Leading from the Heartland
Kansas values build great leaders. Integrity, honesty, loyalty, humility, and discipline are just a few of the values that set Kansans apart from the rest of the country.
These values have taught me what it means to be true to myself and live authentically to my passions and purpose in life. These values were the foundation that was built from a small-town farming community and the family and friends that I hold close. I was born and raised in Salina, lived in the major college towns of Manhattan and Lawrence, and have found myself in the great city of Wichita. What I found in all these towns was the sense of community, the feeling of belonging to a group of people that truly cared. What was common among these Kansas towns? People built on values.
I found that Kansans value others holding to their word and aligning their words with their actions. The people of Kansas value honesty by being genuine in all that they do. Loyalty and dedication run deep with the people of Kansas. The act of being humble and raising others above themselves can be found in many of the Kansans you come across. One of the values that Kansans know best is hard work and having the discipline to get what needs to get done for the betterment of their work, their families, and their communities. A state with over 90% of it’s land dedicated to farming and agricultural production breeds hard work and discipline. I found this out the hard way growing up on our family farm by feeding cattle and harvesting wheat in the summertime with my family. All these values have brought me to realize the leader within me, and the leadership values found in so many other Kansans.
The heartland breeds positive transformational leaders! We need leadership values in our country now more than ever! What values will you exemplify to help create positive change? You can create an impact that can transform others lives by the way you live. Will you choose to believe in others? Will you choose to live the Kansas values that make our state great? The time is now to help show the world what Kansans are made of. In the words of one of the great Kansans, John James Ingalls states, "The aspiration of Kansas is to reach the unattainable; its dream is the realization of the impossible." Kansas and its people will rise above to the stars through every difficulty. After all, we are a state built on values.
Ad Astra Per Aspera,
Do you want to know what it takes to be a leader? How can you develop yourself to become the leader that people look to in times of crisis? I have come up with what I have found to be the most influential aspects of a leader; qualities that every leader must develop within themselves to make a positive impact. Developing these qualities will not only change your life, but they will greatly influence those around you. You can not take people where you have not yet gone. Develop these qualities in yourself and unleash the leader within.
All leaders must have integrity! Integrity means that you follow through with everything you say you are going to do. Your words line up with your actions. How do you feel when someone does not follow through with their promises? It does not feel good, does it? With all that you do, make sure to always keep your word. Be honest, be loyal, and commit to what you say you will do, and you will find that others will start to respect you.
As stated by Rick Warren, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is thinking more of others.” As leaders it is not about us anymore, it is about raising others above ourselves. Giving all the credit to those we lead. It’s about admitting our faults, showing others that we are not perfect, and letting those know that we make mistakes every day just like everyone else. Humility is essential in connecting with others.
“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The author of this quote, John Maxwell, knows that it is not about leaders boasting about their accomplishments and accolades, but it is actually about giving our all to others. It is about serving others with a caring and kind heart. We must first touch a heart before we ask for a hand. As a leader, in all that you do, make sure to focus on helping others find the potential within them, before serving your own needs.
Empathy is the act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It is about understanding the thoughts and feelings of another. When someone is sad, are you recognizing their sadness? When someone is happy, are you celebrating their happiness, their successes? Empathy requires us to get out of our minds, thoughts, and opinions and step into another’s perspective. How are you exemplifying empathy to others?
Where are you going on your leadership journey? Is it clearly defined? A leader must know where they are going for others to follow. It is essential to have direction, a purpose for action. Followers need to know that their leader can confidently say they know where they are going and that they can help others get them there. Hellen Keller puts it wisely, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” We may be able to see, but do we know where we are going and why we are going there? Do you have direction in those that you lead?
Every leader must be able to communicate effectively! When communicating, are you communicating in a way that others can understand you? Are you keeping it simple to understand? When communicating it must go both ways. To do this, you must first seek to understand before being understood. How do you do this? Ask questions! What questions are you asking those you lead to understand where they are coming from?
When times become hard, leaders must become a light to others. They must show hope and encourage those they lead to keep pushing forward. Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial in encouraging those you lead. Life is not always easy. A leader must encourage others that there is a brighter future ahead, a light at the end of the tunnel. Show others hope! Be positive!
