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A True Story About Authentic Growth And “Good To Great”

  Steve Longan     Feb 05, 2015

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Julee-anne Bell lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and their two teenage sons.  And today’s Wireboard article is a story about her and her family. More specifically, it’s a story about their “arms.”


Yes, arms.

 

That may seem like a strange thing to focus on, but it’ll make sense as we go.  You see, Julee-anne is blind, and a lot of her story can be told in terms of arms.

 

During college, she was abandoned at a party by her boyfriend at the time. But a man named Thomas befriended her and offered her his arm to help get her home from the party. And she walked arm-in-arm with Thomas a short time later as they wed and became husband and wife.  Far from being a burden, they both loved this dynamic of staying physically linked to each other as they moved through life. From Thomas: "It was quite a nice feeling, actually, to have her on my arm. It sort of brought us closer together.”  And from Julee-anne: “I got to experience so much of the world while on his arm.”

 

They now have two sons in their late teens, but their arms tell this story as well: They both marked their maturation and growth by their ability to be trusted to escort their mother. It was a source of pride and bonding for them.

 

But then, two years ago, Julee-anne got the opportunity to have increased freedom and autonomy by learning a new skill called “echolocation.”  You can follow the link for more info, but it essentially functions as a sort of sonar. Due to a sharpened sense of hearing for a blind person, they can use self-initiated sound reverberations to make a mental map of their physical surroundings as they move (similar to bats and dolphins).

 

However, in order to sharpen her hearing and develop this new skill that would bring her increased freedom, she would have to give up something precious:

 

She would have to let go of her family members’ arms. Continuing to rely on her family members to lead her would prevent her from developing the senses and skills echolocation requires. And so it was that this beautiful thing that had helped spin a family into existence and allowed her to experience the world and a fuller life would have to be abandoned.

 

And this is the key dynamic that I would like us to pay attention to if we are going to engage in authentic growth in our work and lives.  Sometimes growth means letting go of worthless activities that are holding back our growth individually and corporately. But, the more talented we become and the more we desire to grow, the more-likely it becomes that the thing we will have to release in order to grow is itself basically good.  As Voltaire (by way of Jim Collins) and countless others have said: “Good is the enemy of great.”

 

This is true for our clients as we work together to get leverage on the big actions in their work.  This is true for Rewire as a company as we push into where we want to grow collectively.  Sometimes, there is low-hanging fruit that we can easily pick that will grow our business. However, the further we get in our growth, the more “good vs. great” will come into play in authentic growth.

 

So, where are you looking to grow right now? Do you have a plan for how to grow? If you’re out of fat to trim, it’s probably time to come to terms with “good vs. great.” And if you’d like help with this, feel free to drop us a line.

 

As for Julee-anne, it’s over two years since she made her decision. She made the sacrifice and learned echolocation. She learned how to get around on her own. She traveled solo to California and went on a hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range without using anyone’s arms for guidance. And she’s now back to walking arm-in-arm with Thomas, but for a different reason.  He’s had some medical problems recently, and that has left him needing help to get around.  And because of the sacrifice and work that Julee-anne put in, she can now offer him her arm for support.

 

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Author's note: I first heard about Julee-anne from this NPR story and accompanying podcast piece on Invisibilia. If you would like to support the amazing work being done by World Access For The Blind, you can learn more here.

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Steve Longan

Written by Steve Longan

Steve Longan is Rewire's Director of Research & Program Development. He's passionate about leveraging psychology and communication to develop growing, healthy workplaces. He's at "peak zen" (his words) when he's in his music studio.

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