Leadership and Personal Development Don't Just Happen
Superpowers for Good Can Help You Help Others
In every episode of the Superpowers for Good podcast, I ask our guests about their superpowers. Most guests anticipate the question and provide thoughtful answers. Most recently, I’ve begun coaching guests to be as genuine and authentic in their responses as possible. Few disappoint.
To be open about this, I started asking this question of guests nearly five years ago on a whim. I quickly learned that the question often evoked powerful answers and essential lessons. The audience told me it was a valuable part of each interview.
Still, I didn’t fully appreciate the value of the lessons learned until I wrote the book, Superpowers for Good. The book recounts some of the more profound lessons I learned from guests.
While writing the book, however, I discovered something I had missed. The lessons guests shared are deeply, profoundly relevant to me.
The guests featured in the book include a wide range of people. Bill Gates, among the most recognizable people in the world and, at the time of our interview, was the wealthiest person on the planet, exemplifies well-known, traditional role models.
The book also featured Monique Ntumngia of Cameroon, a successful social entrepreneur, helping entire communities access solar power and biogas even as she empowers women and girls. Her story is at least as inspiring to me as Bill’s.
As I worked to digest the insights of each guest for the book, I gained new insights about being both a better leader and, more importantly, a better person.
The personal lesson I extracted from Bill was patience. He pointed out that at Microsoft, new product development could take five or six years. That requires patience. At the Gates Foundation, he’s found meaningful progress takes longer. A new polio vaccine developed with his funding took a decade.
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As I researched what psychologists say about patience, I learned that impatience results from an unfavorable misalignment of expectations and reality. Because expectations are entirely conscious choices, I can be more patient by realigning what I anticipate with what is actually happening. It makes a difference in my life.
Patience isn’t just a problem for me when things take too long but also when they go poorly. Take a simple home improvement project, for example. If I expect it to be easy and it is difficult, I get frustrated. If I take a quick moment to reset and say to myself, “This is going to be difficult,” I can begin again. I take a moment to get the right tools, watch a YouTube video or otherwise prepare better. Almost instantly, I banish the stress.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still learning and practicing, but Bill changed my life.
Monique taught me about enduring hard things. To be clear, I haven’t endured a personal hardship I didn’t bring on myself. The most challenging things I have done in my career include forming a properly regulated investment bank, a FINRA-regulated broker-dealer and running for Congress. These challenges nearly overwhelmed me. At times, they did. But I chose them.
In contrast, Monique endured challenges forced on her by centuries of colonial exploitation and its aftermath and bad luck. When her father died, she and her mother had no claim on her late father’s estate. Penniless, they endured.
In a follow-up interview, she gave me tips for enduring hard things. Her list included advice like “know yourself” and “take care of yourself.”
Over the years, I’ve developed an approach to life that so prioritizes the needs of others I’ve failed to care adequately for myself. Her permission, as a proven survivor and doer of great and noble things, gave me the ability to begin looking after myself.
I have a long way to go and want to emulate her impact in my own way—that is, I want to do more good for others and the planet. I now recognize that I can do more good if I care for and believe in myself than if I’m exhausted and feeling small.
Twice each week, I have an opportunity to repeat the exercise of writing the book. I review and ponder the insights of a remarkable human being about leadership and personal development. I organize the thoughts into a brief, easy-to-read-in-one-sitting piece.
As I write this, I’m still pondering the lessons from yesterday’s episode with Sherwood Neiss. Woodie, as he’s known, was a pivotal player in the entrepreneurial space, having worked for the passage of the 2012 JOBS Act that created investment crowdfunding.
Woodie was quite vulnerable when we spoke, just three weeks following his father’s death. He was emotional sharing what he’d learned from his father, who earned two PhDs and an MD degree and became a successful pharmaceutical executive.
One could summarize the lesson he thoughtfully shared as “be the change you want to see in the world,” but his counsel was so much richer because it came with instructions from someone I know who has changed the world.
I hope you can take the time to ponder the superpowers that our guests share and contemplate how you can apply the lessons in your work and life. As impressive as you are—and I am confident you are—you can learn and grow. The changemakers who join me on the show are doing good. You really can learn from them. We all can.
Today, I want to invite you to think about colleagues and friends who aren’t among the thousands of people who subscribe to Superpowers for Good and share it via email or social media. You are working hard to change the world for good. So is everyone else who reads Superpowers for Good. Let’s grow and magnify our efforts together.
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