Whatever You Are, Be A Great One!

One of the best ways to unleash the charisma that Builders feel for a cause, calling, career, or other major objective, is to see whether or not they’re really willing to immerse themselves in it. Opportunity comes from expertise, not just luck, talent, and passion. If you find it impossibly tedious to become an expert about what you think matters to you, then you’re not chasing a dream, you’re just daydreaming. You can’t claim the buried treasure if you aren’t willing to dig for it.

That is not to say that it’s easy, or that you won’t suffer frequently. But if you find you can’t or won’t persist in learning more and more about it, then it’s going to be very tough to hang on when inevitable obstacles get thrown in your way. This isn’t earth-shattering news. We heard this from everyone — being your best at what you do is essential to success built to last.

Former biotechnology entrepreneur, Ed Penhoet, now head of one of the world’s largest foundations, thinks that your willingness to become great at what you do — for its own sake — is a key to success. After all, if you find it’s impossible to go deep, then you’ve found out something valuable, too — you shouldn’t be doing it, he said.

“I’m a big believer in fortune cookies,” Penhoet grinned. “When I was a professor at Berkeley, I once got one that said, ‘Whatever you are, be a good one.’ And to me that’s the only business advice I can give anybody. When you are good at one thing, doors open up in front of you. People want to work with you, so people provide opportunities to you. You don’t have to go looking for them. Usually, they come to find you,” he said.

“Success is always built on doing well the job that’s in front of you today, not being resentful that you don’t have a CEO job yet,” Penhoet said. “In fact, it’s an amazing phenomenon. I see it in MBAs in particular. They all think because they have an MBA, they ought to be at least a senior vice president (by) the next week. But what they need to do is prove that they can actually do something well,” Penhoet insisted.

“In my own life, I found that people who are always worried about the next move in the chess game of their life never quite get at that move. Don’t think that way because, if you’re always worrying about the next step, it will compromise your ability to do your current job well,” Penhoet said.

People get to know you as the person who does a good job or the one who does a bad job, Penhoet said. You won’t “be remembered as having done that job badly — you’ll be remembered as a person who does a bad job,” he said.

When Builders found that striving for excellence is unreachable, joyless, or the kind of misery you find in a Stephen King horror movie, they saw it as a message to move onto something else. For the cause to have charisma, it must reach into your heart in a personal way to unlock all you have to give.

It Starts with You, But Ultimately, It’s Not About You

In fact, after you’re focused on what you believe needs to be done, you will have more energy to persist despite inevitable resistance from other people. School teacher Marva Collins runs into a wall almost every time she introduces her new program to educators. “I still have a great challenge today when I go into schools to put in my methodology or to work with a school; many of the teachers will not speak to me, or have a very negative attitude. But the attitude isn’t about me; it’s that they do not believe in their excellence as much as I see that they’re excellent,” she said.

“So I have learned to look at that in a different perspective — because I think if you somehow concentrate on the wrongs that have been done to you (the criticism), you will never evolve. And if you do not evolve, you’re not growing,” she insisted. She says that the pushback that she gets often isn’t as much about her as it is about how those people feel about themselves. The problem is that their cause doesn’t have charisma for them.

“I was ridiculed by the other teachers,” Collins lamented her early days as a school teacher. “Even the principal said to me, ‘Your problem is you cannot forget that these are not your children. They come from fettered homes, antecedent homes; you cannot have the same expectations for them.”’

Collins grew up in poverty in Alabama with the hope that she would get an education. She ended up influencing public education in Chicago. Collins has been so admired for the results she achieved with “hopeless” students that Presidents Reagan and Bush, Sr., asked her to serve as Secretary of Education (but she chose instead to stick with her passion in the classroom). Today, her methods are a model in dozens of communities across America.

“When you’re swimming upstream in a nation where the average conversation is ‘what’s wrong with the children,’ and I am telling them what’s right with the children — well, that’s not a conversation that wants to be heard.” So after 14 years of battling, of “seeing such lowered expectations for our children,” Marva Collins started her own school, funding it out of her own pocketbook.

The World Would Be a Darker Place Without You

Collins believes she can change the world by helping children believe that the world would be a darker place without each of them. “There’s a line in Moby Dick that says, ‘in the slippery world, we all need something to hold on to,’ and we aren’t giving our children something to hold on to. You can’t hold on to computers and computer games, and designer clothing, and how lovely you are, how handsome you are. You have to hold on to that one person, that wherever you go, there you are. And that’s the self that we each are.” That is the self that hears the whisper about what matters to you and tells you which cause or calling will have the charisma to light up your life.

When you can come to the point where you accept yourself for who you are — “warts and all” — and you can embrace what you love, for better or for worse, you have a better chance of finding lasting success.

“The first question I ask teachers that I train is, ‘What’s wrong with the children?’ I get a litany of answers,” she noted. “My next question is, ‘What’s wrong with the parents?’ The answers are infinite. The third question is, ‘What’s wrong with you as a teacher?’ And, of course, I get complete silence. We have to begin with what’s wrong with us that (puts us in a position where we feel) we can’t help this child? If you begin with these children, those parents, that principal; they don’t know this, they don’t know that. If we begin with all those negatives, we will never get to where children can go.” Collins believes that you must ask “not just what your cause can do for you,” but what you can do for your cause. When you can “feed the cause and it also feeds you,” then you will make a difference and develop your confidence.