The story of Ferdinand de Lesseps was an inspiring read. The completion of the Suez canal began with his vision to literally change the world. Yet even his great passion for the project could not alone support the change he sought. First, he petitioned the government of England to back his venture. When that failed, he attempted to stir the emotions of society and foster popular support. When that failed, he struck out on his own and, with the blessing of an Egyptian official, sold shares to the public to fund the canal (Burns, 2003).
“Pulsifer shares the story of a wise monk who said:
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could have indeed changed the world (Komives, 2012, p.105).”
This monk recognized the impossibility for the average person to change the world without first changing themselves. Like the monk, Lesseps attempted to change the world from the outside rather than the inside. These stories teach me both not to give up and not to ignore the little things.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard news of a great organization that falls to ruin when one of its executives makes a mistake in their personal lives. All of their success, whether charitable or financial or otherwise, gets over-shadowed by the scandalous “little” problems in their lives.
At the same time, I’ve heard countless stories of men and women who might not change the lives of countless people, but they change the lives of some people in countless ways by being faithful in the little things. Currently, I’m reading a biography of Ruthie Leming, a southern girl who never left her hometown, but loved her neighbors faithfully and simply (Dreher, 2013). She didn’t follow her brother’s footsteps, who went off to big cities trying to make a name for himself. Rather, she paid attention to the little stuff and made a difference in the lives of people close to her.
If I go in to audit a company as an accountant and my team and I are not on the same page, we’d probably stumble over each other and not see any progress. However, if we prioritized our own relationships first, then we could affect real change and progress as a team. Wherever my future career takes me, I’d like to lead like Ruthie did–faithful to the little things. I first want people to know that I care about them and then maybe, together, we can change the world.
Burns, James MacGregor. (2003). Transforming leadership: A new pursuit of happiness. New York, NY: Grove Press.
Dreher, Rod. (2013). The little way of Ruthie Leming: A southern girl, a small town, and the secret of a good life. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing
Komives, Susan R.; Wagner, Wendy (2012-06-14). Leadership for a better world: Understanding the social change model of leadership development (pp. 105-106). Wiley. Kindle Edition.