A few takeaways from my 25th university reunion at Brown University that you might find interesting:
1. Anybody can be amazing
A friend of mine, now professor at the University of Maryland, brought this to my attention, even if unintendedly: She was talking about a colleague of hers and how amazing she and her work was.
Now I don’t know this colleague or her work and it also might be a bit of a stretch: but the way she talked about that colleague made me realize one thing that I hadn’t really been thinking about since graduating. And that is: anybody can be amazing. And the reason that so many are not, is a gross neglect on the part of their educators, managers and peers. People want to do amazing things. And each and one in their own right is able to do so. We can and want to make a difference. It’s just that so many of us lose that after graduating and we stop striving to do amazing stuff and we and the people around us are content that what we do is mediocre.
Now there’s a lot we can and should do about that. Let’s start with a bold statement about ourselves: I can do something amazing. And continue with: My staff can do something amazing. Yes, it’s that simple. Just stay hungry and don’t settle with anything less than amazing.
2. What’s inspiring
In my daily job as a consultant I typically talk to people that are interested in the same things as I: like agile leadership, sales excellence, training methods, assessment and transformation.
And it hasn’t occurred to me for a long time that as diverse as people seem, that I actually deal with only a tiny portion of people. What I miss out, I came to realize by talking to old friends that work in all sorts of fields – all of them quite foreign to me. And what they had to say, inspired me in ways I hadn’t thought possible.
I spent time with a bartender, a professor for computer science, a film maker, a lobster fisherman. I didn’t seek out to talk to them because I needed something for my job. I was just hanging out really.
But when I came back, I had all that with me. And without planning to, I suddenly started using small things that they had shared with me, in ways no one of us could’ve come up with if we had wanted to.
That reminded me that as a young student at Brown I often had to bridge the time between two classes. And because I had nothing better to do, I sat in classes that I did not attend on subjects that I did not understand – really just to pass the time. Soon I made the interesting observation though that whatever people talked about had an inspiring effect on me. My brain seemed to pick up certain things and placed them in my own field of knowledge thus adding something to it that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of.
So I realized that inspiring people does not mean to tell someone what to do or how to do it. It’s not about passing on information on something they need to know. It’s definitely not telling people what you know better than them.
What’s really inspiring is hearing something that you were not interested in before, that you did not need, that didn’t directly impact your work – BUT: that allowed you to make new associations. To go beyond what’s obvious. To literally think out of the box.
So the lesson is: If you’re only interested in what you need to be interested in, you miss out on a lot. The most interesting, insightful and inspiring discussions you will probably have with people that do something completely different than you.
3. What’s perfect
The two best dinners I had on my trip were at Sushi Nakazawa in Manhattan, New York and at Erica’s Seafood in Harpswell, Maine.
One was at a fancy restaurant and the most expensive dinner I ever had, the other one of the cheapest that was literally in a garage with two selfmade lobster steamers. But I enjoyed both immensely and I would have a hard time saying which was better. What both restaurants shared, was the desire to make something perfect. It’s not the price that matters. It’s not the location that’s crucial. Anything and anywhere perfection is possible – if there are people that are not content with anything less.
When we Germans sometimes belittle Americans for being overenthusiastic or exaggerating, we miss an important point: Only the ones who believe they can land on the moon, might actually end up on it.
With that, I end for today.
See you next time!