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I'm Amanda! So happy you are here. Grab a glass of wine, read along, and let's be friends.

Leadership Lessons: Life Story

Thursday, April 28, 2011
A few weeks ago I wrote about some of the lessons I had learned through the book True North by Bill George that I read as part of one of my MBA's classes on leadership. The premise of this book is that you can't be a great leader until you understand yourself, and part of understanding yourself is understanding your life story.  Here are a few quotes from the first chapter of the book that struck me:

"Authentic leaders frame their life stories.  Their life stories provide the context for their lives, and through them they find their passion and inspiration to make an impact on the world.  The story of your life is not your life.  It is your story.  It is your story that matters, not the facts of your life.  Our life stories are like permanent tapes playing in our heads.  Over and over, we replay the events and interaction with people that are important to our lives, attempting to make sense of them and using them to find our place in the world.

We can never directly replay all those along the way who help us, but we can have a positive impact on those coming behind.  You don't have to be CEO to make an impact.  You can do it every day, starting with your next-door neighbor.  Leadership happens at every stage of your life.  If no one else is willing to lead or capable of leading, then it is your obligation to step up to the challenge."

At the end of the chapter were a bunch of questions to prompt you to reflect on the content of the chapter and apply it to your life.  Here was one of the questions:

During your early years, which people had the greatest impact on you? 

By far the people that had the largest impact on my early life were my parents.  I think most people would probably say the same.  Whether your parents were present or absent, good or bad, I think it'd be hard to argue that they didn't have a tremendous and long-lasting impact on your life.  And I have to admit, I hit the parent lottery.  I've said this so many times, and I wish there was a less cliché way of putting it, but I really couldn't ask for better parents.

They were, and still are everything you would hope for in two people.  They even had complimenting skills; the areas where one parent was weak the other was strong.  My mom was extremely loving, nurturing, caring, selfless, and loved us unconditionally.  My dad told us stories, played with us, coached us, and taught us.  This is over-simplifying it, but without going into great detail, I think you get the idea.

I have so many memories of how my parents impacted me, but when I think back to an early memory, one of the first ones that comes to mind is a memory from when I was six or seven years old standing on the front porch of our home in Richmond, Virginia bawling uncontrollably.  My feelings were hurt.  To this day I can’t recall what the situation was, or even which friend of mine hurt my feelings, but I'll never forget what my dad told me.  He didn't hug me or kiss me or coddle me.  He said calmly and logically, "Only you can hurt your feelings.  Other people can't hurt your feelings.  You choose who you allow to hurt you."

Sort of a serious conversation to have with a seven year old.  A simple hug would have probably been temporarily more helpful.  But I did internalize something that has had an impact on me ever since.  You are in the driving seat of your emotions; you're not dominated by them.  You are not the victim of someone else's mean words.  You have a choice to think positively and move on.

I think this early lesson probably had a more profound influence on my internal ability to bounce-back then I realize.  That's one of the cool things that happen when you stop, pause, and reflect about your own life story.  You have the chance to connect some of the dots that have shaped you into the person you are today.

And just because I hate a blog post without any pictures, here's a picture of my dad and I:

And here's a picture of Kevin and I when we were around 6 or 7.  Mind you this was the last time I played any sort of sport involving a ball until junior high school (and even then, I only played softball for about two weeks before I quit).  Kevin's hoping our future kids get his hand-eye coordination, not mine :)


Stacie said...

Very nice - and I love the description of your parents...they are obviously good parents, because you are a pretty amazing person! :) (End of cheesiness...)

P.S. Am I the only one that noticed that Amanda is NAKED in the first picture. My goodness - they'll let people post ANYTHING to their blog nowadays... Ha!

mom said...

Amanda, that is so beautiful! Talk about tears! I think we hit the daughter lottery!

Also, I am looking at your blog on the main computer. It looks totally different on the ipad. Check out your blog from the ipad and you will see what I am talking about with the bricks.

ps. I agree with Stacie

Steph said...

This is so sweet Amanda!

Keven's dad's outfit is great-- those yellow shorts! I need to get a scanner so I can put some old photos on my blog!

love ya!

Amanda said...

Steph - I know! I should ask Dick is he still has those... :)

Thanks Stacie and mom. Love you all.

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