I subscribe to Daniel Pink’s newsletter. He sends out newsletters so infrequently that he managed to escape my “unsubscribe” frenzy and besides, I happen to really like his work so that when his most recent newsletter entered my inbox I actually opened it and read it. In his newsletter, he described his idea of interviewing authors (in writing) of books he enjoyed reading by asking them 4 questions about their book – always the same 4 questions. So, since I can’t see Daniel Pink approaching me to interview me about the book I wrote anytime in the near future (even though I would totally love it… Dan, where are you?), I really liked his questions. They made me think I should have tried to answer the questions before I wrote my book but it is already written and published, I thought I’d take a stab at answering them anyway. Here goes…
My book – Courage to Lead: Leadership lessons from Kilimanjaro – emanates from my experience of climbing this magnificent mountain, the tallest in Africa. I share short stories of my climb and draw leadership lessons from each. Each chapter is a quick read (15 minutes on average) and takes the reader through the story, the leadership lesson and some practical exercises to apply the lessons themselves.
So now for the 4 questions:
Q1 What’s the big idea?
Ordinary people can do extraordinary things by paying attention to who they are and what they truly care about.
Climbing Kilimanjaro was an example of that in my life. I’m not sporty, not physically adventurous and definitely get a thrill out of life’s luxuries. For me, the ideal trip is a 5 star hotel in an exotic destination. Climbing Kili was so far out of my comfort zone that it felt truly extraordinary for me to have accomplished that. I came out of the experience with the belief that if I could do that, I can do anything. I wanted to share the gift of that belief with my readers.
Every story contains a metaphor for how we can lead our lives, whether at work or life in general. We can draw on every day experiences to learn and grow ourselves every day.
Q2 How do you know?
My work as an executive leadership coach affords me a glimpse into ordinary people’s stories. I’m often struck by the fact that first impressions lack so much of the depth that exists in a person’s life story. Once I get working with a client I’m always moved by the depth of experience, story and learning that each one of us has access to from our own lives. This led me to research people’s catalytic experiences (defining moments) and how they’ve been shaped by them. My book was my own story of a catalytic experience in my life that resulted in a shift for me.
Q3 Why should we care?
When we recognise our ability as ordinary people to do extraordinary things, we realise that the possibilities are endless.
At the moment, we are bombarded with stories about famous people, media messages about celebrities achieving amazing things and using their fame and resources to contribute to the greater good. But you don’t have to be rich a famous to make a difference in the world. If you do something extraordinary that can inspire one other person to change, you impacted a whole world in itself. By living out our stories, making meaning of them and using them to make a difference, we are already doing extraordinary things.
Every person has that ability and that’s significant enough to care about.
Q4 What should I do?
Start with self-awareness by asking yourself the questions:
· Who am I?
· What do I stand for?
· What do I care about?
Think about how happy you are with your life at the moment (on a scale of 1-10). Are you where you thought you would be at this age, doing the work you thought you’d be doing, surrounded by people you love and who love you?
And for some additional exercises:
Go buy yourself a copy of Courage to Lead, pick a chapter and read it. Then do the exercises and see what you learn about yourself.