of taking bold action, people rationalize that the opportunity requires an empty calendar.  Think of any missed opportunity and see if you can find yourself anywhere in the following depiction:

September:  “I have so much on my plate right now.  The kids just started school and it’s soccer season.  Let’s wait until things settle down.”

October:  “I think Junior’s team is going to make the play-offs.  Can we please wait until those are over in November?”

November:  “I wrecked my car.  As soon as I get that taken care of we’ll talk.”

Two weeks later:  “I’m almost ready.  How about right after Thanksgiving?”

December:  “I forgot about how busy the holidays are.  For sure, first of the year.”

January:  “Lot’s of flu going around.  Call me back when we’re all healthy.”

Three weeks later:  “Can you believe all the snow we’ve had?  I really hate driving in bad weather.  I need to wait until it warms up.”

March:  “You know, Spring Break is almost here and we are taking the family to DisneyWorld. Call me when I return.”

April:  “Sorry, its tax time and I’m swamped at work.  Hopefully next month will be better.”

May:  “Just too many irons in the fire right now.  I’m coordinating the family reunion for Memorial Day weekend.  June for sure, I promise.”

June:  “Well, I know it’s time to get going, but there are a bunch of weddings and graduations on the calendar.  Please be patient just a little bit longer.”

Two weeks later:  “You can’t expect me to start with July the 4th right around the corner.  The rest of July looks wide open.”

July 5th:  “Did I really say that?  I guess I forgot about my two-week vacation and there’s so much to get done before then.”

August: “I’ve absolutely got to get caught up on the yard work and house repairs.  I couldn’t possibly take on something new right now.  Let’s wait until those chores are out of the way.”

September (again):  “I have so much on my plate right now.  The kids just started school and it’s soccer season.  Let’s wait until things settle down later this fall.”

If you always wait for every traffic light to turn green before starting something, you will NEVER start anything.  Go out on a limb – that’s where the fruit is!

God bless,

— CC

Leadership Potion?

“Men make history, and not the other way around.
In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still.
Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders
seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

— Harry S Truman

Fans of “The Munsters,” that old black & white show with Fred Gwynne as the lovable Herman Munster, may remember the dungeon, where Grandpa prepared magic potions. His concoctions, with ghastly ingredients such as eye of newt, could turn a person into almost anything. It’s a silly show. It makes an even sillier metaphor for this blog’s topic, leadership.

What ingredients are needed to transform an ordinary person into a good leader? I would start with ten parts character, a compound consisting of elements such as: integrity, courage, commitment, optimism, patience, compassion, desire, humility, loyalty and faith.

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” — Ray Kroc

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” — Peter Drucker

Good character is the main ingredient of the leadership formula. Character produces desirable results such as inspiration, motivation, self esteem, justice and fairness. Character is what separates leaders from tyrants.

“Outstanding leaders appeal to the hearts of their followers – not their minds.” — Author Unknown

Next, I would add one part knowledge,

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” — John F. Kennedy, from the speech prepared for delivery in Dallas the day of his assassination, November 22, 1963

one part imagination,

“Imagination gives you the picture. Vision gives you the impulse to make the picture your own.” — Robert Collier

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” — Steve Jobs

one part style/personality,

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head-that’s assault, not leadership.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation.” — William Arthur Wood

and one part communication.

“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” — Stephen Covey, “The 8th Habit”

“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” — Harold Geneen, Chairman, ITT Corp.

The formula is potent even if the metaphor is weak.

How would a person determine if he was a leader? I heard someone suggest turning around. If no one is following, that person is not a leader.

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” — Colin Powell

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and will to carry on.” — Walter J. Lippmann

A leader is not phony. People will eventually see right through someone who is a LINO (leader in name only.) True leadership is demonstrated and lived. Leaders bear some awesome responsibilities.

“A great leader never sets himself above his followers except in carrying responsibilities.” — Jules Ormont

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” — Tom Peters

“He that would be a leader must be a bridge.” — Welsh Proverb

“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” — Henry Kissinger

“Good leadership consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” — John D. Rockefeller

Leaders demand of themselves a regimen of continuous improvement, especially regarding the character ingredient. While leaders will exercise discretion to accept or reject specific leadership roles, their leadership attributes are not an on-off switch. True leaders don’t say, “I think I’ll behave like a leader today and maybe next Friday, too.” In other words …

“There are no office hours for leaders.” — Cardinal James Gibbons

There is a shortage of good leaders. I’m inclined to say we are in the middle of a leadership drought at every level: our families, institutions, communities and our countries.

“Great necessities call forth great leaders.” — Abigail Adams

Who is prepared to step forward? Who is willing to answer the call?

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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