Inspiration comes from within. As a leader, how are you developing those you lead to find the potential within themselves? Leaders must get others to act. If you are a leader and you are just maintaining the status quo, are you even leading? Inspiration creates action and action creates change. What type of positive change are you inspiring in others?
Being passionate is about being all-in. Passion gives you life, energy, and purpose to fulfill your destiny. In everything that you do, are you living to your passions? While living out your passions, people should be able to recognize that you are doing what you love. Passion clearly shows others that you lead by example in everything that you do. Passion is doing what makes you happy. Have you found out what you are passionate about? To become successful as a leader, true success lies within your passion.
Are you living out your true, raw, unapologetically true self? Are you being completely honest with who you are and what makes you exceptionally unique? To be authentic means to live out who you truly are as a leader. It’s about living to your strengths and what makes you the best leader that you can be. Kurt Cobain put it bluntly, “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” Be yourself! You are destined for greatness!
Now is your time! What are you going to do to positively influence those around you? Live out these qualities and you will see your leadership capabilities grow beyond measure. For leaders to be great, we must first start with ourselves. Continually grow and always strive to be the positive change you want to see in the world!
Stop Dreaming and Start Doing
What do you dream about? What keeps you up at night? There is a quote by Carmelo Anthony that states: “Every morning you have two choices: continue to sleep with your dreams or wake up and chase them.” In my life, I have often been crippled by the thought of achieving what I most desired. There were times where I felt there was no way a guy like me could ever achieve that type of success. I felt like I didn’t have the resources, time, or the right type of environment to set me up for success. It wasn’t until I truly looked inside myself that I realized I can create my destiny. I can turn my dreams into reality! The only thing that was holding me back was my own self-limitations. Once I stood up to who I truly was, I then began to live to my full potential. What limitations are you setting for yourself that are holding you back? What are you currently doing to start acting towards your dreams? Want to learn how to start taking hold of your life and turn your dreams into reality? Here is how.
If you have found an inability to start something, what were the reasons for your inability to act? Were you passionate about it? What would be the outcome you would get from taking action? It is often hard to truly take on a particular task if your heart is not fully in it. Back in college, I was on a mission to find out who I was…what I was meant for. I began to ask questions about myself to discover my strengths, weaknesses, what I enjoyed doing, what I tried to stay away from, what came easily for me, what drained me, and what gave me energy. I had to bravely face my truth. Once I faced my truth, I began to live authentically. It became easier for me to act on my dreams. I woke up every day eager to accomplish my goals. As you begin to reflect, it is critically important to answer these tough questions. If we all just lived out our lives without intentionally living, how would we truly come to know ourselves?
As I began to take a deep look at who I was, I found out a few truths about myself that became increasingly evident. I found out that my greatest passion revolved around life. Now that seems broad does it not? The important thing is that I started to narrow my focus. You see, you do not have to have everything figured out, you just have to keep taking the next step. As I continued to dig, I realized that I was passionate about how to lead my life, the study of life (biology), and how to serve God in my life in everything that I do. It was these three things that took up most of my time. It was this continual search that brought clarity and purpose to everything that I did and continue to do. In the words of the great Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Life is about continually searching for ourselves and our purpose, discovering what we were meant for. In the words of another one of the greats, Mark Twain, he states: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born…and the day you find out why.” I found out through continual persistence in developing myself that developing others to lead their lives in their business, their community, and who they were meant to become is what I live for. It gives me the greatest fulfillment in knowing that the example that I lead can have a positive impact on others to live their dream.
Here is the key, are you ready? The secret to turning our dreams into reality is that once we have mastered our thoughts, they must then evolve into action. What we continually think about is what we become. These thoughts turn into action and these actions then turn into living your dream...creating your destiny. Now, what action will you take to start living out your dream? I challenge you to ask these tough questions about yourself and get input from others as well. What is it that you were meant for? Face your truth and live to the potential you know you are capable of! You were destined for greatness! Start leading your life and turn your dreams into reality! Lead by example, take action, and become your true, authentic self.
