It is natural to seek out the roadblock, the check-point, the official approval gate: someone whose job it is to green light your idea, give you your next gig, say yes.
The search for something to push against, a hurdle to overcome, is also a chance to hide: to take small steps, to describe nothing more than the bit that could get an OK within the confines of how things work today.
At its worst, seeking out a “yes” can even be a clever, acceptable way of being OK with a “no.” It’s a way to hide, to shift blame, to take on too little, to search for a wall to point to that we couldn’t break through.
“They wouldn’t let me do this” is often just another form of “I was afraid to see what would happen if I tried to pull this off without someone else’s cover.”
What we need from you isn’t better thinking, more analysis and caveats, the low-probability risks you’ve explored, and how you’ve smoothed the edges.
What we need from you is the fearlessness to put your best ideas out in the open,
for everyone to see.
Not more smarts, more courage.
“OK get ready New York!!!” shouts an older African American gentleman on the uptown 1 subway in New York City. He’s dressed in perfectly-pressed ivory linen pants and a neat white collared shirt.
And then he bursts into song, belting out, “This little light of mine…” in a voice that could only be described as angelic. It deserves a full Gospel Choir behind it. Barring that, his partner singing harmony was pretty incredible.
Along with just a few of my fellow-passengers, I smile, I enjoy, I give him a dollar. I get a nod and a nice fist bump in return.
On my next subway ride, a white guy in a suit looks at me quizzically and says, “I thought you were part of the group…on that last train, I mean.”
I told him I wasn’t, that I just liked the music and thought it was gutsy to perform in that way and put yourself on the line. I couldn’t tell if he was satisfied or confused by my answer.
But I did think it was interesting that just by smiling and enjoying myself, I might be confused for the third member of the group. Because, of course, being the first, second or third person to stand up and follow enthusiastically can have just as much impact as being the guy standing up and singing.
Leading courageously and following with conviction are both needed to make change.
Your job isn’t to take the same thing that everyone else offers and pretend it’s something different.
You job is to create something that actually is different and then let people in on the secret that you’ve made something remarkable.
New wine, new bottles.