“99% of excuses come from people who make excuses”
Does anybody send cards to the President on President’s Day? It’s probably not a lucrative business model for Hallmark or American Greetings, as there would only be a handful of recipients available…but it’s worth a thought! Presidential character and growth has been the subject of much discussion over many generations–as the very feat of rising to such a pinnacle of leadership seems so daunting for many of us. What we fail to realize is that Presidents all started out like you and I–ordinary people honing their leadership skills and style through personal growth and experience. Greatness comes from dreaming great dreams, and creativity and innovation is the spark which ignites dreams into action. It seems fitting to honor two wonderful examples of innovation: our first American President, George Washington and our 16th, Abraham Lincoln. Both men were students of their environment–continually examining their surroundings and identifying niches to fill. Many years before his face adorned the $1 bill and frustrated with the backbreaking labor of planting seeds by hand, 28 year old George Washington drew upon his love of reading and combined two separate concepts into a new invention: the barrel seeder. As a result, his innovation allowed a horse to pull the plow forward while a barrel rotated to distribute seeds into furrows. Similarly, while navigating a flatboat down the Illinois River many years later, a young Abraham Lincoln became stranded on a milldam at New Salem. This event led to his design of a simple device that lifted boats over shoals, which he later patented in 1849. In each of these cases, the inspiring young men who went on to gain the presidency started their leadership experience by leading in their surroundings…
…by seeing a need, then filling it.
Leadership Through Examples of Innovation
The examples provided by great leaders are meant to be inspirations for our own climb to greatness. Each of us has the ability to sprout ideas–innovation–which have potential to change the world around us. The breadth and scope of the world we can impact is based upon the value of the innovation we have to share. Why not start by innovating right where you are? To see a need and fill it within your family, your community, or your workplace? These three tips will help to jumpstart your creativity and inspire the two largest setbacks every innovation faces: initiation and follow-through.
Remember that the need for creativity is right in front of you! You can find opportunities to innovate everywhere! The need for Leadership and innovative thinking are presented to us even during our most mundane tasks. Planting a garden? Simply floating down a slow moving river? Cooking dinner with your family? Look around your daily life for places that could benefit from a simple, fresh approach. You will begin to see a need to plant small seeds of change everywhere. Stay observant! Too many people resolutely follow the plow day in and day out, without seeing a simple change that can make things better. Tweak a routine or start a conversation with a colleague or family member.
Don’t hold back looking only for the big ideas. Think “Smaller.” Not every innovation will produce a world of change today. A happy life, a well-done project, or a successful business is just the sum of their parts. Break down any problem into workable smaller parts. Take some simple action to quantify or identify just one part of a problem or activity -no matter how small or seemingly unimportant- and innovate a small change to that portion. You will see–it will move the process forward.
Abandon worry that you may not have a complete solution. Ideas are made to be expanded upon and built out! Realize that every change may not work on the first pass. Some changes need to be explored and adapted to fit evolving circumstances. All ideas contribute, but not every idea will bear fruit right away. Some changes have to take root, be fine tuned, or combined with other simple ideas to become significant. Once you’ve found the sweet-spot, you’ll be able to lift your problem over the shoals and into the territory of progress.
Don’t avoid taking action by waiting for the million dollar idea.
Look for a million “one-dollar ideas!”
Leadership through ongoing innovative thought is a key to growth and success in life. Don’t avoid taking action by waiting for the million dollar idea. Look around and start tomorrow with one small step—or a clever combination of a million “one-dollar ideas!” Start with a new approach at home, at your desk at work or somewhere else inside your comfort zone. You don’t need to solve World Peace right now. Take a tip from Abe, and just get the first boat back on the river.