There is no one beginning and no one end. Our life is full of restarts, false starts and dead ends. Some of these cycles we put into motion, but many others evade our control. Something deep inside us craves change, craves unspoiled space, wide open skies…new beginnings.
Each spring, I get this urge for change. I need it. I hunger for it. I fear it. My skin is clammy, I have dreams riddled with anxious thoughts and memories. The itch for something to change is burdensome and becomes the only thing front and center. No, this is not spring fever. And this feeling cannot be placated with a hair cut, streaking my hair every color under the sun, a new dress or a new car. No, this pang requires a new beginning.
Last week at BlogWorld Expo NYC, the convention center was shared between geeks, book lovers and graduating students with their families. Seeing those young adults in their caps and gowns embarking on the next phase of their life gave rise to my own hungering spirit seeking the right time and place to walk across a new stage towards fresh pastures. The stage I seek now is not physical, but found within the confines of my own solitude and leadership.
One of my favorite lessons in leadership is actually from a West Point commencement speech given by William Deresiewicz. Each of us have become expert hoop jumpers and multi-tasking talents defying science and status quo. This type of behavior has been amplified in the most recent generations dubbed ‘Generation ME.’ However, I think the younger folks are getting all the blame for attitudes and behaviors that permeate all ages. As driven for innovation as we think we are, we have left no time for reflection…no time to allow our thoughts to percolate.
“We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don’t have are leaders.
What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers. People who can
think for themselves. People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with
In the rush to produce valuable content, have we forgotten to be alone with
our thoughts? To question? To just LIVE life?
That nagging voice you hear?
Don’t ignore it.
That is a new beginning calling you. Asking you to stop, think, and reflect
upon what is now and what is next.
As individuals, personal and professional alike, it is frowned upon to slow
down. I implore you to do so now. Perhaps the lecture delivered to the plebe
class at West Point will inspire you or soak in some other famous commencement
speeches of the past (Thanks to @ConversationAge, @nbastek, and @amyconcetta for recommendations):
- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s advice to USC grads
- ‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says
- David Foster Wallace on Life and Work
- JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure
- Ten Commencement Speakers You Wish You’d Had
Let your beginning start now.