Like so many other fathers on this little spinning ball in space, I suffer from a syndrome that has plagued man for centuries…my daughter has me wrapped around her little finger. When I look at her I see perfection – pure, unblemished perfection. Now, as her father, I realize that I am probably the only one who can see her through such unbiased and objective eyes so if others fail to see it, I can simply write them off as ignorant buffoons.
And, as my daughter’s 10th birthday approached, she inevitably desired that one gift that made all other gifts pale by comparison…a horse. Well, as you would guess, while I love her more than life itself, I do not have that tree (I have tried to plant it many times but it just won’t grow money). And, as you would also guess, she looked up at me with those sad, big blue eyes and, by golly, Daddy bought her a horse.
Her name was Yoo Hoo (the horse not my daughter) and it was love at first sight. Lindsey wanted to be a show jumper (this is where she competes in a huge arena filled with people and jumps over large walls, fences, and other obstructions that frightened her father to no end).
We got Lindsey an amazing trainer to help her learn how to compete in this sport (honestly, all I knew about horses was which end the food went in and which end it came out and to stay away from both ends). I was more than a little worried when “my baby” climbed up upon this 700 lb “wild beast”.
They trained for months with Lindsey progressing rapidly in her learning. She was a natural. Then one day her trainer, Jason, proclaimed her ready to compete and signed her up for a huge show. We had one week to get ready. Jason informed us that the week before a show was critical and that he wanted to work with Lindsey every afternoon with her completely dressed in her “competition outfit”.
We arrived for the first pre-competition practice and Yoo Hoo was nowhere to be seen. Jason said Yoo Hoo was ready but Lindsey was not. He proceeded to sit her on top of the fence that surrounded the riding area at the stable and they rode the course over and over in Lindsey’s mind. Jason taught her that she had to “see” herself succeeding, that she had to visualize herself flawlessly running the course: elbows in, thumbs up, heels down, change leads, lean into the jump. Time and time again they ran the course in Lindsey’s head.
The following Saturday I watched my girl win her first blue ribbon and learn a lifelong lesson on the importance and the power of vision. Rather than focus on the obstacles in the course she focused on getting over them. A good lesson for all of us as we face the obstacles in our course of life.
The longer I live the more I see the negative impact that mediocrity can have in virtually any situation. From a mediocre project team member pulling the team down, to a mediocre waiter ruining a nice dinner out, to a mediocre parent unwilling to say or do the hard things that good parenting sometimes requires… mediocrity, at its core, is really something most of us would like to avoid.
For those who truly aspire to do great things, beware of the mediocre in your midst. You see mediocrity recognizes greatness… resents it… and seeks to pull it down. Rather than rejoice with or emulate greatness, when the mediocre encounter it, they want to destroy it. You see, true greatness makes the mediocre feel “less than” and rather than work harder to become better, the mediocre would rather you become mediocre too.
It could be the athlete who tells his teammates to slow down during pre-season wind sprints, or the teacher who tells her colleague to stop using so much technology in the classroom, or even the sales rep who belittles a coworker for staying late, the bottom line is they do not want to work harder to get better and they don’t like that you do.
Watch out for the cynics too. Cynical people are sometimes nothing more than mediocrity with a bad attitude (which they try and mask by cutting everything else down). You can almost hear them rolling their eyes as they talk. Cynicism is cancer of the attitude and you do not need to hang out with it. You deserve better.
As a speaker, I run into many different kinds of audiences in my travels. Occasionally, I encounter a group that really stands out in my mind (this could be for good or bad reasons). This past week, it was my pleasure to present to the faculty of Marumsco Hills Elementary School in Prince William County, Virginia.
Talk about having the “deck stacked against you”…this school is one of the poorest schools in the entire county, has a student population that is 90% minority, and every year experiences an incredible amount of “churn” due to the transient nature of the neighborhood in which it is located.
Amazingly, despite these challenges and more, the teachers at this school continue to produce students that are fulfilling their potential, scoring well on their standardized tests, and the school continues to remain both accredited and make Annual Yearly Progress(AYP).
I am always intrigued when I meet a group that is consistently doing what others claim can not be done. What is it about them that causes them to succeed? What do they have that others don’t? How do they accomplish the “impossible”?
Well, this faculty spoke loud and clear to me…and they didn’t even have to use words.
At 8:00am that morning, as I headed out the door to the school, a snow storm burst on to the scene. In the short drive to the school, over 2 inches of snow had fallen and there was no sign of it letting up any time soon. School systems all around were shutting down. Flights were being canceled at the Washington, DC airports, and the streets were getting treacherous.
Joanne Alvey(standing with me), the principal of the school, looked out her window at the storm and said, “Well Dave…” I interrupted her as I finished her sentence saying, “…Yeah, I guess we’ll just have to reschedule.”
She looked at me with an expression that said “are you nuts” and finished her own sentence (without my help this time), “Well, Dave, we might have to start a few minutes late this morning due to the roads.”
I, of course being the all-knowing wise speaking consultant, thought the cold had simply numbed her brain and she was not thinking clearly…after all what crazy teacher would fight through this kind of weather to get to a school when the students already had the day off due to a planned teacher workday.
One by one, the parking lot began to fill up as teachers pulled in and made their way through the snow to get to the building. We started only 30 minutes late, with over 90% of the faculty present! And get this–the other 10% called in upset due to the fact that they had been turned away by the police a few blocks from school because the roads were unsafe (couldn’t get up a hill).
How do they accomplish so much with their students? I’ll tell you how…they have a passion for learning. Nothing was going to stop them in their search for personal growth and development. They wanted new strategies to help them be better people and teachers. And their attitudes were positive and upbeat.
You know, attitude is contagious. And the students in this school catch it from their teachers.
What a great lesson for all of us!
Well, ready or not here it comes! We leave for Burkina Faso, Africa in 4 days! Just yesterday, our entire team gathered together to go over last minute details and to learn more about the villages and people we will be visiting.
Conditions in many areas have gotten even worse and according to the Mayor of one region “The thing we need more than anything else is water.”
The 5 amazing teenagers (Connor, Dan, Jared, Kyle, and Logan) who started Dry Tears continue to astound me with their vision to change a continent…and to have the opportunity to help them (in any small way) is an honor. Feel free to visit their website at drytears.org
In addition to visiting where wells have already been built, we hope to scout out other villages where future wells can be dug and more lives impacted.
Because many people will be reading this blog, if you are looking for a way to really make difference in this world, I strongly encourage you to partner with me in helping the guys in Dry Tears. Their organization is truly committed to their mission of “Building wells. Building lives.” All of the money given goes directly to help others. None of the guys nor their Board of Directors is paid and the focus is truly on helping others…even this trip to Africa is not being paid for with money given to Dry Tears.
Here is the amazing thing, your school, company, church, or organization can actually fund the building of a well for only $5,000. Do you realize how easy it is to impact an entire community…water changes everything!
I can’t wait to get there!