What does it take to succeed? What is the secret to success? I am about to take you on an adventure of how I crossed mountains to reach a destination that was irresistible to myself, as well as those closest to me. Going through this experience was no walk in the park. It took grit, determination, and persistence to reach success. Have you ever had an experience where you would do whatever it took to reach your goal? Was it tough? Did you feel like you wanted to give up and go back to how things were in the comfort of your own personal bubble? What I found out was that anything worth accomplishing is always uphill. In fact, the story I am about to tell you was literally, uphill. This is a story of how I reached the top of The Great Sand Dunes.
As Madi, James, and myself started our journey, we hauled our sand sleds in hand through the sinking sand of the dunes with our eyes on the prize of reaching the top of what we thought to be a never-ending destination. For those of you that do not know, Madi is my beautiful partner in crime that I have had the pleasure of being with for just over a year, and James is my brother that usually instigates the wild adventures in the Bowden family. As we rolled over the dunes, we began to breath heavy, gasping for air, drenched in sweat. Luckily, we had sleds that could speed up the journey by swiftly taking us down the backside of the dunes. After a few hours, we finally reached a high point and could see the highest peak just a few dunes away. We had to get there! Now, we were not skilled enough to safely get to the bottom of a dune, especially since we had been hiking up the steep, relentless dunes that would sink you back a step for every two steps that you would move forward. We decided to practice. At the end of my first trial run, I reached the bottom of a small dune successfully without any downfalls. In fact, James and Madi thought I did so well that they encouraged me to go on the steep backside of one the tallest dunes in the park. I said to myself, “All right, I got this.” I seemed to go down that small dune just fine, how hard could it be to go down the other side where there was no sign of others going down?
I decided to commit. I was going to be the brave soul to take the leap of faith and start my own trail. As I began down the slope, my pace exponentially increased. Faster, faster, I kept on accelerating. Approaching midway, I spotted a patch of vegetation that I thought would counteract the ever-increasing speed consistently pushing me to my fate. As I approached at terminal velocity, I found out that this was not what I had expected. It was a ramp! I hit the ramp, flying like a bird trying to build its wings. However, those wings never came out. As I was in the air, I blacked out. A few moments later, thud… I hit the ground. I instantly yelled, “I broke my arm!” Madi came rushing down to check and see if I was okay. After lying there motionless, I began to move my arm. I realized it was not broken, but most certainly dislocated. Luckily, my shoulder fell back into place a few moments after my landing. Madi arrived, I asked “Did you get that on video?” Of course, the one time we did not take pictures or video I had to go through my near-death experience. James came down shortly after, this time he made sure to not go down the same way I did, and further down the incline. James had reached us, we came together, and decided where to go from there. I was battered, bruised, and aching with pain. We could see our end goal in sight, but how could we move on after an incident like that? I decided we needed to finish what we started. We pressed on!
After an exhaustive, treacherous, adrenaline filled experience we finally made it to our goal, we made it to the top of The Great Sand Dunes! Reaching the top was no easy task. At times we wanted to quit and head back to the car in the comfort of what we knew was familiar, but instead, we persisted. We never gave up! We kept pushing to reach what we came to accomplish. Was it hard? Yes. Did we ever feel like giving up while we had setbacks along the way? Yes. We refused to give in. We pushed on and persisted to reach our goals. What experiences have you gone through that tested your limits? What would happen if you continued to persistently move forward in accomplishing your goals? What could you achieve? There will be times where you feel like giving up, times where you feel like settling for less. But remember this, everything worthwhile is uphill. Keep going, persist, and have faith in yourself!
Do you remember a time where your true self started to become revealed? Was there a time where you felt like this is what you were meant to live for? In the most unexpected of circumstances, I had someone believe in me that changed the trajectory of my life forever. At the time, did I realize it? No. Did I know this was a passion of mine? No. What happened that day sparked something that had been placed inside me only to slowly reveal itself and show its true meaning. At this moment of discovery, I was halfway across the country away from all my family and most of my friends. It was the summer of 2012, the summer that I acted upon something I never thought I would do. I became a book salesman.
