What InOneWeekend Was About For Me

As I alluded to in my last post, there was a part of Roy Gilbert's talk that really hit home. You can watch that part on InOneWeekend's blip.tv channel. It's around the 6:50 mark. It's actually the ending of his speech. Here is what he says:

I'll leave you with one other point. Something I just thought of from this manager's conference we had. We had this professor from the Wharton School of Business. He's head of the leadership department at Wharton. He's an incredibly compelling speaker.

One thing I thought was really interesting was that he said when you look at the most successful leaders in business, government, academia... He actually did research around this, and asked them where they got their leadership knowledge, where they got their leadership skills. Evolved it down to a formula. 10% said they figured out came from their book learning and the skills they got in their formal courses. Some of them had MBAs. Some of them had business degrees. 20% came from formal mentorship. Learning from their boss. Learning from some sort of mentor at the company that they operated in. Does this sound right to you? So the mentorship is about twice as valuable as the book learning. I heard that and said, "Yeah, that resonates with me. That sounds about right."

The other 70%? Of the most successful leaders they saw, the people who had the most outstanding results... The other 70% came from situations they had been in when they had gotten in over their heads. Jobs they had where they didn't have a formal checklist of things when they went in. Where they actually had to go in and
figure out the checklist on their own. Positions in roles where they didn't really know exactly what to do and had to figure it out with significant enough risk.

And what he concluded was that the great thing about new ventures, and the great thing about entrepreneurship, is that you can manufacture these situations where you end up over your head yourself. All of you this weekend are going to have an opportunity to create a venture which is going to put you in over your head. It's an incredible opportunity for growth. An incredible opportunity to develop as a person. So I am jealous of you. I wish you good luck. And I greatly appreciate you letting me be apart of this. Thank you.
Sorry for the long quote. Speech contains more words than you think at first.

Anyway, I hope I articulate well what I am about to say – I believe that most people are capable of rising to the occasion when called upon. But I don't think most people will volunteer for a daunting task if given the choice. Trust me, when faced with big opportunity, I know well the battle between the thrill of risk and chance of success, and inherent laziness and complacency (neither of which are bad things).

So given these assumptions – to strive towards leadership and develop as a person, you need to thrust yourself into situations where you are in over your head, but in doing so you sacrifice your time, your energy, perhaps your family and friends – what are we to do?

My answer to that: close your eyes, and just say yes. (No, I won't use the ubiquitous Nike tagline here.) I'll take Roy's point one step further: you don't even have to manufacture these situations. Often, they'll find you. And when they do, the question will be: "Do you want to?"

I've been using this rule for longer than I'm aware. Not only professionally, but even when making family decisions. When I learned about InOneWeekend, I just said yes. (Of course, that was easy, since by definition, my commitment was at most one weekend.) But when they asked me to continue the work for a little longer, I just said yes.

Confidence always helps. I know what my capabilities are, and can position myself in situations where risk is acceptable. But what if someone one day asks me to run for office? It's definitely outside of my domain, so I probably wouldn't. (Or would I?) And sometimes there's room for compromise. Tell them, no, you won't lead the effort, but you can help out. Know the worst case risks. Once, I volunteered for a day of painting for charity. It didn't really do anything for me, but all I lost was a Saturday.

Once upon a time, I had this idea for a website that listed all the weird and quirky things around town. I put it up, and it was kind of cool. Because of that website, I found myself attending a blogger's meetup of sorts. As I neared the meeting place walking by myself, my social anxiety began to rear its head, but I just said yes. That was where I got the idea for a site about fake local news. I put that up, and since then everything has changed.

What if I hadn't attended that first meetup? It was a public announcement. I knew nobody there. Nobody would have missed me. Sometimes I wonder. Sure, life goes on and I would have encountered other opportunities, but I think the past few years would have been remarkably different.

I have no real problem walking into a room full of strangers anymore (usually). I don't know if I'm more comfortable with that fact, or if I know that now there's always a good chance of running into someone I know, or know of.

Where will this LifeSpoke.com business take me? No way to know, but for now, I can close my eyes and try to hold on.

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