Effective leaders have a better understanding of themselves and their own identity. As I reflect upon my journey to become a leader, I recognize that my unique capabilities and passions are based on the life experiences, both good and bad, that forced me to learn about myself, stretch myself, and become more effective at leading. These experiences were my preparation stage.
I hope most of you have taken the opportunity to read The Seed: Finding Happiness in Life and Work, by Jon Gordon. This book focuses on the development stages of discovering one’s highest purpose. The first phase in this journey is the preparation stage, which occurs as we are growing up and educating ourselves through schooling and experiences.My preparation stage began when God blessed me with a strong Christian family in which to grow up. Born with a very strong sense of independence, their discipline prepared me to channel this independence in a positive manner. It wasn’t always easy, and I didn’t always choose the right path, but the discipline I learned from my parents helped bring me back to center and do the right things later in life.
I had many defining moments during my youth, and as I’ve thought about The Seed and my preparation stage, one moment stands out. In high school, I owned a 1965 Ford Falcon and desperately wanted a better car for my senior year and to take to college. My father took his only savings of $700 and put it down on a 1972 Monte Carlo for me, with the understanding that I had to make the monthly payments to pay it off. When I realized what a sacrifice he and Mom had made for me, I silently pledged that I would always be generous with any gifts God blessed me with.
I worked several odd jobs growing up, which instilled a very strong work ethic in me. Each one taught me something new about myself and how I could succeed. My burning desire to achieve drove my discipline to go to college, even though I had to make my own way. Between working and student loans, I somehow got through. I learned I could achieve wonderful things if I was willing to put my best effort forth. I also learned that the more effort I put forth, the more independence I achieved both in school and work. That was a big incentive for me. As I reflect on this stage of my life, it is now so apparent how these life lessons helped prepare me for my journey.
Each of us has a different story. Some grew up with more, some with less. The point is, your preparation stage is part of you discovering your purpose. Have you spent time thinking about your preparation stage? Whatever our diverse backgrounds, we all have life lessons to learn. What life lessons did you learn that helped prepare you to lead? How would you describe your preparation stage? Amazing what a little self-reflection can do for us.