Author: Anna Birch

Do you ever catch yourself assuming the wrong things?

“Leadership is not about giving it all you’ve got. It’s about giving it WHAT IT TAKES.”

During a presentation to a group of business leaders, Gina Mollicone-Long said this and
I’ve allowed it to permeate the many layers of assumptions with many more layers to
navigate to arrive at the core.

First, I assume I know what “IT” is! The critical importance of IT may supersede
Leadership in that phrase. What is the pursuit? Where are we going? How do we
know when we’ve arrived at ‘IT’?

And secondly, the illusive journey of assuming, correcting, and deciphering what skills,
flexibility, emotions, and mental models I must acquire to achieve ‘what it takes.’

More exertion and more time are not a guarantee of more results.

“You’re not alone, you have yourself.”

In truth, I can recall the moment, but I didn’t specifically recall saying the above
statement. However, nearly a year after the experience, the woman let me know the
impact it had upon her past, present, and future.

It was a beautiful day and she had brought an International Leadership Institute group
to our ropes course to have an experiential and fun day learning about leadership. One
of the activities was our high ropes course and she, of course, willingly participated. As
she approached the tree where I was stationed, I saw on her face what she had been
masking from the rest of the group. She was scared and when she caught my eye, her
guard dropped and she said “Anna, I can’t do this alone…anymore.”

I replied “You’re not alone, you have yourself.”

The following year, she reached out to thank me for changing her life. I was confused.
She then told me what I had said to her and that because of that statement, she
returned to her life being re-introduced to her own courage. She immediately changed
her outlook on personal challenges and then applied for a notable position she had
always been “afraid” to attempt. She had called to let me know her email address had
changed… AND her future had changed because of that day…

I had one of those grins on my face that would make strangers wonder if:

A) I’d just done something incredibly mischievous;

B) I was just plain weird; or

C) I was actually as happy on the inside as I was showing on the outside.

It was C.  I had just delivered an executive training session that was a huge win. The impact in the room was palpable, audible, and visible. As I was later trying to process the experience and describe to a colleague why it was so successful, what came out of my mouth has since left an indelible mark. I said:

“I am quite certain it would not have happened WITHOUT me BUT it was not ABOUT me.”

It has changed how I SHOW UP as a parent, facilitator, entrepreneur, and friend. The untouchable contentment of being a part of something larger than yourself and the motivation of impacting from that place. And… the journey has really only just begun in what I will discover with this attitude.

 

It hit me while listening to a keynote session by John O’Leary last month. Opportunity and purpose collided in that moment.

John was describing the gap that we, as adults, battle daily between “What we KNOW/BELIEVE” and “What we DO.” How does this gap increase or decrease in our lives when it comes to healthy lifestyles, leadership, parenting, relationships, tough decisions, mistakes, challenges, success… ?

Where’s the opportunity? Our opportunity at Adventure Links is rich and ripe. It lies in capturing attention, providing the platform, injecting role models into their conversations, and by WOWing children with the power to shape how they perceive themselves in this world. The magical recipe: Captivate… and follow with: PLAY with a PURPOSE in the exact moment that children are defining What they BELIEVE and What they DO.

“Fine…”

When did that magically become the answer to nearly every answer to every question I ask my pre-teen daughters?!

This past summer,  I picked up my girls up from our Adventure Links’ camp and I was bursting to ask them them all sorts of questions about their week.  Their response, even when it didn’t even quite match the question was  “fine.”

Dejected and uninformed, I surrendered and drove in silence.  What happened next was nothing short of magic for me — they broke the silence.  My girls launched, unprompted, into stories, laughter, jokes, and hilarious recollections of their adventures. Before one could take a breath, the other jumped in.  They had found their community, their voice, their power, and their story and I shifted in to a willing passenger and observer to the journey they chose.

What an adventure it is to engineer and develop solutions to solve a challenge. Just last week I had a corporate team experience the “Tower of Excellence” where each shrinking platform demanded adaptation and by the end, a revolution, in how to achieve success.

Simply, the only parameters I provided were that everyone needed to be touching the platform for long enough to yell “WE ROCK 3 TIMES!” and no body parts could be touching the ground. The solution on the largest platform was clear and admitedly quite easy. The group actually thought I may have “screwed up” the activity because NOTHING they had done that day was that easy. However, as we progressed through the platforms the group was blown away by their three realizations and takeaways:

1) As the goal, resources, and challenge changes, the same solution distinctly did not apply!

2) It was not until the task ‘appeared’ impossible that innovation occured.

3) Strategies often do not work in reverse order.

Oh the places we will go when we master the above…

“Mama, you’ve got to see this.”

We took the wonderful opportunity to camp out on our property with another family last month.  The hammocks were hung and we all climbed in to our cocoons for the night.

It was still dark when my daughter appeared next to me and climbed in to try to sleep a few more hours. A short while later, I hear a whisper: “Mama, you’ve got to see this…!”

When I opened my eyes, what I saw was perhaps the most intense and brilliant sunrise I’d ever experienced.  It truly appeared as if the woods had caught fire.  I could tell she was a tad hesitant to have awoken me, so I thanked her and distinctly let her know I was grateful to witness a view that I would have otherwise missed.

How many other moments would I miss without the reminders to share the unique perspective and sense of wonder that children bring to my life?  It hit me that as adults, parents, professionals, and contributors, we spend a lot of our time in “sunset” mode.  We reflect, project, and sometimes object.  How do I bring more “sunrise” people, moments, and attitudes in to my every day existence?

Because of that one spectacular sunrise, I challenge myself to sometimes discard the “what has happened” and open my eyes to what is possible.

Adventure Links blog photo

 

A few short months before my dad died, he gave me one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. During a conversation we shared a decade ago, he said eight words that will be with me forever.

He said, “I want to be you when I grow up.”

Just last week, in a conversation with my 10 year old daughter, I realized that I pass on this gift to her. Here’s what happened:

We noticed a problem with one of the cylindrical bird feeders outside our kitchen window. It was missing all its perches on one side, which meant the territorial goldfinches could not properly utilize the feeder.

On an afternoon shortly afterwards, my daughter emerged with a grin and said she wanted to show me something. New perches for the feeder! She let me know that she’d gone searching for the perfect perches in the forest. And that she had dragged a ladder to the feeder and replaced the missing perches herself. Sure enough, it was now covered with beautiful gold finches.

I gasped and proclaimed how proud I was of her! She looked down, a tad dejected, and said, “But it was Papa’s idea, not mine.”

I paused and, hearing my dad’s voice, said to her But it was YOU who made it happen! It is one thing to come up with an idea but another to act on it. That’s what you do and I love that about you. I’d like to be more like you.

You can imagine how she felt in that moment. Selfishly, I felt pretty happy too; remembering back to a time when I basked in my Dad’s admiration and approval!

It’s so easy overlook the “small triumphs” with our children− those moments of wonder that as adults we so easily take for granted. Let your child know how special they are, just for being who they are.

It’s a gift they’ll carry with them forever.

– Anna
Most of us became parents long before we have stopped being children. — Mignon McLaughlin

Children need guidance and sympathy far more than instruction. —Anne Sullivan