Why you need to aim higher

Are you holding yourself back?

One of my favorite authors, Jon Meacham, tells the story in Destiny and Power of former President Lyndon B. Johnson advising George H. W. Bush to run for the Senate rather than the House of Representatives.

“Son,” Johnson said, “I’ve served in the House. And I’ve been privileged to serve in the Senate, too. And they’re both good places to serve. So I wouldn’t begin to advise you what to do, except to say this — that the difference between being a member of the Senate and a member of the House is the difference between chicken salad and chicken s—.”

The former president paused. “Do I make my point?”

He had a way with words.

Too many of us settle for something less than chicken salad. Although someone has to be on the sidelines to cheer the parade, too often we hold ourselves back by not shooting high enough.

Bush lost that election and some other contests before he was president. But like many successful people, he held his head high and kept plugging away. He knew where he wanted to go and wasn’t afraid to keep trying.

There are many constraints in life, but perhaps the largest is between our ears. Even senior executives who have “made it” hold themselves back.

I often see it in the form of potential company transformations. Not the ones forced by a gun to the head (pain-based) but rather those that are aspirational (“I see a bright spot out there!”). Imagine the cumulative effect if we all shed our chicken skin and went for that bright spot!

Nobody gets to start over, but you can start fresh. What if tomorrow you did that thing that scares the heck out of you but has a possible world-changing outcome? If you continue to say, “I can’t,” you’re right. If you say, “I can!” there’s a chance you’re right, and the upside is huge! Don’t be a chicken!

Categories: Management & Leadership, Web Exclusives