Not right now. I know what you’re doing right now.
The reason I ask is because I was reminded again today about all of the things I do that keep me from doing what needs to be done.
I surf the web.
I tweet and retweet.
I check Facebook.
I look at my email.
I write lists.
I read blogs
I play Words With Friends.
I check in again at Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, and Email.
And at the end of the day – that moment when I lay my head on my pillow (placing my cell phone on the nightstand where I can do most of those things above one more time) – the question comes back around: What are you doing?
This is one of those classic pieces of parental wisdom that I received from time to time growing up.
It usually came on the heels of me pacing around the house, staring into the refrigerator countless times, and exhaling a deep sigh with the words: “I’m bored.”
The corrective response was meant to awaken some inner motivation within me. While I believed it was okay to be bored, I didn’t want to be known as a boring person. Thus, I was encouraged to find something useful to do with my time.
Growing up, boredom was an unacceptable posture towards life.
When it comes to leadership, creativity, and influence, the opposite might be true as well: only bored people are boring.
Think about the speech you weren’t very excited to deliver.
Think about the paper you submitted that rambled on to meet the word count.
Think about the project you were required to accomplish but your heart wasn’t in it.
What effect did it have on other people? What kind of impression did it make?
In most situations, boredom begets boredom. It’s contagious.
Sometimes I’ve gotten excited about a topic simply because the speaker, the writer, the teacher, or the leader was passionately excited about it.
Since I work on a University campus, I am surrounded by the ongoing dialogue about ideas and facts.
I like the conversations, the varying perspectives, and the notion that there might actually be more than one way to look at something.
In fact, when it comes to the development of one’s leadership capacity, I believe it’s important to grow in one’s awareness of possibilities. It’s an awareness that says there’s more than one or two options here. It realizes that everything is not clear-cut or black-and-white. There are choices to be made and in the words of the poet Wallace Stevens, “the choice not between, but of.”
Unfortunately, opening oneself up to the thought of possibilities beyond one’s experience or knowledge can be frightening. We tend to compensate for this fear by becoming defensive, even more dogmatic, and by disengaging from someone else. I’ve seen students completely write someone off because the person holds an opposing viewpoint. One of the disappointing consequences of an either-or mindset is a feeling that if we don’t agree then we don’t relate.
In the Spring of most academic years, we elect and select our student leaders for the next year. We run campaigns, hold elections, and celebrate with those who won and encourage those who didn’t. We start to dream and plan for the next year.
Then summer happens.
Summer is a giant hole in the student leadership year. It’s like a big pause button.
Congratulations…you’re in. You get to lead. Now hold that thought for the next three months…
I know that most students see the summer as a chance to take a break from learning. Unfortunately, these types of breaks don’t exist in the world you’ll graduate into. Most positions don’t give you the summer off.
We’re coming to the end of our academic year.
Next week is Finals Week.
This morning, during our Student Development Team Meeting, our Vice President encouraged us to go around and share one highlight of the year.
As we went around the circle, I started thinking of all of the events, activities, and projects that went well. Yet when it came time for me to share, I didn’t talk about any of those things.
I talked about my greatest failure that occurred this year.
Reflecting back on that moment, I want to share some of my observations.
1. I am fortunate to work in a place that encourages me to try and helps me to learn when my attempts don’t work as expected. Some work environments don’t want people to fail, don’t want people to talk about failure, and punish people when failure occurs. I’m not talking about moral failure or failure with extreme consequences. I’m talking about the kind of failure that naturally occurs as a result of healthy risk and innovation.
Tonight is our traditional dinner where outgoing student leaders will bestow their blessing and traditional gifts on the incoming student leaders. It’s our annual version of passing the baton.
I had the opportunity to sit down a few weeks ago with our student leaders who were getting ready to finish up their student leader year. We sat around the table and talked about what needed to happen between that moment and the moment we’ll share tonight. I wanted them to focus on ending well.
In the midst of our discussion I offered them one question. It’s a question that has implications for the legacy they leave and the condition of things when they step away.
What will you do this year to leave your position better than you found it?
Rather than pointing people back to specific posts and encouraging them to navigate around my site, I like to compile a series of articles into an ebook.
This is exactly what I’ve done with my recent series – Just Starting Out: 7 Priorities For New Student Leaders.
I’ve gone through each post and edited, enhanced, and elaborated a bit. I’ve included some more questions and quotes in the sidebars. It’s all packaged together in a nicely designed, 17 page, downloadable pdf (an ebook).
I’ve placed the download link on my Resources page for future reference. You can also download it immediately using the download button below.