One year at scout camp, the Scoutmaster talked me into working on my second class badge. Each day I worked on requirements and studied the handbook. At the end of the week, there was a board of review. I was amazed at how well I did. I was better prepared than any of the other boys. Some time later, on the night that the badges were handed out at troop meeting, I was absent. Several people, however, told me of the story the Scoutmaster shared about how impressed he was with the hard work I put into preparing for the board of review. I was pleased with those reports. I, however, never obtained another rank or merit badge. It never occurred to me to pursue one. I just never entertained the possibility.
One afternoon when I was a teenager, I remember being with my friend, sitting on his porch, and watching a man with a white shirt and tie walking home from work. That was not a common sight in our neighborhood. My friend, in a thoughtful mood, turned to me and said, “What would it be like to come home from a job, at the end of a day, and still be clean?”
The question was impactful. With the exception of the few lucky ones who went to work with a uniform on, most of the adults we knew worked with their hands. Coming home dressed in a white shirt and tie was hard to fathom. If there was a path to get to such an exalted state, we did not know how to find it.
When I was in college, I had several roommates who had planned out their choice of majors, their choice of graduate schools, and their eventual professions. This was a curiosity to me. How could they possibly know what they wanted?
I eventually applied to graduate school because I had no other alternatives. There was no strategy in my choice of schools because I was totally naive to the fact that schools follow a pecking order and careers are at least partially determined by that status system.
As I look back over my life, I am impressed by the fact that there was so much I did not understand about what was possible and what was available to me. There was always a bigger picture. I could seldom, if ever, see it. Often there was no one to tell me about it. Or, if there was, I was not listening. It strikes me that there is always a bigger picture. The challenge is to look and listen, not to that which immediately surrounds me, but to that which is higher and farther away. When I do that, things seem to go better.
I think that is what a higher purpose is all about. Once we genuinely commit to a higher purpose, we begin to see new possibilities. Moving toward a higher purpose expands our vision and entices us into new paths of learning and growth.
- Why did I never think to pursue another rank or merit badge?
- What role might a visionary leader have played in my life?
- In what way are the people in our organization in need of a vision?