Knocking door-to-door to sell books to families may not be the most highly desired summer job, especially when you get the door slammed in your face, cussed at, and have a local drive you off and tell you to go back where you came from. The life of a book salesman has its highs and lows, there is no doubt about that. I will tell you that it was the largest emotional roller coaster of my life. There were days where I had my highest sales of the summer and sold all the books I could have possibly imagined. Then there were days where I completely gave up from the endless amounts of rejection. I felt hopeless, like no one cared about me or what I had to offer them. As the summer had passed, I had come across a particular house. This house had four large pillars and a massive entry way that would wow anyone that approached it. I knocked on the door…….no answer. Moments later I heard a shout from the balcony above. A man told me to hold on and that he would be down in a minute. I waited until he opened the door. He said he was in a rush, but he was interested in what I had to offer. He told me to come to his pizza place later in the week to tell him about the educational books I was selling, that way his whole family could be there. The only issue was that the company I was working for trained us not to worry about a customer that would not buy the moment you arrived at their door. However, there was something different about this guy. I decided to take the risk. I met him at his pizza place.
A few days later I arrived at his restaurant with a warm welcoming from him and his family. He had offered me a full pizza and drink on the house. We finally reached the table. It was time to get down to business. After I gave him my pitch, he told me his story. This was a man that came over from Greece with nothing but the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet. He had a dream to start a pizza restaurant in the United States to provide for his family, to give them a life where they would not have to worry about the stress of not having money. He and his family had lived above his restaurant to make ends meet at the start. As the business grew, the weight of scraping by had lifted. He no longer had to worry about the stress of feeding his family or paying the bills to keep the lights on. At the end of his story, he told me something I will never forget, “Carl, you will be successful! Nobody your age is willing to do what you are doing this summer. Nobody will work as hard as you.” My heart dropped as I was filled with the fact that someone believed in me. He believed in me so much that he was willing to contribute whatever it took to invest in his son’s education. That belief in me was the ignition to what I had been searching for, what I had been longing for. I had discovered leadership.
By the positive example that this man gave me, I realized that believing in people is one of the greatest gifts you can give. His story was a story that shook me to my core, a story that would forever change me. His belief in me gave me the opportunity to believe in others. He gave a piece of his life in hope that he could change mine. This was the point where I found out what leadership was all about: giving your life in service to others to help them become who they were meant to be, to reach their full potential. There are times where we least expect positive change, but when those times come, we can make a difference in our life, and in the lives of others. What will you do to lead the people in your life? What change do you want to make? Serve others and never give up on your dream! Do what it takes, discover your greatness, and be who you were meant to be!
What happened to the leadership that would positively inspire someone to do great things? Where have our influential leaders gone that seek to serve our country? Leadership in America has become one of our nation’s largest crisis’s, however, this can change. There are many phenomenal leaders in the United States that seek to serve their people through authenticity, positivity, empathy, humility, love, inspiration, and integrity. These are just a few of the qualities found in a leader, but the list goes on. The great thing about America is that we have the freedom to choose. We have the choice in electing these qualities in our leaders whether they be on the local, state, or federal government level. How would you feel if you followed a leader that possessed these qualities? How would this change the state of our nation? With the inauguration coming up next week, leaders must be focused on exemplifying great leadership in our people. Our leaders must focus on living a positive example for others to model. In addition, the people must also live these positive values. Today I will give you three must have qualities that the leaders and people of our nation need to possess for a positive path forward in leading our country. 1) Our leaders need to display humility, 2) our government needs to embrace authenticity, and 3) our nation needs to show love by always serving our people and inspiring them to become who they were meant to be.
In the words from the author of The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren states, “This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less”. We must display our humbleness and admit to our mistakes and shortcomings while becoming vulnerable. Growing up I was scared to admit I was wrong, I thought if I held my ground I would be respected. However, I found the opposite to be true. When we display humility, we start connecting with others. We begin to build trust and break down our walls to help others relate to us. Humility gives us the power to lead others by getting off our balcony of authority and allows us to meet our people on the ground floor to walk with them in their growth.
