Recently in my personal life, the topic of transformations came up. Apparently about ten years ago, someone I know made the decision to make a personal transformation. He started using a shortened version of his name to convey something different and made a conscious choice to become a more forceful personality. He was going to dictate what went on in the world around him. People wanting to make suggestions eventually were “trying to push him around”. I’m not sure what the end goal was with this, but it hasn’t played out well. There are times when being headstrong and independent can get you through any number of obstacles. There are also other times when a perceived strength becomes a huge liability.
At the same time, I also made a conscious effort towards personal change. I’d been performing well at my job but also felt inwardly that I needed to take another step. When you get to the point where you can do today’s basic tasks better than most others and succeed without truly pushing yourself then there are a couple of routes you can take. One is to keep doing what seems easy. The other is to push yourself harder. As I alluded to in Feeding the Machine, I’m the kind of person who takes option #2. I talked to my boss and went for a promotion which involved a good bit of work and some self-promotion (which seems a bit unnatural). I went from the title of Principal Sales Consultant to the illustrious title of Master Principal Sales Consultant. That could only be made more glorious by putting “Jedi” in front of it, right?
What’s a Jedi Master do though? What did Obi Wan do? He stopped focusing solely on slicing driods to bits with his lightsaber and took on a Padawan. In essence, he made himself more useful to others through leading by example and going out of his way to take on more responsibility. Personal gain isn’t part of the equation as that’s the easy way and greed is the path to the Dark Side. In that case, the students always look for ways to take their master’s place in a vicious cycle. On the other hand, people seek out Yoda for advice and guidance while knowing that he can kick ass when he needs to.
That willingness to put others first while improving yourself as a person is invaluable. It gives you trustworthiness and credibility which transcends organizational boundaries and brings you relationships you’d ordinarily not find yourself in. There’s no downside and it makes what you do daily that much more rewarding.
This is true at work, raising a family, and being there for friends. In the end, you’re the one who decides how you act and how you’re perceived. There may be times in your life where you make a conscious choice to act a certain way. Decide what path you want to take and reinforce it daily.
I’d like to give a shout out to Keith Jennings who presented at a conference I attended recently. I’d been meaning to use the Jedi story for a while. Keith delivered a great presentation by using Q from James Bond, Luke Skywalker, and Dumbledore to talk about making people heroes rather than needing to be the hero. Anyone who can deliver something like that in a business setting is a hero himself.