Leadership: what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

You may have noticed that the name of The Customer Blog has changed to the Customer+Leadership Blog.  It occurs to me that the central issue of our times is leadership: our willingness to lead ourselves and others in shaping our lives and our organisations to pursue noble purpose.  The kind of purpose that generates joy within us and creates joy in the world.  The kind purpose that gives our lives meaning. The kind of purpose that gives our organisations meaning and generates loyalty – from all stakeholders.   Let’s start with a powerful poem, one that asks the most important question.

The Summer Day: Mary Oliver asks a great question 

I cannot think of a more apt poem to go along with and complement the profound insight shared by Steve Jobs, then this poem – The Summer Day – by Mary Oliver.  And I share it with you.  If you enjoy listening to poetry then I urge you to listen to her reciting her poem?

And here is the poem itself (the bolding is my work):

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean– the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Steve Jobs: the secret of life

If you are tempted not to be with the question that Mary’ poses because it occurs to you that you are small, that you cannot affect-influence-shape the world as it is, then I share this video with you and urge you to watch it.

Here is the transcript:

When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

And the minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

Posted on March 27, 2013, in Leadership / Change / Transformation. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Interesting insight. I agree that leadership is a central issue of our time, but then, at what time is/was leadership not a central issue?
    The quote from Jobs is powerful. Those that have experienced the excitement of “poking life” know what he means. For every person that has “poked” life there are ten others who wished they had, or at least are glad that someone did muster the effort to do it.
    Jobs doesn’t mention an important factor about changing life. It takes effort. It takes bravery. There is a reason why life is the way it is today… because no one has changed it… yet.
    Those who change life, who shape it, they are leaders. They may not be CEO’s, captains of the football team or heads of government, but they are leaders.
    To me, that is the one of the most inspiring things about leadership: Anybody can be a leader. Leadership is measured less by the role you fill and more by what you do in that role.

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    • Hello Kevin

      Long time no speak, and am delighted to hear your voice!

      Yes, leadership matters. And I say there are some ages where leadership matters much more than other ages. In boom times when one is riding the wave who really needs leadership? I find that there is not much listening for it.

      We don’t live in that kind of an age. We live in an age where a lot more is up in the air. It occurs to me that we are at a transition point where one way of life is coming to an end. And another way of life is waiting to be reinvented. That is what makes leadership that much more critical to me.

      Now you make a great point on leadership. And that is that each of us has the capacity to show up as a leader. Which is exactly what Jobs is pointing at. What does it take? Getting that life is always created and the courage to act – to bend life to one’s vision.

      As George Bernard Shaw all progress depends on the unreasonable man!

      Your friend who thinks of you and misses you
      maz

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  2. Hi Maz,
    I congratulate you on adding leadership to the list of important subjects you explore.

    Picking up on Kevin’s point I think that in many cases many of us think of leadership as being associated with some big thing, some special training or skills, people we see on the news, leading large organisations etc etc.

    But, that is not he case. Leadership exists and is needed at all levels and we should do more to encourage people to lead in all aspects of our lives whether it is leading themselves or others.

    Adrian

    Like

    • Hello Adrian
      What can I say except that there is love present in my heart for you. I thank you for your support, you and your support makes a difference. And I totally agree with you and Kevin that each of has the capacity for leadership.

      Which begs the question when does leadership show up for me or you? When you or I invent/pursue a possibility that calls to us, that inspires us to get off our buts, and do something. To literally, take the lead and create that possibility which calls to us.

      All the best
      maz

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  3. Maz,

    I am a big fan of Seth Godin, primarily because he writes short books and I have a short attention span.

    In his book “poke the box” he tells the story of a small boy who is given a box with lots of buttons and levers on it. The child takes to the box with relish, pulling pushing and shaking it to see what happens.

    When I first passed an iPad to my two year old daughter, she was exactly the same, shaking it, swiping it, playing with it to see what would happen.

    My mother in law (late 70’s) sat and watched. When I offered her the iPad her response was “no thank you”.

    It is a pity we stop trying things as we get older.

    James

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    • Hello James

      Thank you, love the story that you have shared. It says all there is to be said on the human condition. I have witnessed the same at my sister and brother-in-law’s house.

      I like Seth Godin too!

      All the best
      maz

      Like

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