“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” — Mary Anne Radmacher.
I was lying in the hospital staring up at the ceiling. I had suffered a paralyzing stroke and the doctors said it might take months before I had enough muscle strength to start a recovery. In the meantime, they suggested that I just imagine myself moving a toe, or just think about moving a finger. Just start small, they said, wiggle, and wait. I thought about gardening, and how good it felt to hold the earth in my fingers, to grow something. And I wanted to feel that again. As I was lying in bed, feeling a bit like a dormant seed, one event in my life in particular came to mind.
Years ago, I was a manager at a large financial institution that had offices in Philadelphia and New Jersey. I was given the responsibility of laying off one of our employees, an unfortunate task no manager takes pleasure in. I understood that the employee had to be laid off, but I was not happy about the way it was being done. My superiors were planning to have her come in under the premise that she’d be attending a team meeting; but she was really coming in before the team meeting, so that I could tell her she didn’t have a job anymore and whisk her away before the rest of the team arrived. I felt sure that there was a better, more humane way that we could handle the situation, especially since this employee had to come from out of state.
When I talked to my boss about it, I was told that I didn’t have any options, and that if I pursued the issue further, my own job would be in jeopardy. And in that moment, I felt as mentally immobilized as I would feel physically immobilized years later lying in that hospital bed trying to learn how to move my body again. Even though I chose not to argue with my boss then, I took advantage of the lesson about myself that was inherent in the experience, a lesson that would eventually flower into my next venture: I came face to face with that essential, non-negotiable part of my personality that values honest communication and a straight-forward approach over evasiveness, or an authoritarian stance.
But it took some time until the seed of that self-knowledge took root in me and developed into something that I could articulate, and form into a product to share with the world. In that moment, I couldn’t conceive of the phrase “significant business results coach,” which is what I call myself today. I just knew that clear, respectful communication in business was possible, and that I would not only do it, but I would also teach others how to do it as well.
I knew that I wanted to help people take their ideas, dreams, and skills, and crystallize them into the kind of value that others could recognize and be willing to pay for. I wanted to create “dangerous entrepreneurs” and business owners that had the potential to transform the corporate landscape into one that was more creative and more sincere.
But in that period after my stroke when I was lying helpless in a hospital bed, the energy to achieve that dream of mine seemed so far away! After days and days of lying there and focusing my intention on achieving even the slightest movement, I finally moved a finger. And then another. Eventually, finger by finger, toe by toe, I recovered full motion in my body — and way ahead of the doctors’ schedule, at that!
Just as I worked to regain motion after my stroke and heal my body, I also had some healing to do in my career. Equipped with my dream, I was finally able to leave behind the corporate world of threats and ultimatums and create my own consulting business based on building on positive, sincere relationships.
I have the unshakeable conviction that anyone can be a leader and that anyone can become great, no matter who they are or where they are starting their journey. Just start small, wiggle, and wait.
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“There are three essentials to leadership: humility, clarity and courage.” — Fuchan Yuan
Discussion Guide Questions
Take action. Write down your responses. Share with a friend.
1. Are there any ways that you feel restricted or inauthentic in the current circumstances of your life? If so, list them here.
2. Now list what you believe to be your authentic values, the beliefs you hold close.
3. Do you feel like these beliefs are helping you or holding you back?
4. List three personal and/or professional goals that you have right now.
5. List five qualities that you admire about yourself. Can you imagine how those qualities could help you reach your goals?
6. When do you feel most energized? At what time of day? During what activity?
7. What do you think are your best features? Greatest talents? What do you think are your worst features? Can you imagine a positive use for one of your “worst” features?