Mature Idealism

The summer after my sophomore year of college I stayed on campus to work on the conferences and events team. We made beds, hauled supplies and were continuously “on call” for the many groups who used the university’s facilities between May and August.

One large group proved to be especially challenging for our team. Between their ever-increasing demands and our inability to meet them, frustration mounted quickly on both sides. As we approached the boiling point our boss called an emergency meeting to determine next steps. We were worn out, frustrated and short on ideas about how to meet this client’s demands.

The boss asked us for our ideas and I blurted out, “They just never should have come.”

I’ve seen some withering stares in my life but the one I received from my boss that day tops them all. Incredulous, he moved on to someone else, someone with something useful to say.

The danger of youthful idealism is that when things don’t work out as you believe they should, an immature response seems all there is to offer. It’s a place of victimization rather than agency, one of stagnation rather than creativity.

A mature idealism suggests that our highest aspirations are always tempered with the acceptance of reality, with respect for the vicissitudes of change. From that place we can responsibly say, “”We knew this was possible. It’s not what we wanted, but we knew it was possible. What’s the best we can do in this moment?”

That’s a position of possibility, an opening up to what the moment has to teach us and a chance to practice the resilience necessary to make the most of it.

As the saying goes, the only way to survive keeping your head in the clouds is to have your feet firmly planted on the ground.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

 

 

A Week of Thanks: Day 1

fullsizeoutput_1848I am thankful for the many “edge” experiences I have had in my life – some chosen on purpose, some chosen accidentally, and some thrust upon me. These are moments and commitments that shaped my experience, my perspective and my confidence. I can still feel the fear, anticipation and anxiety of each one. And I can still feel the blessed relief of coming out the other side in one (vastly improved) piece.

In high school, during our production of the musical “Camelot,” I strode out onto an extension of the stage – between the audience and the orchestra pit – that had me nearly standing in the front row. In the middle of the song I forgot the words and spun backwards as if doing so would make me disappear. It’s right there on film.

Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Chicago after college graduation to start my first job. From the edge of the country to the middle. Unknown, vast, foreign. Friends along the way. New friends and experiences waiting for me.

Standing in front of a group of admirals and generals gathered for an executive education program on leadership and culture at which I was a featured speaker. Actually, the night before the speech when I was hyperventilating to my wife over the phone that I had no business being there, none whatsoever, and that I had no idea what I was going to say. But it wasn’t that, it was the fear that what I had to say wouldn’t be good enough.

Sitting across from a therapist because “this will make me a better coach.” Learning, over hundreds of conversations that the work was about becoming a whole person.

Standing on a bluff above the ocean, strapped into a harness and parasail, contemplating the stated fact that the only to go up was to step off the edge. And then, stepping.

Thank you God, family, colleagues and life itself. Thank you for the invitation and the push. Please keep inviting and please keep pushing. I will do my best to meet you there with a full and willing heart.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

 

 

 

Small Voice / Big Voice

Small voice: There’s not enough.
Big voice: There’s plenty, and there’s more on the way.

Small voice: I’m pretty sure they owe me something.
Big voice: What can I do for them?

Small voice: I’m keeping score.
Big voice: I learn something new every time I play this game.

Small voice: I deserve better.
Big voice: I will keep working hard. The right things will come my way.

Small voice: Nobody cares.
Big voice: Somebody cares. I’m going to find them.

Small voice: I wasted my time.
Big voice: I made a choice.

Small voice: It has to be perfect.
Big voice: It has to be the very best that I can do.

Small voice: I’ll do it myself.
Big voice: Do you want to learn this?

Small voice: I’m embarrassed that I can’t do this.
Big voice: Will you please help me?


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Ambivalence

Pinned to my bulletin board is a card received from a friend during a professional transition that significantly impacted us both. She wrote:

“Here’s to the next chapter! I say it with a pit in my stomach and eyes forward to the new.”

To acknowledge our discomfort with change while holding onto our belief in the possibility of what’s to come seems like a good description of maturity.

The last of the finches fledged on our patio has flown the nest. I will miss the daily, sometimes hourly, opportunity to see them grow before my eyes. I am also glad they’re gone.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.