As Anne Frank once said, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”. We all make the choices we make because to us, that is the best choice that we can make; that is the best you that you can be in that moment. The challenge we are all faced with daily is ‘is this it? Is this the best we can ever be’.
Let’s just be completely honest here; anyone who regularly attends leadership conferences rarely ever goes into it thinking that they will come out of it a new person with all of these new ideas and philosophies. Every conference pretty much hits the basic points in different ways; the importance of team work, identifying different leadership styles, communication, et cetera, et cetera. Here’s the reality of a leadership: you probably will not learn some great, brand new life changing idea by going to a conference, meeting, training or really anything. Here’s another reality: that does not mean that you are the best that you can be and you know all there is to know; you are never done growing.
I went into Spark Leadership with a pretty good idea of what to expect. First there would be an opening speaker that would motivate you to look deeper into the meaning of the activities and things that you were about to do (BTW you did great as always, Dan Gaken). You would then get into smaller groups based on the information on your name tag (you know what I’m talking about, the one that always makes you feel a little bit more sophisticated than what you actually are) that you would spend the rest of the day with learning and growing in leadership. You would then do activities that are usually fun, scary, exciting, and frustrating all at the same time and debrief afterward about what you learned and took away from the activity. After having fun with your new friends you would have another speaker or two to remind you of the ways that these new skills can be exemplified in your daily life. At the end you would get your goodies (tshirts are my favorite), fill out some last minute surveys or paperwork for the conference, and say your goodbyes to the people you spent the day with. For anyone that attended Spark Leadership or really any kind of conference or training can probably back me up in saying that this is pretty average. Anyone who has ever been can also say that you will always come out better than what you started regardless of the numerous times you’ve already done any of the activities or heard any of the speakers.
I believe that you learn more from the people whom you go through the activities with than anything. People are different and this shines within leadership. People have different strengths and weaknesses. You are not the best at everything. For a competitive overachiever, this is something that I still struggle to accept and remind myself of everyday. Trainings like Spark Leadership remind me that THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. How lucky am I to be able to learn something from every single person I meet, in an environment where everyone is a stranger? There are endless opportunities to learn from others’ strengths and weaknesses at Spark Leadership and this is my absolute favorite part of anything ‘leadership’.
If you take anything from this blog, please take this: you will never grow to your full potential if you cannot be honest with yourself. Self reflection is a key part in learning and this is one of the biggest things that I took away from Spark Leadership. Look at yourself in the beginning and see your strengths; appreciate them and utilize them. Then, look at your weaknesses and embrace them. Embrace them in everything you can. A leadership training is meant to push those weaknesses and make you better. If you cannot look at yourself and say “okay, this is what I need to be better at”, how will you know when to push yourself. Before Spark Leadership, I recognized that trust and stepping out of my comfort zone is my biggest weakness. I know the areas in which I am good at and I like to stick to them. I am good at giving instruction, I am good at seeing all sides of a situation, I am good at taking charge. But what happens when I choose to ignore those things? What happens when I choose to embrace my weaknesses? Well, my weaknesses become stronger. At Spark Leadership we did an activity where we all had a partner. One of us was blindfolded and one was not. We were told that we were to go through this obstacle course but we were not told that it was filled with mouse traps (yes, they were real and set), randomly placed desks, creepy music, and the noise of random traps going off with our partner. The partner that was not blindfolded had to lead the other through the course without touching them but if they touched any of the obstacles they had to start over. Normally I would have jumped to the role of leading the partner through the course. I had no idea what the course looked like, I did not know my partner, and I had faith that I would be able to lead her easily through the course. Instead of doing this, I asked to be the one blindfolded. This scared me. Bad. I did not know what to expect of the course, who this girl was, or like the fact that I would not be able to see. I chose to do this because before the training I recognized that this was where my weaknesses lay. This is where I wanted to improve my abilities. Being able to recognize that I am not very good at these things and being able to push myself to improve on them is how you get the most out of anything. At Spark Leadership I stepped out of my comfort zone and improved myself because I was able to recognize my own weaknesses.
So yes, every choice that we make is the best choice that we can make with the knowledge and experiences that we have been given. Everything that we do is out of the best parts of our hearts and this I truly believe. Even the most poor decisions are innocent; they are the decisions we make because that is what we have learned to be the best. The decisions that we make now that seem genius may seem silly in five years but right now that is the best we know. The difference between the best decisions and the worst decisions are simply the experiences and knowledge that we have gained. Spark Leadership is one of the experiences that I have taken advantage of to become the best me that I can be.