Kelli and her son, Elijah
Thu, April 11, 2013
The Incredible Power of Awareness
I have a weekly radio show called "The Leadership Low Down" and I have the privilege of having intentionally meaningful conversations with two strangers a week to chat about leadership, the power of impact and what is really going on in the realm of influence. Sometimes the conversation really resonates with me and leaves me feeling very "open" - that feeling of knowing that you're aligned with something you were meant to do. In quantum physics (of which I am a big fan), it might be referred to as being "vibrationally aligned".

In any case, I recently had one of these conversations. It was centered around a concept that is both hugely profound as well as truly elementary. I interviewed my very good friend Kelli, from San Diego, who learned eight years ago, that her beloved son Elijah had Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy; one of the more serious types of MD out of the 40 or so that exist. This condition affects mainly boys and results in a shorter life expectancy (some research indicates teens to thirties is the norm.) Elijah is now 13.

I also interviewed Justin Caine, owner of Good Fruit Video and a 20 year survivor of an extremely serious cancerous brain tumor that in the end, he soldiered through. Today, Justin ishealthy and thriving, yet visibly demonstrates some physical challenges that include some coordination and vision challenges, as well as "battle scars" running along the back of his head.

I interviewed them because their stories got me thinking and I wanted to get others thinking too. We have the tendency to focus on the things in our circle of concern. We hear about marathons that are being put on in honor of various people who have passed on, ailments that someone is suffering from, diseases that claim the lives and livelihoods of our children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. But we also have the tendency to nudge these things out of our circle of concern unless they are concerning our own children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. It isn't that it doesn't matter, it is just that if it is not relevant to our heart and time, it can be low on the priority list.

This is human, it happens. It is easy to feel stretched thin. Here is what strikes me about all of this: As individuals, most of the people I know and have worked with (and that is a HUGE number), are working towards leading their lives into a place of meaning. We want to succeed, we want to feel like what we do means something and we want authentic connections with others that leave us feeling whole, empowered, loved.

It isn't "sexy" in business language to talk about this stuff but denying that we do want to feel these things, is quite frankly, the elephant in the room. What we need to do is expand our perspective a little more and even if Duchennes MD or a brain tumor is not in your circle of concern, it is the CENTER of concern for someone and they need you. What you didn't know, is that YOU need THEM too.
  1. Both my interviews with my friend Kelli and Justin, gives one clear message: awareness brings relief. Just knowing that people care enough to know about what they are dealing with, at any level, brings comfort and relief in knowing that someone cares enough to find out.
  2. Awareness brings power. With social media, we have the power to spread information that can help, with a copy and a paste, Fundraisers, community events all of these things exist for a reason-to bring awareness, support the families and bring money to research and relief. It means one thing to you participating and it means everything to the people who are the recepients.
  3. Awareness brings you connection. When you really pay attention to what may not be a concern in your life but to what is a huge concern in someone else's, you are taking time (however brief it may be), to think about that person and you are putting yourself in their shoes for just a moment. I think of Kelli and how it must feel to know your son's condition will eventually decline and I feel close to her. I feel a bond because I feel love for her and her son. I think of Justin and how people often initially think he is "drunk" due to a few physical elements or that he couldn't get a job after graduating from college because of snap judgements which prompted him to start his successful company and I feel genuinely pumped up from inspiration of that thing called A Fighting Spirit.
  4. Awareness brings you Purpose. Connecting to others through the process of awareness, extends "you" to other people. I am not a spiritual expert but when you extend yourself to other people who receive that extension with an open, grateful, intentional heart, something incredible happens. You just know that somehow, whatever it is, whether it is your words, your time, your money, whatever it is you are doing, is making a difference in the lives of someone else who needs support from others. That something incredible may be hard to pinpoint, but it feeds our spirits mutually. It occurs to me that whatever it is, this is what we humans can do and should do naturally for ourselves and others. We can't emotionally afford to not extend ourselves and have it received by others. In my line of work, the development of leaders in an organizational setting, no one wants to talk about feelings. But when we are feeling powerful, connected and purposeful, there isn't much we can't do for ourselves and others. And that, is one of the most profound roles of leadership.

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