Being a leader takes courage, commitment, confidence, and creativity. While some individuals are naturally more gifted than others, great leadership is learned and takes hard work. This
learning can occur in the most unexpected ways. One excerpt in my personal journey as a leader was inspired by a dream vacation and my first skydive.
It all began one evening in my living room as my husband and I were researching the web for things to do in Hawaii. One site boasted of the magnificent views and thrilling experience of skydiving. “This is it!” I exclaimed. “I am going skydiving!”
A few months later, the day had arrived. After signing endless pages of release forms and watching a brief video, I spent several hours on the ground in the North Shore of Oahu watching other skydivers jump on a picture-perfect day.
Before it was my turn to jump, I met Jo, who was going to be my tandem. Jo was from South Africa, so he spoke with a bit of an accent. He was a relaxed sort, sporting board shorts, sneakers, and dreadlocks. People’s natural inclination is to feel more familiar, comfortable, and trusting with people who look, act, and talk like themselves, and Jo and I seemingly had little in common. We were complete strangers, and yet I was about to trust him with my life.
The tiny plane was packed tightly with a pilot, eight jumpers, and three photographers. Strapped closely together and nestled neatly by the door were Jo and I. Being so close to and coming to trust Jo reminds me of how easy it is to harbor bias against others. Sometimes this judgment is unrealized and unintentional. Are we quick to judge individuals based on their size, appearance, education, and life experiences? If so, we do ourselves an injustice. Is it a challenge to delegate because we do not believe that anyone can do the work as well as we can? If so, perhaps our thinking is rooted in our own insecurity or desire to receive all the glory. I have learned that the world is a more fascinating place when we learn to appreciate our differences and trust one another.
As the plane climbed higher, I could see scattered clouds, the vast Pacific Ocean, 2017and the island coastline below us. Quite frankly, I thought 5,000 feet was high enough, so I was astonished to realize just how high 14,000 feet was. I could even see the curvature of the earth!
It is easy to get caught up with our daily lives and our small space bubble and forget that we live in a great big, beautiful world. I am one tiny human among billions. Why then do my problems sometimes seem insurmountable? Why do I worry about insignificant details? From this vantage point of 14,000 feet, my problems were in perspective.
Upon returning to my role in the Maine Legislature, I was faced with some challenging circumstances and key meetings with influential individuals. With the confidence of a skydive recently behind me, my perspective shifted, and a new level of courage appeared. I remembered that the world is big and has limitless possibilities. So dream big, stretch your mind, and imagine!
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