Saturday, September 25, 2021

2011 - Leadership; "Never Take Yourself Too Seriously"


Steve Martin as "The Jerk"

(Fifty Nifty Years In United States Series)

Steve Martin played Navin Johnson in The Jerk (One of the best 3.5 minutes ever in a movie). And I quote. “Well I'm gonna to go then! And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need *you*. I don't need anything. Except this.” [picks up an ashtray] “And that's the only thing I need is *this*. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray... And this paddle game. - The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need... And this remote control. - The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need... And these matches. - The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball... And this lamp. - The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that's all *I* need. And that's *all* I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one... I need this. - The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I'm some kind of a jerk or something! - And this. That's all I need. [walking outside] “The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair. And I don't need one other thing, except my dog.” [Dog growls at him] “I don't need my dog.”

And with that, Julie and I are roaring with laughter. It defined our relationship serving at the YMCA together. I would say or do things. She would call me an Idiot. We would roar with laughter.

At the core of it all was a genuine respect for what needed to be accomplished and how we choose to do the work and offer ourselves up to a mission in delivering a program to develop and grow young people in an outdoor setting. I could count on Julie for everything.

For six years, hardly a day went by that we did not speak to one another to check in and determine what needed to be done to fulfill our mission. As many of you know, I enjoy a good joke, prank or and business that leads to a pun. Julie provoked that in me unlike any person I have worked with before. Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

In Your Roadmap for Success, John Maxwell says we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, “… success depends more on your attitude than it does on how important you think you are.  Life should be fun.  Even if your job is important and should be taken seriously, that doesn’t mean you should take yourself seriously.  You’ll go farther in life and have a better time doing it if you maintain a sense of humor, especially when it comes to yourself.” Our work and the fun that we had was authentic, healthy, and helpful.

I consider the numerous obstacles and challenges that lay before us in our work with that organization and at that time and I am grateful for the provocation of humor from Julie. (I have never been referred to as an idiot – to my face that is – more times than during that six and a half year period.)

Like being called “boss” by a previous co-worker (and previous BLOG) well over a decade prior, I know that it was meant with care and respect.

There was also a special mission to Julie’s heart and I felt like we connected at that level as well. I know what a devoted Christian she is and how much that helped lead my decisions and our work together. Even if you are not a Christian or have a faith base in your life, you would get a sense that this woman believed in what we were doing was inspired by a higher force.

In my time as a leader, I have had some amazing people come in and out of my life. I can tell you that Julie helped keep me on a path and delivering mission centered work to those we served. I was led by her belief that we served in a manner that could only come from a higher power. And given the choice that we could linger in the stress of those challenges and allow the negativity to bring us down or just laugh at it. We choose to laugh and laugh and laugh.

Julie (L) Al (R) laughing on our way to leadership

One last item. Julie is a just a few years older than I am and I was in fact her supervisor. I say that only to make this point even stronger. Many leaders find it difficult to allow others to lead. She led the way in our relationship and I felt that gift from her nearly every day we worked together. Since our time together, she has attained greater significance as a leader that I could imagine. I am blessed by the gift she gave me to allow our work to thrive.

I guess that we spoke nearly every day for six and a half years. That’s nearly 2400 times. I cannot think of one single time that we did not have laughter in our conversations.  Can you imagine what that might be like?

In my 50 plus years living and working in these United States, I am so grateful for learning to laugh and for Julie who led with her faith. I know she is working hard right now with another YMCA and I hope that as she leads them, she’ll fondly remember our times and think, “you idiot.”

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