What do you want to be when you grow up? For many of us, we heard these words countless times growing up, and some of us continue to ask ourselves that question as we navigate our personal and professional lives.
Ten seemingly simple words that hold the power to change the world.
This simple question calls forward our dreams, and nurtures our greatest potential. This simple question is frequently asked us at an early age, often by somebody who believes and invests in us, such as family members, neighbors, people in our faith communities, or teachers.
Unfortunately, that belief and investment can disappear as we grow older, and the people around us become consumed by their own agendas and worldviews.
In our world, it is all too common and easy to find faults, to knock others down, or to offer a sarcastic or superficial response. It is challenging, however, to find strength, to lift others up, or to offer others encouragement and support in pursuit of their dreams and greatest potential.
Our world is dominated by leaders who would win at all costs, rather than find common ground and shared purpose with others, at the risk of "losing" to their ideological opposition, so is it any wonder that the rest of us cannot find the courage and strength to believe in others?
Worse yet, a number of organizations that were created to develop men and women to their highest potential are plagued by cultures of hazing, instead delivering generations of people who have been taught to deny themselves and their values, and to sit down and shut up. Then, they turnaround and do the same to others, lest the lies of betterment and bonding be brought to light.
Hazing & Hell Week
My experience with hazing and with Hell Week is decidedly different than many of the pro-hazing crowd would have their naive participants believe. I remember being told that I would emerge stronger, but I don't really remember any purposeful training in that area.
Rather, my pledge brothers and I were told (or screamed at) that we were worthless, as we wore T-shirts on which were scribbled our shortcomings, fabricated when necessary. The most courageous and encouraging statement I heard throughout Hell Week was: "You'll get through it".
Then, after the semester of smoldering harassment and week of white-hot abuse, was an absence of learning to be a better, stronger man who would stand for his values and impact the world around him, which is after all, the realization of the mission and purpose of fraternal organizations.
Through my reflection on my experience with hazing and with Hell Week, I realized there is a subtle, but profoundly significant, difference between denying yourself and sacrifice. When you deny yourself, you turn away the things you believe in and value; those things are dead in your life. When you sacrifice yourself, you're giving your very best, those same things you believe in and value, for others to thrive.
Which is why the world needs more kindergarten teachers (or in this case, people like them), who believe in others, invest in others, and give of themselves for others to thrive. Without that kind and level of investment in others, the promise of values-based organizations is an empty one.
I remember an activity when I was a kindergartner, in which my teacher asked the profound question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
When we made our choices, she encouraged us to learn about those people we wanted to be. When we had gathered information about doctors, firefighters, police officers, and yes, teachers, she encouraged us to imagine ourselves in those roles, and to aspire to be the people we wanted to be.
Would our world be different if others looked at us and saw our greatest potential? Would the world be different if we looked at others, and gave of ourselves so they could reach their greatest potential?
"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare. " -Mark Twain