This may seem a little unusual for a leadership article. On the other hand, the first person you must lead is you. The person you have the most influence with is you. I’d like to start by telling you a short story about a leadership act by my Father to illustrate my point and without which, I would not be here today.
We had a family tradition every 4th of July on my Mother’s side of the family. We would begin in the morning with my Mom and her Sister Betty making a ton of food for our all-day celebration excursion. The picnic baskets were full of macaroni salad, hot potato salad southern style and these incredible tuna fish sandwiches. Our day would begin at a beach and picnic area at Kentucky Lake where we would spend late morning and lunch. In early afternoon, we would go to an amusement park in Paducah called Bob Noble Park.
Throughout the 50’s, 50’s, 70’s and early 80’s, Noble Park was a huge recreational area for the Purchase Region of Kentucky. There were rides, animals, performers and spook houses to enjoy. As a kid, I thought this place was huge. Later, when I lived in Paducah for a few years, I used to just drive through the park area to reminisce about all the wonderful family times we had there with my family and my cousins.
My Grandfather on my Mom’s side owned a Texaco Service Station in Lola, Kentucky and the only times he ever left the station or town was when he had to do some business, which was not very often or on the 4th of July. Since this was a huge holiday for him, he would save some tire inner tubes for us to play with on the water at Kentucky Lake. They were big, they floated and they were fun.
On this particular day, I managed to get stuck inside the inner tube and I accidentally flipped over in it. I had also floated quite a ways out from the beach shoreline into some deeper water, because as kids, of course we were testing the boundaries. I had crossed a boundary I wished I hadn’t. I still remember struggling to get my head up out of the water to grasp for air, but I couldn’t flip the big inflatable inner tube back over. My legs were sticking straight up into the air and my shoulders and head kept going under the water, as I couldn’t reverse the weight or equilibrium of the tube. I remember thinking I was not going to make it; I was going to die right there and then.
My Mom noticed I was in trouble first. She told my Dad I was in trouble. He shrugged it off at first, saying I was just clowning around and having fun. My Mom, shrieked, “He is not having fun, he is drowning!” That shook my Dad and away he went, down the sandy beach and straight in after me. He flipped the tube back over, pulled me out of it and hauled me back to the beach where I coughed up water for what seemed like several minutes. My Dad didn’t fear the fact I was in some pretty deep water. He didn’t fear ruining his shoes or getting soaked to the bone. He didn’t fear with my struggling, I could have pulled us both down. His love for me was stronger and more powerful than any of those fears. My father plucked me from both the inner tube and the lake, carrying me to the safety of the beach.
No matter what you have facing you as a person and a leader, love and passion have a way of killing your fear. Your idea may not make sense to anybody but you. People may call your vision crazy. You may be ridiculed or your business may go to the brink of destruction. If you love it, you won’t let any of these fears defeat you. You will see it through. Fear cannot prevail with the things you love once you decide to fight for it. Every step you take forward, fear takes a step back. As you advance toward what you love with confidence, fear retreats to torment another soul. Rather than thinking of it as a huge, colossal challenge, think of it as a series of small, deliberate steps you can take.
Flip your fears into reasons why. One thing that might help you is to write down all the reasons you should move forward with what you love and are passionate about. Each time you get ready to take a step, refer back to these compelling reasons when you need a push forward to keep your momentum rolling. Good luck in your travels and remember, really on your love set your passion free and make fear your enemy to succeed in your ultimate purpose.