It took me three months. Just one quarter. Only twelve weeks. I’m back. My social experiment is over, and my conclusion is: Hope still lives, albeit on a fairly powerful respirator.
In my last blog, I shared that it was getting harder to write monthly… (apologizing for the no-post May,) I wrote that:
“My shelves were empty, my inspiration went desert, my fun balloon shot around the room of my head like a firefly in July.” As I said, “The machine” got tired.
So What’s Next?
So what did I do?
- I wrote about Hope.
- I asked about a social experiment, and I was surprised to be able to actually conduct one.
- I wrote less and reached out more.
- I posed a question to several people in my network and studied the answers for the summer.
There was no real scientific method, I didn’t quantify the results and bucket them while validating against multiple sources. All I did was ask roughly 100 people this question:
“What keeps you looking forward?”
It was asked with the backdrop of sparking or maintaining HOPE in today’s world.
The first round of answers were the usual throw-aways, just like the first pancake is on a Sunday morning… (you know…misshapen, often over-cooked, definitely not eatable; that first pancake’s purpose in life is to give you the chance to test the skillet’s heat, your batter, and your pouring ability…)
The answers to “What keeps you looking forward” were no different.
- “My kids”
- “My spouse”
- “My significant other”
- “My job”
(…yes, mostly in that order as they applied)
These throwaway answers to my question were boring and stale.
But by July, however, I started to get more substantive answers, more honest answers.
I got answers like these:
- “I don’t really know… habit I guess? I keep doing the same things and don’t really think about looking forward, I just do what I’m supposed to.”
- “My kids, though most days it’s hard to even think of what their future might be like.”
- “My spouse… but we’ve been arguing a lot, stress is high. We haven’t been on a vacation in a while.”
- “My job, I hate it and I feel a year older at the end of each day, but I guess I should be lucky to have a job.”
(there’s a nice sampling…)
After getting those answers, I spent August collecting new answers, though there were two questions.
I asked these questions:
1) “To whom do you turn to help you look forward?” [with the backdrop of maintaining Hope in today’s world].
After I got that answer, I asked another:
2) “Do you consider that person a leader as a result of him/her helping you look forward?”
This round of answers surprised me. Most people answered the first question easily (I still used my “second round” people, so I got to substantive answers quickly). It was usually a personal partner/relative or friend, followed by someone they trusted and respected at work.
When I asked the second question, though, there was usually a pause. Most people did not consider the person they named in question one as a “leader” for them.
I asked an ad-hoc third question:
3) Why Not?
- It seems that of those I talked to, most held the notion of a “leader” in such a larger-than-life spot that there was no way someone they knew would actually fit that description.
- Others just simply shrugged it off, stating something like, “well, no, the person just helps me look forward to things.”
- A minority of people paused, thought about it, and then admitted something like, “Well sure, I guess so. That person leads me to better moods, a healthier perspective, a new way of thinking that helps me look forward.”
Perspective of Leadership
My gut feeling about how many view leadership was somewhat enforced after my little social experiment (OK, remember, this was not scientific, but it’s worth sharing):
Many people have a skewed view of what leadership should do vs. who a real leader is.
I write about the role of a leader all the time, and this blog isn’t much different. This time, however, I got out of my own experiences and out of my own head while burrowing a path into other people’s lives to learn what impacts them the most during a time when they need Hope the most. I asked obtuse questions about leadership, never once alluding to the notion of a leader’s REQUIREMENT to spark hope among his or her followers until the very last question.
And that’s when most people stumbled. Hhmmm.
Do we hold the term “leader” too high up for ordinary people to fulfill, even though they do so on a regular basis? Is it time to test our own views and social definition of “leader” so that we can begin to redefine what, exactly, it means? How are we holding our leaders accountable if we equate leadership with million-dollar incomes or high-profile roles?
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Image Sources: kaushik.net