The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

BE A PATH MAKER RATHER THAN A PATH TAKER

Have you ever met someone who sets a course in life based on how many others are doing the same thing?  Rather than identifying problems, investigating root causes and intentionally setting into motion the actions that would resolve issues in an individual and/or unique way, the path of least resistance is chosen as these individuals travel upon roads that others take and make “safe” (commonly acceptable) rather than “right” (based on fact rather than the opinion of others) decisions.  Perhaps it might be better (though possibly more difficult) to seek individuals who seems to consistently and continuously “take the high road” in the way things are done and choose the path less traveled (rather than the path of least resistance) when making decisions – for knowing (and associating with) such a person will invariably lead to success.

Far too many people diminish their potential by following the crowd (doing what is “right and prudent”) rather than following their own beliefs.  They seek popularity (or at least acceptance) rather than standing strong on their own values, judgments and decisions.  They choose to blend into the majority rather than the criticism that standing alone often brings.  They accept that things are as they should be rather than seeking what could be possible if established systems and familiar processes were to be challenged.  The “throng” tends to validate itself by thinking, “We are no different than anyone else – the same as all others with whom we associate” rather than believing, “We are all unique individuals whose potential is limited only by our individual actions and behaviors.”  The attacks our society mounts against individuals seeking to make a difference through non-conventional methods or untested thoughts and processes are often enough to discourage all but the brave to forge their own path.  By homogenizing our unique characteristics into a single melting pot that can be universally accepted by all, “the many” seek to stifle the ability of all but a rare and outspoken few to make a difference in the world.  Allowing this to happen – either explicitly through participation or implicitly through acceptance – diminishes one’s ability to think, act and contribute in a meaningful way.
  
Following the crowd is easy.  Anyone can do what others accept, go where others are going, act as others act and find a sense of community by blending in. Travelling familiar roads and doing things the way they have always been done can take the bumps and turns out of our journey BUT when we do things as they have always been done we can expect nothing more than has already been accomplished.  When we move forward by focusing upon where we have been and what we have done we cannot truly see where we are going or what might be accomplished.  While teaching our granddaughter to ride a bicycle I found myself telling her to “look where she is going rather than watching where she has been” if she seeks to achieve success without falling – an axiom that should apply to all we say and do in life but is often abandoned as we seek acceptance and validation by others.   Only when we accept that much can come from seeking a different reality than that chosen by the crowd will we realize that loss can become gain, failure can breed success, and the decision to stop can be either a conclusion (accepting that what is will always be) OR a new beginning (failure is a detour rather than a dead end on the road to success).  Followers of a crowd tend to accept the group’s destination as a place to land while those seeking to make an individual difference often build their future from the stopping point accepted by others as being “good enough.”

Too many supervisors seek acceptance from those they lead rather than striving to earn their respect.  Too many parents seek to be friends with their children (and their acquaintances) rather than role models.  Too many teachers want to be “liked” by their students rather than viewed as being “tough but fair.”  Too many of our political leaders make decisions based on polls that measure what the majority think they should do rather than doing what might negatively impact the majority IF a decision or course of action might be best for the values (and sustainability) of our nation.  When forging a path using our personal strengths, values and character we tend to lean towards greatness in all that we say, do and accomplish.  Alternatively, when we try to make ourselves look better by pulling others down – making ourselves look good by tarnishing another’s reputation or diminishing their abilities – we often find ourselves travelling upon roads fraught with hazards, pot holes, barricades and dead ends. 

What kind of transformations might take place in our nation (and in YOUR life) if more decisions were made (and courses of action taken) driven by “rather than…” thinking?  What might YOU be able to accomplish – what potential might you be able to realize – were you to “march to your own drummer” and forge your own path rather than listening to (and following) the music made by others?  You will know (and be able to realize) your true potential ONLY should you choose to accept the risk and opportunity that individuality brings – leaving behind the comfort, support and (often) false security that being “one of the crowd” provides. Only those choosing to be path makers rather than path takers can truly rise to the top.