Make Your Own Gravity

"If something is out of reach, move closer." - Uncle C.

I'm fascinated by the stories successful people tell about the mentors, influences and examples they've had in their lives that were instrumental in imparting the lessons of life and leadership that contribute to success.

So yesterday afternoon, when I tucked into Freda Lewis-Hall's monograph, Make your Mark! I was delighted to find a goldmine of just such examples. As EVP and Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer, Inc., Lewis-Hall has had her fair share of experiences with challenges, opportunity and success - and incredible access to highly successful entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, mentors and executive coaches.

But it was a more personal example, that of a beloved uncle, that I want to focus on right now. Uncle C., as Lewis-Hall calls him (one her father's 15(!) siblings), endured an extreme case of polio in 1925 at the age of 6. At first not expected to live more that a year, Uncle C. recovered - but would remain paralyzed for the rest of his life. As Lewis-Hall tells it:

"When it became apparent that his paralysis would be permanent, the Lewises faced an awful situation. They were already poor, and the country was entering the Depression, when things would get much worse. They were descendants of slaves living in the former capital of the Confederacy, and they were stranded well outside the fledgling "safety net" of the time."

But the large family was determined to help Uncle C. lead as normal a life as possible. Since he wasn't able to attend school, his siblings taught him their school lessons at the end of every day.  And to make sure he wasn't doomed to be a shut-in, his brothers wheeled him around wherever they went in a homemade cart they built for him.

Eventually - Uncle C. became a self-sustaining tailor, and later a teacher of his trade to others who were disabled. One of Uncle C.'s mottos was, "If something is out of reach, move closer."

It's an elegant leadership trait we all can appreciate and learn from. He was, disabled and disadvantaged, yes. Deterred, no. Rather than accepting that a thing was out of reach and giving up, Uncle C. moved closer. It's such a simple concept, and the simple concepts are all too often overlooked as effective strategies for success. 

In the words of Lewis-Hall, "How often do we want something that is clearly out of our reach but refuse to take the first steps to getting closer, even of those steps don't always carry us all the way to our goal? And how much power could we have if we would just 'move ourselves closer'?"

What are the things that are out of reach for you? What are the things you've dismissed as impossible in your life? Maybe it's a bridge too far to see yourself at the helm of a profitable company. Maybe you can't picture yourself on the podium in your age group. Maybe your revenue targets seem out of reach and you just can't see how you're going to make the quarter. Okay - but before you throw in the towel on any of those goals - what does it look like to move closer?

The fact of the matter is that when we move toward our goals with belief, determination and a sense of energy and gratitude for the process, we literally rearrange time and space. The law of universal gravitation states that "a particle attracts every other particle in the universe with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers." This mean that the bigger two things are, and the closer they are together, the more gravitational pull they'll have and they'll move together. 

So think about yourself as one particle - and your goal as another. Your goal is already huge. Remember your own hugeness. When you increase your energy - you essentially increase your mass. When you move closer, you close the distance between you and the goal you're trying to connect with. 

So in increasing your energy and moving closer, you begin to create your own gravity - and you pull others along on the with you. And - when you inevitably need help to reach your goal, that gravity will provide the pull you need - just like Uncle C.'s brothers - your teams, your colleagues and your loved ones begin to pull you along at the more challenging parts of your journey.

What is one thing you can do today to move closer?


Move Closer 

Make Your Own Gravity