Can You Hear the Music?

Navajo-Medicine-ManCan you hear the music?   This following story was recently shared by Wilford W. Andersen at a church conference and thought it was a powerful metaphor for so many of us living our lives but not hearing the music.

Mr. Andersen stated in part, “Years ago I listened to a radio interview of a young doctor who worked in a hospital in the Navajo Nation. He told of an experience he had one night when an old Native American man with long braided hair came into the emergency room. The young doctor took his clipboard, approached the man, and said, “How can I help you?” The old man looked straight ahead and said nothing. The doctor, feeling somewhat impatient, tried again. “I cannot help you if you don’t speak to me,” he said. “Tell me why you have come to the hospital.”

The old man then looked at him and said, “Do you dance?” As the young doctor pondered the strange question, it occurred to him that perhaps his patient was a tribal medicine man who, according to ancient tribal customs, sought to heal the sick through song and dance rather than through prescribing medication.

“No,” said the doctor, “I don’t dance. Do you dance?” The old man nodded yes. Then the doctor asked, “Could you teach me to dance?” The old man’s response has for many years caused me much reflection. “I can teach you to dance,” he said, “but you have to hear the music.”

After contemplating this story and the old man’s insightful response it occurred to me that many people know how to dance but are not hearing the music.  Have you ever pulled up next to someone in the adjoining car who is rocking out and dancing but you can’t hear the music so it looks awkward and foolish to everyone but the individual who is dancing to the music.

I spent 35 years in a profession that I learned the dance but never heard the music. I believe a lot of people, in fact most people like me, work in professions in which they learned  and some even do well i.e. learned the dance.  For example, I achieved VP and Plant Manager of a fortune five hundred company which most would consider very successful.  Too many people, like me, are in careers that their parents choose, society holds prestigious, and/or one they stumbled onto or just found to be convenient.  Unfortunately, like me, most them can not hear the music.

What is the music?  It is melody in our heart.  It is our passion and love.  However only we can hear the music of our heart and it yearns for us to both hear and dance to our own music.  Our music is the God-given talents and strengths that we have been given.

I found two really simple but powerful proven ways to gain some insight into your talents and character strengths.  The first is by found in the book “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Roth.  The book contains an on-line assessment which upon completion will give you your top five talents which when utilized on a daily basis becomes your strengths.   Having this knowledge then allows to do what you do best every day which energizes and fulfills your life’s purpose. The really cool thing is you don’t have to read the book before taking the assessment.  In fact, I recommend taking the assessment then reading about your top five talents/strengths.  There are thirty-five talents/strengths however the top five are the best indications of what energizes you and allows you the hear the music.

The second is a character strengths survey which is free.  Character strengths are the personality characteristics that make you authentic, unique and feel engaged. Go to http://www.viasurvey.org and the insightful results will tell you the character strengths in which you are most comfortable in utilizing on a daily basis.

If you are interested in self-discovery and putting yourself on a path of being able to hear the music then take the time to do both.  You are worth the investment and for such a small price in regards to money and time you can begin to dance to your hearts music.  Taking the “Strengths Finder”  assessment put me on a path that changed my life.  I have since taken the character strengths assessment and it gave me even more insight into my personality and how I could benefit even further by using my character strengths on a daily basis.  The two compliment each other wonderfully.

As I was, and unfortunately most people still are, in professions that does not align with the music in their hearts.  Thus they are dancing and if not outwardly, at a minimum inwardly, they feel awkward and foolish because they are essentially dancing without hearing the music. I know because I did not hear the music until I walked away from a six figure position and followed my passion.  We cannot help but be awkward and somewhat foolish in our dance until we hear the music.  However you might not need to change professions but until you are in a working environment which allows you to utilize your strengths/talents on a daily basis then you will never really hear the music.

The music is found in your passion.  Then and only then will our dance and our music by in sync.  The irony is when we are following our passion utilizing our strengths we will not only dance but we will always hear the music which is beautiful to all that have the opportunity to see and hear it. Gather the courage to be able to hear the music and both you and the world will benefit from and celebrate your dance. Though it took some time for me to have the courage to walk a way from what the “world” considers successful I am now hearing the music and my life’s dance could not be better or more fulfilling.

