I am writing this blog entry on route to London from Chicago. I am onboard United 958. I fly to Europe quite often (averaging about 9 trips per year). Most of the time, given my loyalties to United Airlines, I have to fly from Seattle to Chicago or Washington, D.C. (IAD), and then board my European-bound aircraft. Consequently, chances are high that I will run into people that were on previous flights with me. Most of the time it is the crew on the flight, but frequently I also meet fellow travelers. Today, I ran into a fellow traveler who I have not seen in about 4 years. After enjoying our nice surroundings in business class, dinner and wine, we started to chat. He reminded me of the conversation we had the last time we met. At that time, I was a (brash) executive running the Engaged Enterprise. I had just accepted my position at the University of Washington and was still residing in Chicago. My friend (let us call him Joe, as he prefers not be named) has been a C-level executive of several Fortune 100 companies. He had asked me – “What gives you the ability to dream and challenge what others think is normal (or acceptable)?”
I began to answer the question (like an academic!) in a long-winded way, giving details of how I had come to the US, my struggles through my undergraduate program, the minor successes I had achieved, etc. He interrupted me and reminded me that I had not answered his question. I paused, and then said, “if I do not dream then I better jump off this aircraft and end it!” He obviously did not expect this response! We continued talking and I expressed to him my views on what it takes to lead, motivate, and inspire not only others but also oneself. I did not realize this, but he took a few notes. He reminded me of the following points I made to him:
1. You are only limited by your dreams…but dreams, not matter how wonderful, are still dreams…once you realize them, you will need to dream again or you will rot
2. Work as hard as possible, and always compare yourself not to your past, but what you think is your future potential
3. If someone tells you things are not possible or you are not going to succeed…smile, acknowledge them, and then prove them wrong…
4. For a person like myself, who does not have a country or a land to call his home, the world is your home and it is up to you to make it so...
5. For everything you have, there are 100s if not 1000s or 100,000s that are less fortunate. You are who you are in part due to the sacrifices of your mum and dad, brother and sister, uncles and aunts, cousins, coaches, teachers, mentors, and friends. Once you make it, you have a responsibility, and a duty, to give back to better their lives!
Apparently, these are the things that he jotted down based on our conversation. He confided in me that he gave these to his then 14-year old kid, and even called it the “Desouza’s Words of Inspiration.” For what it is worth, his kid was moved by these five points, and is now a freshman at Harvard University.
I do not claim that the above points are revolutionary. I do however believe in these words and, if at all possible, I try to inspire others to understand the meaning and significance behind these five points. These lessons have been learnt through my own errors and omissions, and through studying what makes great leaders. They have shaped who I am, and will shape my future. Thanks to all that have helped me get to where I am: you have supported, nurtured, counseled, and inspired me.
I promised Joe that I would blog about this. I normally do not blog about these matters, but who knows, I might just make this a habit.
The bottom-line: You are only limited by your own ambitions and dedication to pursuits! If these words resonate with you, please let me know. If you disagree, please (please) let me know!
Now, off to drink my glass of Port and go to sleep…4:58 before touchdown in Heathrow!