Holidays are great times for a lot of things … relaxing, exploring, sleeping, connecting and when in new places, thinking and learning. Kendra and I were in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico recently doing many of these things.
As we wandered through this beautiful traditional Mexican town a thought friend and fellow blogger Louise Gallagher expressed in response to a previous post of mine came to mind. Paraphrased, she said “We humans like to play small in order to avoid our greatness”.
I began to wonder whether this might also be true for nations as well. As we interact with the locals here our relationships, on the surface at least, are predefined. We are the foreign tourists who can afford to be here and the locals are in serving roles. We talk with them of where we are from and as Canada is mentioned you can see a sense of interest, and perhaps awe or envy. How did we get so lucky to be born there? And why should they be so dependent on us?
As you would expect, when we begin to engage in deeper conversation we start to find individual passions and vibrancy come through … that energy that each of us possess which drives us to grow. In the end we are all human in the same fundamental ways. But on the whole in Mexico I perceive a general sense of smallness throughout. Why?
We could blame the economics of nations, but Mexico’s GDP is actually bigger than Canada’s. This is not true on a per capita basis so we might blame standard of living, but this still doesn’t explain “playing small”. I think we need to look to the foundations of the country to understand. How else does Canada become a nation of hopefuls, a nation with a world purpose as peacekeepers, a positive projection in the world and yet Mexico has more of a third world psyche? While economics are certainly a part of this, I think we need to look at the basic structures such as legal system, respect for order, public sector integrity, etc. This social infrastructure was set by the founding fathers of the country and was based on a vision of what the country could become.
I think this same principle applies to organizations as well. Organizations are born with or develop cultures. And I think they tend either towards living in greatness or playing small in mediocrity or “good enough “. Well known business researcher and author Jim Collins opined that “good is the enemy of great”. I absolutely believe that when we believe that “good enough” is good enough, then the pursuit of greatness is a likely casualty.
The company I work for has embraced a people based, growth culture from the beginning by refusing to place limitations on itself. It has grown from 0 to 1,000 people in 14 years solely through organic growth, which is no easy task in a service delivery business. Contrast this to organizations in the same business who have been in the same market for 25 years or more that have not grow beyond 100 people.
The explanation has to be leadership and the ability to see how to “be more “. If we are committed to a long term vision of greatness, hire people who believe in that vision and have values consistent with it, constantly communicate that vision and celebrate our successes towards that goal, it releases the potential of all those who are a part of it.
Now let’s make this personal. Does this also apply to us as individuals? Can we choose playing small to avoid risk, scrutiny, criticism, etc? Can we set ourselves a long term vision of our own greatness? Can we choose to surround ourselves with people who support us in achieving our dreams? Can we support ourselves with positive thoughts and imagery that inspire us towards our vision? And don’t we also have the option to choose to use the fullness of the gifts we were given and skills we have learned at each instance of life to express, experience, create and contribute what we truly long to? Can we stand up each and every day and declare “today I will be great”?!