Step 1 To Great Leadership: Pick Up a Pen, and Write it Down by Terry Starbucker

view original / terrystarbucker.com

Blogger’s note:  Been following Terry Starbucker for a while… highly recommend (go ahead, click the link above…come on).  I came across this the other day and thought…how simple…and how true.  I have been jotting things down for about 7-10 years now and have all the notebooks on shelves–probably need to review those books more often, but it does indeed serve to clarify thoughts and plans.  This blog has done much of the same, I find myself looking back over articles and notes.  Finally:  don’t think I could have said it any better when Terry says:

“…something became clear – what he really liked about leadership was the simple act of making a difference.  Contributing to something bigger than himself.  Helping and teaching others.”
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Here’s the scene:  A 33 year-old man sits in his small office in a converted horse barn somewhere in rural Virginia, staring at a yellow legal pad.    He’s bored, disillusioned, and borderline depressed.

Three years prior to this moment he moved 3,000 miles on a promise of great opportunity, but alas, the opportunity did not materialize.  Rather, it was a move to oblivion,  “working” on a project that did not exist, and for a man who ruled by fear and ridicule (especially in front of other people).

It was 1993, so there wasn’t even an Internet to help him find some solace as the clock went tick, tick, tick – no, it was just him and that yellow pad.

He had hit a huge career pothole, and was at wits end as to how to recover.  Should he just quit?  Nope, too risky – there was a recession going on.  So, what could this young man do?

On this day, thankfully, something happened that would change his life for the better.  He would figure out what he really wanted.

All it took was the merger of that yellow pad, and a felt-tip pen.  This unhappy man decided to start writing – not for anybody else, but for himself.

He started first by writing about how he got to this place, and the dreams he had coming out of college, and how he so enjoyed his first few years in the workplace, not yet burdened by any worries about the future.   He was like a sponge, learning every day.

He got his first taste of leadership responsibilities back then, and he liked it.   That was good to write down – “I liked to lead”.   But why?   He kept writing.

As one sentence led to another, something became clear – what he really liked about leadership was the simple act of making a difference.  Contributing to something bigger than himself.  Helping and teaching others.

It was all flowing out of his pen now, these things that made him happy.   And that’s when he realized what he really wanted.

I want to be a leader”, he wrote.  “I want to make a differenceand do it authentically, in my way.  With respect and empathy, and not fear.  To inspire, instead of tear down”.

This simple act of writing filled this man with hope, and better still, with a crystallized intent.

That’s the day Terry Starbucker got his s**t together.

Eventually, I got what I wanted.   I became the leader that was described on that legal pad.

In hindsight, I truly believe that writing it down was the most important step I took to getting my career mojo back.

And to this day, whenever I need to put another dream “out there”, I turn away from my electronic devices and pull out that legal pad.

Try it yourself, and see what I mean.  Hey, Write it Down!

(Note: this post originally appeared on Escaping Mediocrity on February 24, 2011)

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