Once we acquire the attribute of humility, we then start living a more authentic lifestyle by showing our true actions, thoughts, and emotions. Think of one of your closest friends, what made you connect with them? What made you gravitate to who they are? You might be thinking this person is 100% their true self. Maybe you thought they displayed integrity by always following through with what they said they would do. I have made it my goal to live my most authentic life by keeping my word and following through on my actions. At times it is hard, and I admit to my mistakes, but it is always about fighting to improve on the honesty within yourself to live a more authentic, real life. Imagine if our governmental leaders made this a priority. Think of all the great things that would come from the behaviors that they modeled.
Lastly, our nation needs the act of love more than any other time in recent history. In today’s world you will see people quickly expressing what comes to their minds on social media, but when it comes to in-person interactions (ignoring the fact that we are in a global pandemic) people suddenly lose all their courage. It reminds me of the dog that barks behind the fence, but once you open the gate, suddenly, they become silent. Pushing our thoughts and opinions about how the world should work is not love. Love is about listening, seeking to understand the other person’s point of view, and continually serving others before ourselves. Choose today to understand, learn, serve, and love those around you!
The great thing about change is that it starts with us. You and every other leader out there can make the decision today to be a positive influence on others. What if our leaders chose a path of integrity and followed through with their commitments? What if we did not see political parties and instead chose to see the qualities found in the individuals leading us? If you want to change society, start with its people. Have humility, be authentic, and love others!
With hope in action,
The year 2020 is a year we will never forget. I feel like I can speak for many of us in saying that we are all ready to move on from 2020 and start 2021 with a fresh start. This past year has delivered some of the most heartbreaking news we have had to endure, and it kept on coming at us with one piece of bad information to another. It started with the wildfires that burnt over 20% or 12.6 million hectares (31.1 million acres) of forests in Australia, then we all were hit with COVID-19 that dramatically altered the way we live our day to day lives with social distancing. This continued with the largest decline in our economy since The Great Depression, and to top it all off we experienced one of the nation’s most extreme civil rights movements that has occurred in the history of The United States of America. This does not mean the next year has to continue like this. With crisis happening all around us we can create an opportunity to make positive change. We can help create opportunities by taking the first step in meeting our goals in what we want to accomplish. During this past year, I was hit with some of the most detrimental news, I was let go from my job. Hearing this news, I created an opportunity that I have been waiting for my entire life. Here is what I did…….
Reflecting on this past year, anyone can find the tragedies and losses that has come with the year 2020. However, there is always beauty in life’s thorns. Of course, we want to recognize our losses, but we also want to recognize the gains and blessings that have happened because of those losses. Maybe you put more of an effort to stay in contact virtually with your family and friends, or perhaps you started improving yourself and made the decision to act on what you have been putting off for so long. Whatever happened this past year, reflect on the good and recognize what made you a better version of yourself. For me, I was hit with the loss of my job due to a restructuring of the organization. At the time, this was a huge blow to my confidence, self-worth, and belonging. Reflecting on my time in my previous position I can say I made a positive impact on many lives by the work I had the privilege of doing. I also realized that this was not because of me that I lost my job, it was because of the needs of the organization and the goals to be met. Due to this change, I was presented with one of my biggest opportunities to date; I made the decision to continue my education with a Master of Business Administration and start my own business to help serve others in their goals through Exemplify. Because of the incredible loss with everything 2020 had brought me, it gave me the opportunity to live my passion for leadership, giving others the opportunity to start living their passion as well. I could have given up after hearing the news. I could have settled for something that was not going to meet my goals but provide a steady paycheck. I made the decision to finally take hold of my destiny and start living the life I was meant to live.
There is great opportunity in some of the biggest crises you will face in life. What will you choose to do when that crisis comes? How will you respond? Will you start leading yourself to become the best you can be? What goal do you want to set for yourself this upcoming year that will give you your greatest return? I know times are tough, but do not let that get you down. Rise up, live to your potential, and create the opportunity you were meant for!
Yours in success,
Carl currently resides in Wichita, KS where he coaches and consults businesses, community groups, and individuals with Exemplify.