Would You Prefer Chicken or Lamb?

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significance - mandelaI sat there in the Harmony Airways first class cabin deciding what to eat from the “Liberty Menu” – meals prepared by award-winning chef Rob Feenie.  My choices were:  1. Roast chicken with choucroutre and pomme puree.  2. Roasted double lamb chop with semi-dried cherry tomato.  And, for dessert, sticky toffee pudding with pear compote and cinnamon mascarpone cream.  The meal was also adorned with liberal amounts marvellous Merlot.

I chose the lamb.

While I sipped my wine and nibbled on my beef carpaccio with horseradish and mustard cream hors’d’oeuvre, I began watching a movie called “Beat the Drum”.  The movie is the story of an African boy orphaned by aids and living with his grandmother, who decides to leave his village and go to Johannesburg to work to make enough money to buy a new cow for his grandmother.

The movie deeply moved me in regard to the plight of African children orphaned by the aids virus.  This little boy ended up living on the streets, eating garbage and washing car windows to make the money to buy the cow.

As I got more and more engaged in this movie the flight attendant came to give me my gourmet meal.  She apologized profusely as she gave me the chicken, indicating that there had been a catering mistake and there was no lamb.  She was incredibly apologetic and asked if that was ok.

I said, “No problem.”, but the contrast hit me hard – my life in first class and the life of African orphans.

So what do I do now?  I watched a movie.  I was moved deeply.  I shed some tears.  Do I go back to life as per usual, or do I do something about it?

Mother Theresa said that each of us must find our “Calcutta”.

What does that mean exactly?

Well, what I understand it to mean is that each one of us must find a cause that contributes to the betterment of other people.  Our lives must be about more than our own comfort and convenience.  Especially leaders, because leadership is about helping people be better.

Good leaders understand that leadership is not about them, it’s about those they lead.  Good leaders understand they are meant to be spent for the benefit of others.  I think that’s really what mother Theresa was talking about: each one of us must spend ourselves for the benefit of others.  And, there is something particularly compelling about helping people who are in desperate situations.

“Would you prefer chicken or lamb?” is a question that matters in the moment, but it doesn’t really matter when viewed through the lens of legacy.  There are bigger questions we need to be asking, and answering…

“How will I spend my life?  Will I spend myself for the benefit of others, or will I spend others for my own benefit?  What will the legacy of my life and my leadership be?  What difference do I want to make with my life?  Who will live because I gave of myself?  Who will die because I didn’t?  What will people say about me at my funeral?  What do I care about more than my own comfort and convenience?   What is my Calcutta?”

Asking questions like this is intimidating, it might even be terrifying for some.  That’s why oftentimes these questions go unasked and unanswered.  It takes courage and it takes work.  It’s part of the heavy lifting we need to do if we want to make a significant difference with our lives, and not just live and die to no one’s regret.

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little “extra”.  Asking the right questions is part of that little extra.  And then we have to do something about it.  Start with anything that contributes to the betterment of another person’s life.

And when you do, get outside your comfort zone.  The only place we really grow is outside our comfort zone.  A leader’s comfort zone should really be outside their comfort zone.

Let’s learn to ask bigger questions that lead us to deeper answers, and greater impact.  “Would you prefer chicken or lamb?” is not one of those questions.

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Leading and Living on Purpose.