Seeing a possible future...

When Bethany was in 7th grade, she changed schools.  We moved from our "starter home" with one bathroom and a carport to a larger house with more amenities.  A few weeks into the experience, she mentioned how different the schools were.  When I asked her how, she said...


She said the teachers at her first school—the one with more poverty and at risk children—only expected the kids to get through high school.  The new school fully expected you to finish college.

It was an interesting observation for a seventh grader to make.

On the night before a big visioning meeting at work last week, I had a conversation with some industry peers about a lack of diversity in our industry. We started talking about the quotas on public projects and what might need to happen to keep it from just being a "check the box" exercise. At which point, Asheya said "okay, now you are going to hear me climb up on my soap box" and she started talking about education and exposure and how systemic it all is. And we came around to the topic of expectations.

We can't become unless we see a vision of what is possible. I think it is why certain professions seem to run in families.  There is a clear picture of a type of lifestyle.  We could  see ourselves growing up to be a fireman, doctor, engineer, teacher, minister...just like mom or dad.

We have a visual picture of a possible future.

It occurs to me that it is an important skill of leadership to be able to tell stories of bright possible futures, because if you can visualize it in your mind, then—much like Michelangelo's famous quote about sculpture being the cutting away of everything that was not the David—you start to let go of anything that is not going to take you toward where you see yourself going. The thing is that this process has to occur via people close to you.  The images in the media of beauty, fast cars, etc. don't set a template that is personal. Leading someone in a visioning process is intensely personal. It is looking at someone and saying "I believe you can become this if you want it" and that belief has power.

The expectations people have of us help to shape us.  And if the expectations of the people in your life don't elevate you, then maybe you need to surround yourself with some new influencers.  It may make a difference in who you become.

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Maira Gall