Today I’ve heard the inspirational stories of a man born with no arms, the live broadcast of the Burmese heroine on home arrest and genuine, unassuming cyber freedom fighters who helped Egypt depose a President. I’m experiencing inspiration on steroids.
I’m excited as well as exhausted at the YPO Global Leaders Summit 2012 in Singapore — and because in business as well as in our personal lives, we all need a moment away from the hard yards to put the everyday into perspective.
What are the main takeaways from the conference? When we meet inspiring people, we tend to break the rules, almost unlearn what we’ve been taught, look at things from all different angles and be prepared to keep going when others say it cannot be done.
On this theme, the gracious Aung San Suu Kyl was beamed live into our ballroom, from where she, as a Burmese freedom fighter has been under house arrest for almost 15 years since 1989. Her message to us in talking of how she copes with her incarceration — is to live with discipline when you are fighting for a cause (or fighting in business) and (it never hurts to hear it again), life is what you make it. Asked how she copes with the responsibility of her cause, she replied, all I can do is to promise my people I will try to do my best and from someone who has been held against her will for more than half her life, the biggest gift you can give people is honesty.
Then I listened to Alvin Law who was born without arms as a thalidomide baby in Canada. He talked of being discarded; having no prospects of life outside an institution in the 60’s and how he was adopted and taught by his Mother in her 50’s that anything is possible. Sometimes you need other people to test you, push you. He has married, has grown children, plays the drums with his feet and travels the world showing disadvantaged children that a disability is not the end and in fact anything is possible with the right attitude. Sometimes it’s others around you who have the inability to see your vision. He is an inspirational man making me rethink my attitude towards challenges.
So how do you know if you have an inspirational story to tell? Sometimes an inspiring story is the one you forget to tell. Why should you speak to others about your efforts?
Maybe it’s because others can:
• Learn by your mistakes
• Realise that anything is possible
• Make that leap to do what you are doing or something similar
• Fast track to their own success by listening to your account
• Enjoy learning about what you have achieved
I was fascinated at the ability of the unlikely, high pitched 14 year old Felix Finkbeiner, of Plant for the Planet, who at 9 years of age had an idea of planting trees to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He told how he’s galvanised school kids in 101 countries from Germany — inspiring the planting of over 4 million trees. It took him a year to convince his parents to support his idea. His message? Together we can create change, whatever age.
Perhaps the man that moved me most was 28 year old Egyptian Waleed Rashed, who is still trying to work out why he should be inspiring and how and why he gets asked to speak about his recent political coup. He helped galvanise the Egyptian revolution and instigated the downfall of President Mubarak’s departure in the April 6 Youth Movement through Facebook as well as harnessing the power of taxi drivers. All in an environment where to spread the word in meetings of more than 5 men at any one time is illegal. While he risked the threat of death and as he lost friends in the fight, what was his message? It’s not how long you live, but what you do with the life you have.
This week I interviewed a new recruit for my office. This girl talked of how she’d followed me for a few years and how her mother was inspired by my journey, starting my own business in a new country. It encouraged her family and community to reach above the path that was expected of them and it was an eye opener that renewed my sense of responsibility and personal awareness.
While we labour each day in our businesses on a micro level, providing employment, servicing customers and paying taxes, what is it that makes us inspirational? What is it that makes people follow us? It doesn’t take a moment to take time out and look at the opportunities awaiting for us.