I made up my mind. I set the goal. I committed myself to it. I planned on doing it. Period. And this was …maybe 30 years ago…. So, now you’re doing the math and thinking, Brian must have been about 4 yrs old then, huh?
But before I tell you what that decision was, let me tell you what I’m trying to do presently to keep that commitment and accomplish the goal. I am fortunate to have some young and creative guys with whom I work. I serve as a team member with them and act as their direct supervisor. It happens to be in my ministerial position at church, however the principle could apply in the business world, in education, and pretty much everywhere. For example, these guys will come into my office, call me, or have a conversation with me in any number of circumstances. At that point there is a possibility that I might be hearing a request for something, or they might begin to pitch me an idea about which…. they’re really excited. However, because of the dreaded and underestimated “internal geezer” located somewhere deep in my gut, I begin wrestling with and trying to choke out a voice that’s saying….”no way……you guys can’t do that…never done it before….it won’t work……hey, we didn’t do that there sorta stuff when I was growing up….”
I know it’s hard to believe that someone with my keen and alert mind, along with my turtle-like speed and agility could be 53 years old….but it’s just the facts, ma’am. Anyway, just by the nature of the situation, I’m working with folks who have a very different generational frame of reference than I. So, I’m working, trying to be creative, and planning with people who are sometimes 20-30 years younger than I am. And duh, Brian….guess what?….many times they will have ideas that are better than mine, fresher than mine, and more relevant to the culture than mine. So, the question I face is – do I put aside my pride and ego and engage new strategies and ideas from a generation uniquely different from mine? As a bonus, the cool thing is that the more I decide that I don’t give a flying monkey’s backside whether or not the idea is something we’ve ever tried, or if it’s my idea, or even if it’s in my stylistic comfort zone, the better chance we have of being successful. Life is too short and important for these trivialities. So, ask the questions. Is it a good idea? Is it the right thing to do? It’s it going to offend an inordinate amount of people (realizing most every good decision is going to offend someone).Will it help the overall situation? If so, then let’s get the Yodas and Lukes working together, take out the light sabres, and move forward in unity on the project.
However, and conversely, I also have to find the proper balance to this fragile equation. Because my organization hasn’t called me to, or has any desire for me to do stupid stuff either. Therefore, sometimes the situation can flip around and I will have to try to locate my 53 year old experience hat and tell the guys “No, you can’t do that. IT WILL SET THE BUILDING ON FIRE, O, YE GREEN, NAIVE, LITTLE YOUNGSTERS!! Well, I usually leave the green, naive, little youngsters part out. But that position and frame of mind cannot and should not ever become my default position. However, as leaders age, it happens way too often. And it WILL happen if we are not very intentional about laying aside our pride, egos, and investing in, and partnering with those who are younger but following us on the journey. I can promise you that ministries suffer, businesses plateau, and even some fine educators get caught in the same trap that hurts their students’ progress and hinders their own personal advancement opportunities.
Now— back to the initial decision I made at 4 yrs old (or approx 30 years ago…whatever)! I made a simple decision and although I miss the mark sometimes, the goal is still crystal clear in my mind’s eye. As I age, I the goal is to be very intentional and focused about embracing the new, fresh, and innovative ideas of those coming behind me – to evaluate those through eyes of relevance and truth rather than personal preference and comfortable traditions. I will fight against using my tired old frame of reference from mandating the decisions of the future – as long as they are good, sound, and moral. I hope the guys I work with today would tell you that I am living up to my commitment. You may already have the same goal. I hope you do. Just remember this. You can never let your guard down because the Internal Geezer can easily lurk in the back of our minds.
There were times, as a much younger person, when I had older adults who were those visionaries and supportive people for me, and it was great. But sadly, there were many, many times when I did not. And it hurt people and it hurt organizations. So, if you’re a bit more seasoned (you define that term yourself), then hurry and find you some young, talented people in whatever the field of interest might be. If you can, hire them, or befriend them, or at least just begin to make their acquaintance. Let them inspire, motivate, keep you relevant, and at least challenge you to be somewhat knowledgeable of new avenues about which you need to learn. And you can help them as well. Also, if you’re a younger person, find a more “seasoned” leader or mentor who is comfortable enough in his own skin to explore innovative ideas with you, and partner with you in your field of interest. Take some time to look and see who’s on the other side of that cubicle. They just might be the person you need. I’m well aware that this isn’t a new idea or cutting edge leadership strategy. But it is a reminder to us all that it’s time to set our goals to combine fresh ideas from various generational frames of reference, mix them with wisdom and relevant strategies…….and win.