By LYNETTE GILLIS, Concordia professor, River Place mom
My 10-year-old son tried out for select soccer in May. He has played for numerous years and loves the game. He has soccer jerseys, soccer trading cards; we have a soccer goal in our backyard. However, he is now seeing some of his friends move onto the “elite” teams. His typical response is “I just want to play like them.”
When do we start believing that we all should look the same, act the same and be the same?
I have told him for so long that each person was intentionally and uniquely made by God for a great purpose. For most people that purpose is not found in professional sports, despite their best interest and effort.
I read recently that 5.5 percent of high school soccer players will play in college, of those 1.7 percent will play in some professional format. That means that sports are about engaging in healthy lifestyle through exercise, having fun with friends, learning about teamwork, and developing self-confidence and athleticism.
Somehow, to him, at the stage he is in, my words seem hollow. The truth is he will never play like the players whose skills he covets… because he is not them. He has to play to his own strengths and find what motivates him internally; his own uniqueness.
This concept called “authentic leadership” is one that I teach in my Leadership and Business class at Concordia University. It challenges our human nature which leads us to believe that one person’s success is the only path to success, therefore, we must emulate.
We begin to copy the patterns and behaviors of others, forsaking our own strengths, internal drive and intuition. Sadly, trying to be someone you are not often leads to disappointment, frustration and failure.
True leadership, talent and success are born out of authenticity. You have to first understand yourself, abilities and limitations, second be transparent, and third understand your internal motivation and purpose.
So many lessons with kids translate to adults in our social life, professional life and family life. How often do we look at others and try to change to be more like them? It doesn’t mean we don’t have mentors and role models. It means that our mentors provide examples and challenge us to be better at being us.
I recently had colleague tell me “It is your time to shine, not to reflect.” It was a simple yet profound statement that concisely conveys: be yourself and don’t try to reflect someone else; maximize your strengths, manage your limitations, align your internal motivation, and be transparent with your purpose.
My soccer-playing son is an excellent snow skier; in this sport his abilities are the strongest. Yes, he believes that his purpose is waiting for him in Colorado.
Dr. Lynette Rylander Gillis is Interim Dean of Business at Concordia University Texas. Gillis is also active in her church and community, volunteering at various non-profits including CampLIFE!, which she started with her husband John.