I'm watching my alma mater, Northwestern University, play football while flying the first leg of our trip to Ecuador. As a very small school playing in the Big 10, NU teams have always struggled to hold their own in the conference and, once in a while, produce a team that excels. When they do, they do it with heart and commitment that far exceeds their talent and depth. In this game, the announcers are praising NU's quarterback, Dan Persa, (who is not one of the big names in the country), as someone who "will always get whatever is there to get." In fact, he has just run for his second touchdown and then thrown for his third and they are still in the first quarter of the game! This has got me thinking about great leaders. They know how “to get whatever is there to get”- meaning they find the opportunities big and small in every situation and leverage them for all they are worth.
As a leader, do you "get what whatever there is to get" with every opportunity? Have you been playing it safe, doing what you know how to do? Do you see new opportunities that require you to risk and then find reasons to play safe? Does the idea of bold goals that we posted about last time seem like a good idea for someone else?
You are not alone! Most of us are playing it safe in all or part of our lives, preferring "the devil we know to the devil we don't." What is the cost? What are you missing by not playing like the NU quarterback is playing?
One level of examination that can get you "some running room" is to get very clear about what stops you. That requires developing your ability to self observe - listen to your thoughts and observe your actions while you are in the action.
A more highly leveraged approach is to spend your energy getting as clear as you can about the opportunity before you. Get clear about your vision for your future, what we fondly call “your Yonder Star.” Remember, it is a creation - it has not happened yet. If you are to fulfill your Yonder Star, it will take commitment. Said another way, surrender to the call of your Yonder Star and let it pull your life forward. If you do, your forward motion will displace the noise in your head from your fears and concerns. They probably won't go away, but they will lose their grip on you. When you forget and your concerns seem to be taking over, refocus on your Yonder Star and get into action! We call this the "Leadership Choice Point." You may have to re-choose many times to fulfill your Yonder Star. As you do, however, you will be building your capacity to work from vision and opportunity, to "get whatever is there to get."
As we are landing and I have to turn off the TV, Penn State has tied the game. NU may once again fall short of the win. I won't get to see it, either way. If they do, however, it won't be because they failed to play all out for their Yonder Star!