(This report is an excerpt from the book “7 Moments…That Define Excellent Leaders“.)

A Moment to Change is one of the trickiest moments discussed in 7 Moments… that Define Excellent Leaders.

Trees grow up through their branches, down through their roots and grow wider with each passing year. As growth occurs, trees eventually shed their protective bark to make way for growth. Humans are the same way.

Just as trees need bark as a protective shield while growth occurs, we as humans need boundaries to defend our vulnerabilities as our potential unfolds… but our ongoing growth depends on our ability to shed this “bark” of protection when it is no longer needed. In some cases, an inability to shed this bark will constrict our ability to realize our full potential.

But unlike trees, which shed their bark automatically, we have to determine the right time to adjust our boundaries, to “shed” these protective devices in order to create the space we need to reach the next level. As my friend Byrd Baggett says, “You have to let go to grow.”

Letting go of old habits isn’t easy. We must periodically take the time to question our boundaries and to ask ourselves if it is time to soften our defenses and expand these boundaries or do we continue to need this protection.

The following is an excerpt from a commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios.

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Jobs offer a good acid test for assessing our need to change. However, the forces for the status quo are great. Initiating our own changes is definitely easier said than done. The following historical quotes help illustrate the forces of resistance that still abound today. All of these people said it couldn’t be done:

  • “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”   – Charles H. Duell, Director of the U.S. Patent Office, 1899
  •  “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” – Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society, 1895
  • “Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.” – Grover Cleveland, U.S. President, 1905
  • “Babe Ruth made a mistake when he gave up pitching.” – Tris Speaker, baseball player, 1921
  • “There is no likelihood that man can ever tap the power of the atom.” – Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize winner, Physics, 1927
  • “Who in the world wants to hear actors talk?”  – Harry Warner, Warner Brothers Pictures, 1927

It’s up to each of us to define our own future and turn a deaf ear to doubt casters, just as those change agents did who ultimately made these statements humorous and absurd.

It’s all in the view we choose. Take a moment to change the way you look at things and things will change the way they look.

You can learn about the remaining moments that define excellent leaders in my latest book, 7 Moments.

Seize the moment to change… and excel.

Copyright © 2008 by Lee J. Colan and The L Group, Inc.