I wrote not long ago that I am in a leadership program that emphasizes self-awareness, clear communication, and collaboration as a new way of achieving success in an organization – and in life. One thing that came up in the course is the idea of trust, and that trust can be defined as the belief that someone will live up to our positive expectations of them. That is, I expect you to tell me the truth even in difficult circumstances (my positive expectation), and to the extent that you live up to that expectation, I trust you.
Not too hard to understand when it’s working well, but the beauty of this is that it can help repair a broken trust, or build it where it doesn’t exist. How? By articulating my positive expectation of you, you can make the choice to meet those expectations, and so build trust. You might also choose not to, but at least you have the choice. On my part, if I can articulate my expectations I have a chance that you might choose to meet them. As a mentor once told me, if you say what you want you have at least a 50/50 chance of getting it; your odds are much worse if you never ask.
Which brings me to a transformative moment: Working with a coach a few days ago, I emailed my realization that I was having trouble identifying what it was that I wanted from a colleague, and I asked for help in articulating those “positive expectations” that weren’t being met. She had several suggestions, one of which was to check out a book called Five Wishes, by Gay Hendricks. The book begins with the story of an encounter Hendricks had at a party, in which he met a stranger who asked him a question that changed his life. That question? ”If you were on your deathbed, and I asked you whether your life had been a complete success, what would you say? And if the answer is ‘no,’ what could have happened that would have made it a success?”
I love that question. I’m haunted by it, but it’s a comfortable haunting, like the awareness of mortality that helps me remember always that each moment might be my last, and so it behooves me to live that moment fully (well, let’s be clear that I’m not always in that enlightened place, but I am there often enough to recognize it, and to know that I want to be there more).
Another day, likely I’ll write more about my answers to that question. For now, I invite you to think what your answer would be. Is your life a complete success? If yes, what makes it so? If not, what would it take to transform it?
I also invite you to check out the link below, which comes from Gay Hendricks. If you click on the link you’ll be taken to a page that contains about a 20 minute video about Hendricks’ experience of that night. I don’t agree with everything written on the page, but the video is a wonderful portrayal of a moment that clearly changed the direction of his life, and began an incredible journey. Check it out when you have the time – I am convinced you’ll consider it time well spent.
After I wrote Five Wishes, I realized that the first part of the book (which tells the story of the conversation that started it all) would also make a good movie. It seemed blessed from the moment we decided to make it. Kathlyn and I wrote it, cast it, hired the director and star, and had a finished movie-all within about three month’s time. Directed by and starring Michael Goorjian, the movie features Karron Graves and the acting debut of someone I think you’ll recognize when he appears about 5 minutes into the movie. The story takes just under 20 minutes to tell, which is how long the original conversation took when I had it 30 years ago.
Clicking this link will take you to the page that contains the video: www.5wishesbook.com
Les Kertay, Tennessee