Do you feel like you struggle with growing your relationships? Do you feel like people value who you are? Is it hard for you to truly connect with others? In society today, it is easy to be focused on ourselves. When we develop this trait of being self-centered, we begin to deteriorate our relationships with those we care about. This can have harmful impacts on our workplace, our families, our social lives, and the communities we value and appreciate. I know that I have had multiple instances where I recognized that I had been too focused on developing myself and failed at not working on the development of my relationships with others. It’s very easy to get sucked into our busy schedules and forget about those that matter to us. What I found is that when we shift our thinking from ourselves to others, great things can happen. I want to share with you the 5 essential practices that I have used to go past merely communicating with others, but truly connecting with those I surround myself with. Practice these 5 essentials to connect and you will see your relationships grow deeper, become more authentic, and your leadership will dramatically increase:
1. Build Common Ground
Looking at your current relationships, what are some of the reasons you have built a firm foundation? It was most likely due to common interests, experiences, or beliefs that you had with that person. Maybe you have the same hobbies, work in the same company, or live in the same area. Or perhaps you have the same religion, politics, or outlook on life. Whatever it may be, we naturally gravitate towards those who share common ground with us. We want to feel understood. We want to know that people truly “get” us. When communicating with others, are you actively seeking to establish common ground? In what ways can you develop that common connection? Build common ground….you fill find that we aren’t so different after all.
2. Serve Others
In our culture, we often believe that the world revolves around us. We think, “how is this going to benefit me?” What if we shifted our thinking to, “how will this benefit others?” When our words and actions exemplify a giving spirit, we show that we value others. Once people feel valued, they will then begin to realize that you care. In the words of John Maxwell, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
3. Take in Multiple Perspectives
We are all different people and live different lives. Since we are all different, we all have different ways of looking at the world. It is easy to shame others because they do not think like us, but what if we respect others by listening and fully understanding their point of view? I found that this gives us the opportunity to learn, grow, and provides an alternative path to solving problems. There will always be a group of people that have more collective knowledge than one person will ever know. There is an incredible opportunity to learn from those you surround yourself with. What is one way you can start learning from others?
4. Keep it Simple
Communication can easily get confusing when we all come from different walks of life. There may be a particular field of knowledge that you are well versed in that others have no familiarity with. When we communicate complex ideas, we can easily get lost in what the communicator is trying to help us understand. When we communicate in a way that is simple and easy to understand, we reduce barriers to understanding. If you want to connect, make sure to keep it simple.
5. Be Present
Do you get frustrated when you see someone answer a text or phone call when you are sharing your vulnerabilities with them? It does not feel good, does it? When we give our full attention to others in body, mind, and spirit, then we begin to show that they matter to us. When communicating with others, be fully present. Show them that you value them, and they will begin to value you.
This is your time to start taking action and develop the meaningful relationships you want, you desire, and what we all most desperately need. Give yourself to others, and others will give themselves to you. We are not all that different; it just takes a little effort to meet others where they are to show them that they are valued. What level of leadership do you want to rise to? Build common ground, serve others, take in multiple perspectives, keep it simple, and be present! You are valued and you are going to do great things!
Have you ever found yourself stuck and unable to move from your current situation? What made you become paralyzed by the fear of change? The fact is that what we most desire is often what we are most fearful of. There are a few ways that get people to change, but when we continue to work for what we most desire, we can overcome anything. In my life, I have been through some difficult times in developing the leader within me. I have been told that I will never be good enough, I do not have the education to lead others, I do not have the age or experience to lead, or that I do not fit what most people would define as success. I felt discouraged, broken, and lost in determining my path. What I found is that I can create my destiny. I can break through adversity and defeat my obstacle if I persistently practiced and moved forward with what was true in my heart. I knew that finding my courage and overcoming my fears would eventually lead me to develop the heart of a lion.
As I started my career in conservation biology, I began to take on the entry-level technician roles that would give me the basic knowledge and skills to become a scientist in the field of conservation biology. Being in an entry-level position was painful with my desire to lead and develop others, however, I knew that it would be necessary to understand the inside workings of an environmental organization. As they say, “You must first learn to follow before you can lead.” That is what I did, I followed and learned what it took to be a great leader. One thing I realized was that what we needed most in conservation was not necessarily research, but it was leadership. We had the facts and figures to show there was a clear change in our environment through human disruption, but what we needed was the people that would help connect with others to show them how we all desperately relied on our natural resources. This involved a tremendous amount of respect for Earth but also the courage to connect with others that may have different views from ours.
