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Scratch Resolutions, Speak Declarations

February 15th, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Recently I had the privilege of attending a corporate banquet where I met a top executive who was charming and attentive to everyone he met.  He made the rounds and chatted with people as if he had all the time in the world, and those people were most important to him.  People spoke of this man in glowing terms, marveling at his consistent dedication.  He was universally admired.  I soon learned this man was attending his fifth such event in that evening alone.

Being the inquisitive creature I am, I asked him about this kind of schedule, and his ability to meet all these commitments with such aplomb and ease.  We had an intriguing conversation about how he saw himself as a role model, and that what he was doing was his job.  He further explained that he kept himself in top physical condition, just so he could be “fully present when I am with others.”  He spoke of the art of life balance and making sure he could be the best he could be, for the people.  It was evident that his choices involved sacrifices as well, but those did not outweigh his desire to be a role model for others.

I was struck at by how this man embodied the qualities of a Sherpa, a person who leads others up the highest mountains in the world.  Sherpas are those who have the experience, the keen knowledge of the mountain, and the desire to see others succeed.  Sherpas must be in top physical condition in order to lead others.

Some time ago I developed a life and leadership model that utilizes mountaineering terms and concepts called The Summit Advance Model.  Basically, it is a “mountain” with two sides and three levels.  The lower level is the place of Survival.  The middle level represents Success, and the top level is Significance.  The two sides are opposing, representing personal focus.  The left side is self-centered.  The right side is “others-centered.”  For the sake of distinction, I labeled the levels, sides and “inhabitants” of this model as follows:


At this moment I am only addressing the top level of Significance, where the two sides will find “Top Guns,” who are concerned with being the best IN the world, and “Sherpas,” whose only focus is being best FOR the world.  There is quite a difference between the two.  Tops Guns are consumed with ego.  Sherpas are devoted to others.

Sherpas live their purpose, to see others reach the top.  Their service, legacy and significance resides in others.  They are extremely loyal, people of integrity and truth, trusted explicitly.  They understand risks and sacrifice, and how those are calculated against the compelling vision of the summit.  They have inspired countless climbers to reach the tops of the peaks they pursue.  Sherpas sacrifice beyond what most would ever consider, in order to protect and provide for the success of their climbing partners.

As my conversation continued with this corporate Sherpa, I perceived that this man’s efforts were not about his success, but the success of others.  It was his singular motivation.  He was declaring, both privately and publicly, that he had made the choice to be best FOR the world, living as a corporate Sherpa to insure the success of others.  He made the appropriate physical, emotional and spiritual choices to keep his declaration fueled and doable.

As we begin another new year full of resolutions to be better, do better or live better, it is important to allow this critical choice to fuel every other kind of being and doing.  This should be our first New Year’s resolution – making it, in fact, a New Year’s DECLARATION.  We can then develop sustaining goals to make it happen.

There is a form of power in a personal declaration.  It is a “stand and deliver” announcement to your public of what you will do, not what you hope to do.  I remember in my own life how those big choices to run the NYC marathon and climb Mount Kilimanjaro became so much more powerful when I turned them into declarations.  Once I had declared those things out loud, to my own “public,” I was suddenly and powerfully accountable.

In this way, instead of the typical resolutions falling away mid-year as most resolutions do, making our declaration to serve others becomes part of the very core of who we are – Sherpas in training.