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Friday, December 3, 2021

Lean Quote: Be the Leader, Adjust the Sails

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.  —  John Maxwell

This is a fun quote, because it breaks the usual dichotomy of the glass is half full, glass is half empty paradigm. It adds a third choice to the mix. In this case, the ‘half empty’ complains. The ‘half full’ anticipates a better future. The third group does something about the situation.

While this is an example specific to sailing a ship, I believe it can be applied to our lives in general. You can complain, you can wait for things to get better, or you can get up off your butt and start doing something about the situation.

Not every situation can be salvaged. Some things will turn out badly. But there are few things that cannot be changed at least a little, if you are willing to work at it. Yes, you may still lose, but you might just be able to score a few points, if you work hard and smart.

I’m not saying any one of us could do a better job, but we are each the captain of our own ship. You can do nothing and complain about how poorly things are going. You can do nothing and wait for the world to improve. Or you can do what you can to adjust the sails and improve your condition.

In this manner, you are the leader. You provide the example for your crew, however small that may be. And when your ship begins to move, the ships around you will start to wonder why the wind favors your boat. The smart captains will ask what you did. The best captains will do what you did. And in their imitation, you have become a leader.

Once you can see past the false choice between “half empty” and “half full,” you can begin to determine what actions you can take to fill the glass, or drink what is in it to sustain yourself while you work on getting yourself more to drink.

Neither of those two options get anyone much of an improvement in their lives. The decision is fairly simple, you reject the dichotomy and select option three, adjust the sails. Now the question becomes what can you do to adjust your sails, to improve your condition or situation?

Now all that remains is to determine where you want to go, and how you set your sails to best take advantage of the prevailing winds. While some might say that it’s impossible to make any headway in the current situation, it is useful to remember that some of the greatest fortunes were made in poor economic times.

Complaining and hoping are the two sides of the coin of inaction. No matter how many times you flip it, you are still stuck with those two choices, and in the mean time, nothing gets done. Be a leader, even if you are the only person on your dingy. Otherwise nothing will get done, and that’s rarely going to be the best option.

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