I never thought I was going to change the world. Like many of you, I grew up in a small town with typical parents and an ordinary childhood.
If you were to tell me I was going to build a multi-million dollar company, feed thousands of children, rescue girls from sex trafficking, or dig wells for villages in Africa, everyone (including me) would have laughed.
I never expected to be on the covers of magazines, appear on national T.V., or keynote to thousands of employees at companies like Facebook, Adobe, or Panasonic. But that's often how life works. The ordinary become the extraordinary. The secret is knowing how to see the signs, how to discover what you were designed for, and how to shift from desire to doing.
Just a few months ago, I remember clicking [command+s] on my MacBook after writing the final words to my new book People Over Profit. It was once again another feat I never expected to endure. Especially at age 29. But it was this experience which allowed me to unfold my mind into words worth sharing. To understand the silent science of what it means to lead, build, and persevere to such an extent that thousands of lives were forever changed. And with each passing chapter arose a new lesson. A story of how everyday people can prepare themselves for what they're meant to be, meant to see, and meant to do.
Here are four of my favorite leadership lessons from the book.
1. Remember who you are before the world tells you who you should be
Early in the first section I share the story of my typical childhood in Southern California. A small boy who loves baseball and bonfires. A cub scout for adventure and a heart for helping those around me. But something changed as I grew older… I noticed most people believed they must change their identity to find their calling. As if who they currently are is incapable or unworthy.
I journeyed down this path as a social chameleon for years. Becoming all things to all people. I would change my clothes, conversations, habits and hobbies all in hopes to impress those around me.
Life is the most difficult exam of all. Many people fail because they try to copy others not realizing everyone is answering different questions.
It wasn't until I was 25 staring at the face of an opportunity that would change my life forever. I had been an entrepreneur for almost 7 years with my sights set solely on profitability; because money was what the world said would make me valuable. But the chase was tiring. My efforts resulted in a six figure income while my heart screamed the truth: putting only money in my pockets would never put meaning in my soul. I needed to change. But to what?
It was this moment I realized becoming who I once was was better than becoming someone else.
I realized the real me, the little boy from my past was not just capable, but qualified to change the world. I turned to what I knew was true of my heart and my hands. I loved to build and to elevate others. I loved charity, children, and big change. But I needed my passion to become a profession. And then it clicked. Shift my focus from making a million dollars, to helping a million people.
It was this adjustment that cured the brokenness of my pursuit and healed the heart behind it. It was the beginning of the real Dale, the birth of putting people over profit, and the start of what I was meant to do.
The lesson is this: You are worthy how you are. Your uniqueness is actually vital to your life's mission. If you change you, you might miss your calling. Nobody was intended to become someone else in order to find their purpose. Quit the false you and step into the adventure you were made for.
2. Don't pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one
On my journey of building Sevenly, I was confronted with the weight of grueling responsibility. To bear the stresses, emotions, and fears of the organization. To know the bad news, the hard news, and the reality while having an unshakable vision for fulfilling our mission: providing funding and awareness for the world's greatest causes.
On multiple occasions, I remember walking outside of my home around 2am to sit in the grass and weep. The pressure on certain days was just too heavy. Then in the midst of reading the biography of Theodore Roosevelt, I came across this statement:
"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
Changing the world is not for the faint of heart. It's for people crazy enough to step into the pain. They carry a courage that makes people question their sanity and a focus that leads others to follow them.
The lesson is this: Turn toward the pain, the fear, and the difficulties. The road for world change is riddled with bandits, potholes, speed bumps, and accidents but the destination is even greater than one can imagine. To operate in sync with your dreams and to stand at the end of your existence with the confidence your life left a dent in time.
3. Doubt is more dangerous than uncertainty
Uncertainty is a permanent part of the leadership landscape. It never goes away. Where there is no uncertainty, there is no longer the need for leadership. The greater the uncertainty, the greater the need for leadership.
Your capacity as a world changer will be determined by how well you learn to deal with uncertainty. But remember, it's not our responsibility to remove the uncertainty. It's our responsibility to bring clarity into the midst of it.
As leaders we can afford to be uncertain, but we cannot afford to be unclear.
People will follow you in spite of a few bad decisions. People will not follow you if you are unclear in your instruction. The individual who can communicate the clearest vision, will often be perceived as the leader.
Clarity is perceived as leadership.
The lesson is this: Uncertainty exposes a lack of knowledge. Pretending exposes a lack of character. Changing the world doesn't require you to have perfect clarity, but it does require you to express your uncertainty with confidence. To convince those who are following you that clarity is coming and debilitating fear is not part of your equation.
4. Your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behavior does.
In the last section of the book I speak to the power of behavior. How our lives are just a culmination of millions of tiny decisions. In today's generation, I hear a thousand voices yearning for purpose. Dreams are high and stuck is common.
A friend recommended that every 10 years, starting at 30, to look back and write down 3 leadership behaviors that made me successful and 3 leadership behaviors I should work on. I decided to take on the challenge just a few days after the big 3-0. With my wife's help, we attributed my success to tenacity, command, and discipline.
You can't change the world if you can't change yourself.
As a fire burns in your chest to solve an issue, to influence a movement, to rework the norm, or to even alter the very mindset of the known; we must remember change begins with us.
Direction, not intention determines your destination.
Our ability to command our behaviors whether it's waking up earlier, removing unhealthy thought patterns, or modifying our routines is at the very core of this world's great leaders.
Too many people are speaking of the change they hope to see. They are noise in a sea of wannabes. People who shake the foundations of an issue, voice their progress with results. They are ruthless executers and hold personalities that naturally command attention. But more than this, they are consistent. Because past discipline is no assurance of future discipline. Discipline demands continual pursuit in order to achieve continual progress.
The lesson is this: What behaviors do you need to change before you can change the world? Are you disciplined enough to optimize, prioritize, and utilize every element in your reach for personal growth? Can you do this while maintaining the important relationships in your life? Dreams are important. Mission is important. But great leaders never forget that nothing is more important than people.
As world changers we can afford to be broken, but we cannot afford to be immature. People will follow your vision in spite of a few bad decisions. People will not follow you if you are unaware of your weaknesses. As a leader, you must develop the elusive skill of leading confidently and purposefully growing or you will forever stand still.
Do you want to become a captivating leader? Maybe you’re a new entrepreneur or dreamer. Or maybe you own a small business already. If you’re looking for a practical guide with timeless principles that never fade, principles that push for a healthy type of success, one with integrity, honor, and respect, my new book People Over Profit is for you. Consider my offer below.
Written by Dale Partridge, Co-founder of Sevenly and author of <em>People Over Profit</em>