Welcome to YOU Make a Difference.  Stories...observations and reflection on our Leadership Journey!

Do YOU Feel Free to Achieve?

Do YOU Feel Free to Achieve?

Are there days or weeks in your leadership journey where you have to dig deep…both physically and emotionally and find the courage to finish what you started or tackle what needs to be done?

I am always in awe of others…specifically athletes (as I was yet again reminded with the Rio Olympics)…of their resilience…perseverance and ability to put themselves in a mental mindset to push through the uncomfortable to do extraordinary things.  In fact…. many athletes associate this mental “reset” to music (Michael Phelps and his “game face” meme)

Let’s take a trip back in time to how one unlikely song connected the dots for me on leadership…resilience…and achieving an impossible goal.  Cue the psychedelic time machine music……

In the summer of 1976, my mom was a free-lance reporter for CBC radio and my Dad was a teacher at the local trade school.  We had recently purchased an extended cabin Ford truck and an accompanying camper to go on top.  We set out on the road in June right after school ended.   I was 8 and my brother Chris was 5. The plan was to drive across Canada, down from Vancouver to California, across the US to Florida and back up the east coast of Canada to Newfoundland in time to start the new school in September.  We embarked upon this great adventure with “state of the art” audio technology, known at the time as, the “8-track tape player” (anyone remember that…anyone???).  With about a dozen 8 tracks in our possession we were ready to see North America as only the Batstones could do!  One of the 8 track tapes in our possession which was played…over and over and over again was Roger Miller’s greatest hits.  All of Roger Miller’s songs are forever burned into my memory from those few months in the truck but the one that sticks out the most is “Me and Bobby McGee”.  Why would this one come top of mind and what could it possibly do with our leadership journey?  I’m glad you asked!

In September of 2013 one of the articles that was highlighted on CNN was the story of 64 year old Diana Nyad who had started out about 50 hours before to swim from Havana Cuba to Key West Florida.  This was her fifth attempt to complete this record setting feat in shark and jelly fish infested waters.  Another person had done the swim but not without a shark cage to protect them.  There was so much about Diana’s story that caught my attention…her age… the number of tries…the danger factor… the length and distance of the swim…and here she was only a couple of hours away from realizing her dream….would she actually make it?   In the article it said that over her career she was also known as a writer and a public speaker so while I tracked her progress on her website I found on of her ted talks from December 2012 titled “Dare to Dream” (it's only 20 min and worth the watch).   I was drawn into her story and captivated from beginning to end.  How she talked about her childhood and simply hearing that her name meant champion to how she felt so alive and invigorated by completing her swim from Bahamas to Florida and her desire at the age of 60 to complete the one swim that had eluded her.

One of the things that really caught my attention in Diana’s talk was when she described how she motivated herself for 53 hours to keep going…to finish.  She also referenced this in a recent interview after completing the grueling 103 mile swim.

“The physical strength goes without saying," she said. "How is that body going to come up over and over and over without the mind believing it can and not letting you go into negative space?" Hour after hour, isolated without audio or visual, Nyad would keep herself company with a mental-playlist of anti-establishment baby boomer music: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Janice Joplin and Neil Young, whose tune about heroin addiction in New York, "The Needle and the Damage Done," helped her plug away.

In the ted talk Diana goes into more detail on how the mental playlist works for her by singing the Janice Joplin version of “Me and Bobby Mcgee”!  How she can hear the song’s perfect 4x4 rhythm in her head as she sings the song over 2000 times passing 8 hrs and 45 min of a 53 hour swim.  What this represents to me is the following:

1)       That we have the ability to dig deep and push through physical and mental impossibilities if we can just focus on something that distracts and motivates us to fight for our dream

2)       That we are capable of more than we realize at any point in our lives…at any age….

3)       That even though swimming 103 miles for 53 hours seems like a lonely endeavor Diana said that it was a team that made it happen

So now as I listen to Roger Miller’s Bobby McGee I am not only reminded of our epic trek across the country in 1976 but I also know there is a thread of music and songs that repeat throughout my life and give me the distraction to accomplish things that I didn’t think I could physically or mentally face.  I think about the long hours in the extended cab Ford truck and how it helped us get from destination to destination, how it helped Diana swim 103 miles and how it helped me cap off a tough week. 

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

I feel free to achieve…how about YOU?

Leadership Questions of the week for YOU:   “Do you have a “Me and Bobby McGee” song or story from your childhood?” “What did you take away from the Diana Nyad Ted Talk or accomplishments?” “What do you do or what is your inspiration to keep going in times when you physically or mentally feel like giving up?” “What advice do you have for leaders on how to build up this resilience or capability to achieve your goals even when you don’t think you can do it?”

Thanks for reading….and remember…YOU make a difference!

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