Last week I went to St. George, Utah to teach a seminar sponsored by Dixie Applied Technical College. I traveled with my wife, Susan, to the beautiful red rock country of southern Utah and had a marvelous time teaching and learning from the leaders of this small but dogged technical college.
The morning session was sponsored by Dixie ATC and they opened it to other community and business leaders in the area. We had a nice-sized group, with good chemistry and energy. In the afternoon, I met with twenty-one of Dixie ATC’s top leaders, mostly department and curriculum heads, and we did a session that was a combination of Ownership Spirit and Destination Thinking for Leaders, to set the foundation for their next destination. I have rarely met with a more prepared group. There was great feedback and discussion from the audience, who had all read the Ownership Spirit book. We had a focused, pertinent discussion, with a group that has clearly made significant progress in changing their negative, unproductive thought patterns and these leaders had some great breakthroughs.
Dixie ATC’s current campus is spread across town in various leased buildings. As we collaborated on creating a “new destination” for Dixie ATC, these leaders started to envision one vibrant campus with multiple, state-of-the-art buildings, a new student center, parking lots, and administrative offices. The excitement for their future began to build.
Traditionally, the college has depended upon the state legislature to fund their programs and facilities. About halfway through our session, one of the leaders shared the newly announced capital funding priority list by the Utah legislature. There was good news and bad. Dixie ATC was prioritized 9th on the funding list. (The good news was that they were 9th, which stands a fairly good chance of being funded. The bad news was that they were 9th, which also stands a reasonable possibility of not being funded.)
The remarkable thing was that as the excitement and energy for the new destination grew, these leaders started thinking like Owners. They began to see many more steps they could take, beyond waiting for state funding, to make their vision come to fruition. They generated plans about fundraising and donors, about setting up trusts and scholarships and grants by partnering with philanthropists in the community, and how they could improve the quality of their curriculum and student services whether they had new buildings or not. They could see that there was a lot they could do, almost immediately, to stride forward to the realization of their vision. Ultimately, their biggest breakthrough was the realization that by uniting their hearts, minds, and talents, they could reach their goals without excuses — that regardless of the economy, the state budget, the legislature’s priorities, the price of land, or anything else, Dixie ATC had someplace great to be.
It was an exhilarating privilege to witness the creation of a new creation and the increased power it brought to a team of leaders!
A few days later, I received an email from my college-age son. He has recently set some high goals for himself and had a similar epiphany about getting to his own destination. He wrote:
My attitude was such that I thought, “I’ll do my best to accomplish that goal, but [I have] no real intent of reaching the goal.” The equivalent of saying I will go and do it…but I don’t really expect it to [happen]. I expect to die trying or come back home saying I did my best, but not actually accomplish it. Long story short…I am now giving all [my] effort to achieve the goals as well as all [my] heart, which I’ve discovered is a little painful. It’s easy to give all might, mind and strength but I’ve found it hard to give my heart. Because if you give your heart, it hurts.
My son is right. To really believe you can accomplish your lofty goals takes your whole heart, your whole commitment. No excuses.
Whenever we create a new destination for ourselves or our organizations, it’s a little scary. You’re suddenly working without a net. And there can be a tendency to hold a piece back–a piece that says “I knew that couldn’t really happen,” a piece that prevents us from putting our full weight on the rope, as it were. The trouble is, it’s that tiny, unbelieving piece that is keeping us from where we are and our “new destination.” Thomas Hood said, “Half of the failures in life come from pulling one’s horse when he is leaping.” To really get where we want to be, we have to go at our goal without excuses, with not only all of our talent and work ethic and skill, but also, with all of our hearts.
I’m interested in your thoughts.