For a few weeks this summer, my family spent time travelling throughout France and England (“Oh, to be in England…”) slowing down, reflecting on life and meditating on big picture ideas. I’d like to share some thoughts.
Our first stop was my hometown of Totnes, an Elizabethan market town in South West England. During our Guild Hall tour, the kids found their great-grandmother’s portrait amongst hundreds of mayors displayed on the courtroom wall since the mid-1300s.
Often when I think about highest-level leadership, I am reminded of my grandmother’s blend of courage, drive and compassion. In 1945, she became the first Lady Mayor of Totnes and the first Labour/Democrat in 450 years. The boldness to take on a role no one had prior, the will and determination to blaze the trails she did, the grace to care for refugees and families during wartime—her fearlessness still inspires and amazes me.
When was the last time you were courageous?
Master Your Craft.
In Liverpool, we toured The Beatles Story museum and discovered that when the band first started out in Hamburg, they played four and a half hours every weekday night and six hours on weekend nights. For almost fifty days straight! We also stopped by The Cavern club where The Beatles famously gigged 292 times in eighteen months. Before becoming a worldwide phenomenon, the band had already mastered stagecraft and songwriting, one of the reasons why their sound was so unique and harmonious.
Becoming an expert takes intentionality and practice. And practice. And practice.
How are you mastering your craft?
Don’t Walk Alone.
The most successful English football team in history also happens to be my club. As we toured Liverpool FC’s stadium, we saw the team’s motto all around us. “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Moving up within the ranks of an organization increases the pressure to perform. It intensifies our focus on credibility and competency. Failure has a greater impact and it is more likely that we’ll become isolated. Leaders who choose not to walk alone can tap into a network and lean on support systems in good times and in bad, allowing them to access their own supporters and fans.
How can you ensure that you don’t walk alone?
Blend the Old and the New.
On our trip to Paris, examples of old blending with the new surrounded us. Both the Louvre Pyramids and the Eiffel Tower additions were initially met with hostility. People said the embellishments disrupted the landscape. Not only were they seen as disrespectful of history but most thought they would never last. Now, however, both structures are considered intrinsic parts of the Parisian experience.
If we don’t stay open to what is new and perhaps unfamiliar, we lose the chance to embrace change as well as the opportunity to evolve.
How can you blend old and new ideas, habits and mindsets for your benefit?
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
A visit to the Musée National Picasso reminded us how one person can change the status quo in a powerful, meaningful way. Picasso’s work demonstrates his incredible ability to develop and progress. Initially, he leaned on and learned from others. Eventually, he developed his own voice and style.
Picasso’s quote holds true for anyone in any industry who wants to inspire transformative and sustainable change.
How are you learning the rules so you can reshape them for yourself and others in your profession?
Everyone Has a Story.
A chance encounter with an older gentleman in a Normandy bar opened the door to a fascinating conversation. Who would have guessed that such an unassuming guy had worked for the French government with Heads of State and Captains of Industry to supply parts to the Space Shuttle, one of the most enduring experiments in human capability? We can always find awe and wonder in the seemingly mundane.
Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has something to learn.
How well do you share your story and how do you listen to others?
Create the Life You Want to Live.
By the end of our summer vacation, I’d reconnected with some fundamental human principles. I’d marveled at the complexity of the human spirit and watched it manifest in meaningful ways.
Most importantly, I’d committed to use my time left on earth helping others find their own sense of:
Are you creating the life you want to live? What support do you need on your journey?
One last thought from the sundial image (above) at the Kingston Lacy National Trust in Dorset, England, which capped our trip’s theme: Life is Short. Time is Swift. Much is to be Done.