Life is good. Last month I spent twelve days in France selecting wines for our wine club ( www.bandbsfrenchwineclub.com ) returning just in time to take my son on a couple of college visits and be back for Opening Day.
As I stood in a long line at Customs I began chatting with the woman behind me who had arrived on the same flight from Paris. She and six of her friends had spent a week in the City of Light and had managed to see most of the sights. She rattled off the checklist: Arch de Triumphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, breezed through the Musee D’Orsay, and Louvre and walked the Champs Elysee. They had seen Paris, but her hapless expression revealed that she had not experienced it.
You can tell by the looks on their faces, the people who have completed their checklist of places to see and things to do – yep, been there, done that – and those who have been captured by experiencing a place. The women in the group behind me had that look – this year Paris, next year Dollywood – and I knew they hadn’t really experienced Paris.
One experiences Paris by lingering over a two hour lunch, strolling past the booksellers along the Seine, and breathing deeply of the perfumes of it’s beautiful women. You revel in sitting for a long dinner over fabulous food and great wine and you linger in the Musee D’Orsay and let the Impressionists effect you, and you stand in Rodins’ garden and engage the art. You venture into the Metro and are pleasantly surprised that in the depths of the underground you are entertained by a small orchestra of 14 musicians playing their violins, cellos and bass’, and you decide you are not in as much of a hurry as you thought you were, so you linger for a few minutes to be enveloped by the delightful sounds of classical music reverberating through the tiled walkways. You wait in line at Angelina’s and have late afternoon Chocolate Afrikan and experience what people have been delighting in for over a hundred years because, really, there is nothing else in the world quite like this chocolate. Then at night you stand on the balcony of your hotel room and look out across the skyline and realize that there, before your eyes, is a city, a culture, a way of life that surpasses any museum and it has captured you. You don’t check it off your list because you realize that this experience was never on your list. It crept up on you and surprised you. You’ve experienced it, not just observed it and you have learned anew that what you experience is far more valuable than what you observe.
I wrote an article several years ago in which I said that most people miss the drama of baseball because they are waiting for the action. It’s not the lead-off home run that makes baseball great, it’s the 3-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, down by a run with a man on 2nd that is the drama that draws you and thousands of other faithful fans to your feet and makes you want it to last all night. It’s the drama you experience -where seconds seem like days as you wait for the next pitch, click off in your mind the count, calculate the type of pitch that should be thrown – not the action you observe that makes you love it.
We have been created in such a way that in order for us to experience the fullness of life we must engage the drama. Sure, sometimes that means life is difficult and we are stretched and challenged by our experiences. Sometimes the drama can be painful and the experience unpleasant. We never forget the first love that crushed our heart, the first big loss on the athletic field, or the first disaster in our career. We also know that we wouldn’t be the people we are today without those experiences and we are thankful for them because they helped shape us, make us better and give us a deeper appreciation for the victories in life.
Each of us experiences the drama of life differently depending on who we are, and directly related to our Core Motivator. For example, the person with a “Belonging” Core Motivator experiences the dysfunction of a team in an entirely different way than the person with a “Creating” Core Motivator. The one sees the dysfunction as a violation of their very core, while the other sees it as a challenge to be fixed. Both see the dysfunction, but each responds to it internally and externally in different ways.
Leaders of leaders must be prepared to engage the drama every day out of who they are and with regard to who they are leading.. They must be energized by the experience of taking people from point “A” to point “B” and be thrilled to experience the drama of changed lives. It is difficult work. It is work that is not for the light of heart but it is exciting and rewarding work and it is what a leader is made for.
There is a temptation to avoid this work and to observe others as they toil in the art of leadership, instead of jumping into the drama yourself. Leaders must fight that temptation. They must rise up every morning and breath deeply of the challenges ahead of them and feel the excitement of the drama. They must be the ones who say “I want to be the guy at bat in the bottom of the 9th. Give me the bat!”
In the midst of that drama, sometimes it good to stop, take a deep breath and experience the symphony that is being played in the depths of your organization, the music of the joy of leading.
Know who you are and be it!