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Leaderless! Why Buffalo don’t Stampede?

Have you ever wondered how they shot buffalo day after day and the herd never stampeded? Turns out before the buffalo hunters (no pun intended) began their wholesale slaughter they spent several days observing the herd to determine which one was their leadimageser. Once they identified the leader of the herd, they would shoot him first. Why didn’t the buffalo herd stampede? The heard was leaderless and therefore had no one to follow.

The relevance of this is that too many organizations depend too much or solely upon their supervisor/leader. Your responsibility as a supervisor is to create an environment whereby, even in your absence, the organization is fully functional. That does not mean you’re not important. Your contribution is to nurture each of your employees so they clearly know what is expected of them, and that you have confidence they will do the right thing even in your absence. A supervisor’s job is more of a mentor than that of a dictator. Having a title and position do not make you a leader, it just means you’re the boss.  One measure of your leadership skills is how well your organization functions without your day-to-day presence. Do they continue at a high level of performance or do they take a day off coasting until your return?  The answer to that question tells a lot about your leadership style and how well you have mentored those with whom you work.  Being a humble mentor confident in you own skill sets makes you a great leader.

The Years Teach You!

Gary 60th - 009The years teach you what the days, week, and months don’t know.” Not sure where I heard this statement but as the years go by I am beginning to truly understand it’s meaning. As the new year begins I am reminded that we have an opportunity to learn something everyday. When we don’t take advantage of these small but important moments, time has a way of teaching us the lessons that we may have missed along the way. My oldest child Rene will be 40 this next year. I learned a lot over this span of time but missed a few lessons as well. Taking a moment to reflect on some of those lost moments as well as committing to ensuring fewer lessons are missed going forward. A life time of learning is there for the taking if we will be still and “listen.”

Supervisors and the Wright Brothers, What we can learn?

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First Flight

I am reminded of my visit to Kitty Hawk where the Wright Brothers became the first to fly.  I ask myself this question, “What did they do different from everyone else that were frantically striving to be the first to fly?  What I discovered was that pretty much everyone at the time knew that it would take a structure with wings and an engine to power it in order to be able to fly. So many would be “flyers” did just that, they would build a structure with wings and an engine. Then with different launching apparatuses such as catapults (Samuel Pierpont Langley tried it unsuccessfully) and different take off points they would fire up the engine and in short order would crash. If they survived and many didn’t, they either quit or would try it again changing little in their approach.

So what did the Wright Brothers do different? They understood unless you could control the plane, wings and an engine alone would not be enough.  So they set out without a college education, little funding and a handful of dedicated workers they set out to break the code for being able to successfully fly.  So they choose Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Why because that is where the wind blows constantly surrounded by sand dunes both of which would be necessary for them to fly gliders to learn the controls necessary to be able to fly.

They understood they needed to be able to “crash,” survive, and learn from each crash how to control the glider.  So with each crash, and they crashed often (up to six to eight times a day), they began unlocking the code on what it took to control the gliders. What did they discover? They discovered the three critical axes that must be controlled in order for successful flight to occur.  What are the three axes they needed to control? They are: Pitch, Roll, & Yaw.

So when the Wright Brothers clearly understood how to control the plane they put those control features on a the plane along with the wings and engine and flight took off literally and figuratively.  Every plane that exist today has the mechanisms to control the plane around these critical axises.

So what does this have to do with supervisors?  We are essentially dong the same thing, in that the individuals whom we are considering for supervision have a couple of needed traits i.e. work hard and have demonstrated some level of skills. However, we have left them ill-equipped to have any real chance of being successful. They are set up for failure, to crash if you will.

Ever wonder what the consequences are when they do “crash?”  Obviously for them personally it is devastating however the damage is not isolated to the individual alone. The “crash” cost  businesses untold millions of dollars to replace good employees that quit the supervisor (“People don’t quit companies, they quit their supervisor”) as well as the cost to retrain, and/or replace the unprepared supervisor.