I decided it was time for me to bridge the gap. I knew that I had a background in the environmental sciences and a passion for leadership as well as the necessary knowledge and experience, but I was not presented with the opportunity to fulfill both of those desires. This led me to create an opportunity to fulfill both my passions for the environmental sciences and leadership. This has led me to start Exemplify!
Leading an environmental company or any other business for that matter was something I had always wanted to do. However, I was told I did not have a Ph.D., I was too young to lead others that were 30 years older than me, or that the organization I was working for did not need to instill leadership values in their people so there was no way I could become a leader. What I realized is that instead of delaying my dreams, I decided to take action. Action cures fear and that fear of accomplishing what I most desired would not keep me down. I decided to take the leap of faith and start my own business to develop conservation leaders and other small business owners in instilling leadership values to help get the best out of them and those they lead.
What I learned at this moment is that we have two options to create change. One option is to be reactive, and the other is to be proactive. When we are reactive, we let things happen to us and let our environment determine our fate. When we are proactive, we can help set up the environment we have always wanted, what we had always desired, and what we have always dreamed of. I chose to be proactive. Instead of letting others determine my fate, I decided to create my destiny, muster up the courage to face my biggest fear, and be brave in developing the heart and strength of a lion, the person I always knew I could be. Now, what am I trying to tell you? I am telling you to stop waiting around for things to just happen to you, instead, have the courage to become the best version of yourself that you know you can be. Be your authentic self and refuse to live in the shadows of what society tells you to think and let your light shine. Step out of your comfort zone and learn from your mistakes! You have everything you need inside of you! You do not need to have it all together, you just have to get started! Now I ask you this, what will you decide? Will you choose to be proactive and have the courage to face your fears? You are capable of more than you can imagine! Develop the heart of a lion and be brave…your time is now!
Do you ever feel defeated when trying to accomplish a goal? What gets you to take action to achieve what you set out to accomplish? We may have the greatest intentions in the world to complete a goal or task, however, it takes more than just good intentions to complete what we set out to accomplish. Achieving your goals can be difficult, but if you found a way to make accomplishing your goals easier, would you do it? Are you ready to get what you have always wanted? Here are the 5 things you must do to set up your environment for success.
1. Surround yourself with like-minded people.
As stated by motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Our environment shapes our way of being, it develops our beliefs, our values, our path in life. When I was growing up, I was shaped by the leaders of my family, the outdoors, working hard labor out on the farm, and I was surrounded by those that were strong in their faith. All these interactions with the people I became closest to shaped me to become who I am today. They have pushed me to pursue a degree in conservation biology as well as my Master of Business Administration, they have pushed me to start a leadership development business due to their positive example, and they have encouraged me to remain faithful to my God that I lovingly serve. When you think of the person you would like to become, who does that person look like? Who are you surrounding yourself with to help you get there? Are they positively influencing your life?
2. Gather your resources.
Anything you set out to accomplish is going to require having the right materials and resources in place to accomplish your goal. Those resources might be money, education, the right people, equipment, technology, or a system that helps you get to where you need to be. Are these resources easily accessible for you? Do you have everything you need in place to reach your goal? What is it going to take? Gather what you need and take the next step.
3. Minimize distractions.
In our world today, it is far too easy to get distracted by the simplest of things. Maybe you have a mess in your house, your friends want you to come out for the night to party, your kids are seeking your attention, or maybe you are being sucked into the social media rabbit hole. I know for me social media has become my most detrimental habit that keeps pulling me back in. What I have found to be most useful is to make it hard for these distractions to come into your life. Put your phone in the other room, set time aside to be with your kids, make progress towards your goals when you know you will not be tempted to commit to things that do not aid in your development. Make it simple to act on your goals and difficult to be tempted into distraction. The way you set up your environment will ultimately determine your level of success.
4. Write it down.
According to psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews, at the Dominican University in California, “You are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down,” as stated in his study of nearly 270 participants. When we write what we think about, it starts to become a part of us. If we continually feed our minds with positive information that aids in our growth, we will draw closer and closer to our desires. We are a product of our thoughts, but what good is thinking without action? Writing your thoughts down on a piece of paper, on your phone, or on your computer will begin to solidify your beliefs into action. What action do you seek to create? Start today!
