“I press on toward the goal to win the prize . . .” – Philippians 3:14
Remember that great scene in the movie City Slickers when Mitch, the city slicker, is riding along having a conversation with Curly, the crusty old cowboy? After some back and forth Curly finally sizes Mitch up. “You’re all alike,” he says. “You spend fifty weeks a year getting knots in your rope, then you think a couple of weeks up here will untie them for you.” Then Curly stops and looks at Mitch. “Want to know the secret to life?” he asks. In answer to his own question, Curly holds up his index finger. “It’s your finger?” Mitch asks curiously. “No,” Curly replies, “it’s one thing.” “But what’s the one thing?” Mitch inquires. [pause] “That’s what you’ve got to figure out,” Curly responds as he spurs his horse into a gallop.
Henry David Thoreau once observed that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” Tragically, yet true, when we look around far too many seem to be plodding through life lacking a sense of purpose, a set of goals, a vision, dreams of accomplishing something that will somehow make themselves and their small piece of the planet a little better off. Yet, too few people get it, as Thoreau observed. That’s what Curly was trying to impress upon Mitch, for him to get it. It is the secret to life.
There is a reason I have chosen to focus my coaching practice on helping good and promising leaders grow into great leaders. It is because I believe great leadership is the solution to helping people to rise from the ashes of leading “lives of quiet desperation.” For it is great leaders who inspire others to find their sense of purpose that not only improves their own lives, but also for the greater good of the world around them. In other words, truly great leaders motivate and inspire others to discover the secret to life.
The great leaders of today may or may not be the high-level high-profile people we might imagine. Instead, think back to the best teacher you ever had, an inspiring coach, a parent or grandparent, a close friend or mentor, a boss or supervisor, or even someone like Curly was to Mitch. Great leaders can be anyone at any level, as long as they inspire us “to press on to win the prize.” And what’s the prize? The real prize, as I have learned and observed, is to have inspired someone else to press on to win the prize, who will one day inspire the next generation to press on to win the prize. And that’s the secret to life.