Raise your glass and lead on….
I do not claim to speak Spanish. To say that I do would be offensive to all native Spanish speakers and equally offensive to anyone who took Spanish 101 in high school.
I have however traveled to many Spanish speaking countries and in each country I have learned new words and new phrases. I am always surprised but every time I arrive in a Spanish speaking country I am able to navigate communication barriers.
On my last international trip I found myself at a great hotel in the center of the capital of Honduras. I woke up my first morning and was hungry for breakfast. I had to make a decision; eat a granola bar that I brought with me or try to order something for breakfast.
I found some courage and headed to the 4th floor where they had a restaurant with beautiful views of the city. The waiter came to my table and greeted me, he also handed me a breakfast menu in Spanish. I’ll admit it, I had no clue about most of the menu, but I did understand “pancakes with fruit” and that sounded great. When the waiter returned I ordered the pancakes with fruit and a glass of orange juice – well, at least that is what I hoped I had ordered. As I waited for my food the anticipation was building, “I wonder if I actually ordered pancakes with fruit and a glass of orange juice?” My confidence in my Spanish was dropping with each minute that passed.
When the waiter returned he brought a flawless meal, it was exactly what I had ordered! I was so proud of myself, I could hardly eat the meal, I just sat there looking at it, smiling and thinking, “You did it!”
For the next two days I arrived each morning and was greeted by the same waiter. I continued to order the exact same meal. I did this for three reasons; they were good pancakes, I was really impressed with myself for being able to pull this off in Spanish and I didn’t know what anything else on the menu was! But seriously, why mess with a good thing? I was so proud each day when he brought me my meal.
On the fourth day I arrived and was greeted by a new waitress. I thought to myself, “I am so good at this she’ll probably think I am a native Spanish speaker!” I was quickly brought back down to planet earth when she corrected my Spanish. In English we have one word for orange; the same word can be a reference to the color or to a fruit, but in Spanish there are two different words for orange and I had failed to remember that subtle, yet very important difference.
When she corrected me I had this massive lightbulb moment in realizing that for four days I had been ordering pancakes with fruit and “a glass of the color orange.” There was a time in my life when I would have been very embarrassed by this mistake. I would have thought things like; “You’re an idiot, why did you think you could do this or who do you think you are?” But not this time. This time my thoughts were more like; “You’ve been doing this wrong all week and still getting what you wanted! You are amazing!”
The truth is I could have played it safe and just had a granola bar each morning, but I wanted more and I hope that in terms of leadership and in life that you want more too. I so often hear from leaders that the biggest thing holding them back is fear; fear of failure, fear of offending someone, fear of saying/doing the wrong thing and fear of not being good enough. But I say go for it! Because I am the genius that kept asking for a glass of the color orange and not only did I survive but I got my glass of the color orange with some fantastic pancakes and fruit while looking at a great city landscape each morning.
So take some risks, put yourself out there, try, and forgive yourself when you aren’t perfect. I raise my glass of the color orange to you and offer this toast; “Lead on my friends, lead on.”