This post features the writing of a mentor to many great leaders. Dr. Jack Byrd is a professor at the University of West Virginia and has been instrumental in shaping the thinking of several people I consider mentors. Enjoy this article by Dr. Byrd…
By Dr. Jack Byrd, West Virginia University
He was known as the answer man by those who turned to him for advice. Over the years, he made himself available to those seeking guidance from someone they trusted. This wasn’t his job, but he tried to help everyone who came to him. With the internet, his advice literally became known worldwide. He spent hours every day talking to those who sought him out for advice. And there were also those whom he could help with written words via email. Those whom he helped often wondered why he made himself so available. Those whom he worked with thought him to be foolish. The only thing he ever asked in return was to know how the advice turned out. When he retired, he never gave up his role as a counselor/mentor.
The answer man refused recognition for his efforts. “I am just glad I could help” was his standard response when asked about his refusal to be recognized. But what others didn’t realize, was that the answer man did receive recognition. It came in the form of wonderful notes from those he helped. In many cases, the notes gave him credit for turning around lives. But the recognition he cherished most was how those he helped had in turn helped others. The impact of the answer man was immeasurable.
Albert Einstein said: “I wish to do something Great and Wonderful, but I must start by doing the little things like they were Great and Wonderful.” When we think of making a difference, we often imagine the difference being something major. But the difference we make can often seem small at the time, but take on major significance as its impact is realized.
Many people say they want to make a difference, but they don’t know how. The secret to making a difference is not having a plan. Instead, make the most of every opportunity. As Einstein says, treat the little things as if they were great and wonderful. What you may find is a fulfillment from doing the little things well, and this may lead to finding a cause you can believe in. You have to believe that if you do your best, it will make a difference.
Making a difference should not be something you do to achieve some form of recognition from others. The real joy in make a difference comes from an internal satisfaction of knowing how your efforts helped others.
As the world has taken a pause due to the COVID-19 virus, this is a good time to reflect on the difference we have made or could make. For those thinking about the difference they might make, maybe a place to start is by reaching out now to help others. Even in the virtual world we now live in, there are still ways to support others. For those who have made a difference, now might be the time to think about how the differences you have made might be sustained after you are no longer capable.
We live in a society where people want to make a difference but don’t know how. How might we build a capacity for learning how to make a difference? As life happens, those who had the ambition of making a difference often get pulled away from their ambitions to deal with life issues. How can we develop the ability to sustain making a difference, even when faced with life challenges? Finally, how might we transition the motivation for making a difference from one of public glorification to one of personal satisfaction?
Lead from the front.