5. Make your goal public.
“Nothing of significance was ever achieved by an individual acting alone. Look below the surface and you will find that all seemingly solo acts are really team efforts.” John Maxwell put it best when he stated the above quote communicating that anything of significance is never achieved by one individual acting alone. When we make our goals public, we are then held accountable for our words and following through with them in action. When we communicate what we think about to those that we care about, we begin to see belief turn into action. Be brave in sharing your dreams and aspirations, you will soon find out that they will become a part of you, and others will too.
Now that you have the ideas and tools for setting up your environment for success, what example will you lead? Now is the time for you to stop procrastinating on what you know you need to do. Now is the time to reach your full potential. This is the time where you become your true, authentic self, that lives a life of positive change for those around you. You are capable of greatness, you have the perseverance to do what it takes, you are the architect of your own environment! What will you choose?
Conservation is needed now more than ever. You are currently living in the most pivotal time for preserving our natural resources. On this Earth Day, it is critical to reflect and take action on what we are all inseparable of, what we rely on to survive, what gives us life…. our Earth.
The Earth is seeing a rapid decline in our Earth’s biodiversity. It is estimated we are currently experiencing 100 -1000 times the rate of extinction compared to the natural extinction rate. According to the United Nations (UN), since 1970 the global human population has more than doubled (from 3.7 to 7.9 billion). Additionally, the report states, “Since 1970, trends in agricultural production, fish harvest, bioenergy production and harvest of materials have increased in response to population growth and the rising demand in technological development. Many other key indicators of nature’s contributions to people however, such as soil organic carbon and pollinator diversity, have declined, indicating that gains in material contributions are often not sustainable.” So, I ask you this; what happens when we reach the limit of humans that can live on this planet? Do we have alternatives to losing everything we rely on to survive? Earth is our home place; we were born to live on this planet and this planet only.
How many of you rely on food to survive? What about using natural materials for your business? When it comes to staying healthy, what gives you the best chance for living a long, fulfilled life? The thing is that we all rely on natural resources everyday to get through our work, satisfy our hunger, transport us from one place to the next, and build structures that we call home. So why do we feel so divided as a nation? What makes us feel like we must decide from one side or the other on political topics such as climate? The climate and conservation movements are not about politics, it is about human survival. This is of high importance to the human population because it affects all of us in a dramatic way. We all rely on our Earth to survive. Each part of our natural world is interconnected and when one piece gets harmed, several negative consequences result. The special part about living on this Earth is that none of us would exist without it. We desperately need all that this planet has to offer. The great thing about our current situation is this; you have the opportunity to make a difference!
It is clear that the negative effects on our climate exist. The science is there, and it is a proven fact that over hundreds and thousands of years we have seen negative effects to the living and non-living resources we most desperately need. Even dating back to the Bible, it states that in Jeremiah 2:7, NIV version (God speaking to his people in Israel), “I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.” Christianity according to the Bible values the land and its natural resources. Science, religion, and all the people on Earth have proven that there are negative consequences for our actions in disturbing and disrespecting our land. Now how do we overcome this issue? What we need is leadership! We need each and every one of you to grab hold of your opportunity to make a positive change in our climate, our food system, and for the well-being of our families and friends. You have the opportunity right now to make a change. You can reduce your consumption; being happy and content with what you already possess. You can reuse and recycle the materials that you do purchase to create less harm to our Earth. You have the ability to be the positive example we need to see to turn our world around and help save our planet.
As a conservationist and community leader, I write to you and the rest of the Exemplify community to help save our planet! We all have the ability to make a positive change to help enhance the lives of others as well as other living creatures that inhabit this planet. You have the ability to make a difference! You have the opportunity to transform your world! Be the positive example that you wish to see in the world!
In 2017, I found myself on the opposite end of the Earth. I found myself in Beijing, China. This was one of the most impactful adventures of my life and a time I will never forget. My intention for the trip was to visit a close college friend, but what I found was so much more. I found a culture that was completely different from my own, a culture that was disciplined, unselfish, and more generous than I could have ever imagined. I really did not know what to expect, but when my plane touched down in Beijing I was in for the adventure of my life. I was about to meet a culture completely contrary to my own. I was awakened to a whole new perspective. Here is my story, my story of traveling to the other end of the Earth.
Everything Worth Accomplishing is Uphill – Overcoming Adversity Through Adventure.
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!
Carl currently resides in Wichita, KS where he coaches and consults businesses, community groups, and individuals with Exemplify.