Just a few weeks before my 21st birthday, friends and I were on our way back from the theatre one evening and got in a terrible car accident. The experience totally reshaped my life in an instant because two of us died and two of us lived. I wondered how I could have lived and someone just inches away from me hadn’t. This experience helped move me to being more present in the moment, more honest, and clearer about my intentions.
Many emerging sage leaders have encountered and overcome personal challenges in their lives. One was born cross-eyed and was diagnosed with kidney disease. Another had a life-giving heart value replacement at age 50 that dramatically changed his perspective on life. A third had just gotten pregnant and somehow coped when her husband stopped coming home. Then there is the county official who realized there was nothing she could do to off-set rumors about herself and stoically learned to live with them. And there is the professional educated in a world-class university who learned the hard way to be open to lessons from others:
Early in my career I was involved in pulling together key community leaders to work in improving the quality of life for low-income residents without imposing a particular program on them. We held a community meeting, and I had my flip charts and markers and questions up on the wall. We were so proud of ourselves, asking for all of this input before designing the program. During the meeting one African-American woman, who was a leader from the neighborhood we were working in, became teary-eyed and walked out. When I followed up with her I found she was really angry. She felt manipulated by my process. Once again professionals had come in with their flipcharts and markers and talked rather than sitting down and listening to and her and her associates and learning what their values are. That was devastating for me in my early thirties. I went to the woman’s home, and she made me tea and brought out food. She said, “Listen, we all have gifts. I have gifts, you have gifts, the single moms have gifts, and the drug dealers down the street have gifts. Let’s just come together and understand what gifts we have.” That experience brought me to my knees and emptied my cup. So what I learned from this peak experience is to keep my cup empty.1K Club