Monday, August 1, 2011

I Looked for the Dry Places

Photo by Tim Ellis

When I was a child, a mentor told me the story of two boys walking home after a heavy rain. Their mother had given them strict instructions not to ruin their new shoes by getting them wet. Both boys tried very hard to do what their mother asked. However, when they arrived home, one boy's shoes were sopping wet while the other's were dry.

Naturally, the mother questioned her sons. How did they both walk the same route, both take her request seriously, yet arrive with such different results? The brother with wet shoes answered, "I don't know mom, I tried to avoid all the puddles."

The brother with dry shoes answered, "I looked for the dry places and I put my feet there."

I always imagined these two boys on their journey home. One of them jumping back and forth, reacting to every puddle, trying to avoid them, but splashing in the edges despite his best efforts while his brother calmly ignores the puddles and steps only on dry patches of sidewalk.

What a powerful metaphor for leaders.

There are leaders who, like the boy with wet shoes, react and try to avoid every threat, zigging or zagging, and creating confusion in their teams. Effective leaders, on the other hand, maintain focus on their vision, on the needs of the team, and on meaningful results. These leaders produce clarity. Their energy and the energy of their team flow naturally to what is most important.

The difference between confusion and clarity is often to simply change our focus from "What I don't want" to "What I do want".

And it keeps our feet dry!

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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At August 1, 2011 at 3:02 PM , Blogger harmanjd said...

Fun story David.

At August 1, 2011 at 5:21 PM , Blogger David M. Dye said...


I'm glad you enjoyed it, James. It's one of those simple stories with a lifetime of meaning.


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