You’ll miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. What keeps you from taking more of those shots is often your own mindset: either an assumption that limits what you believe is possible, or a vision of success that simply isn’t big enough.
In 1998 I was accepted into a doctoral program for Organizational Development. The faculty roster boasted some big names in the field, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to learn from them. After years of hard work, it felt like I had finally arrived.
Soon after the start of the program, one of these so-called bigwigs challenged a classroom full of us wet-behind-the-ears doctoral students to “reach out to those you want to be in conversation with; to make contact with your heroes.” I sloughed it off thinking that I was already among some pretty big names and that it would be impossible to connect with those I perceived as larger than life. However, the seed got planted and continued to grow for the first 18 months of my program.
As the time approached to begin my research, there were 3 “heroes” I knew would add depth to my work if I could only get the chance to talk with them. My dissertation chair—a bigwig in his own right, Mr. Charlie Seashore—pushed me to contact them. Although I assumed I wouldn’t make it past the gate-keepers to the rarified air of those I admired, I was amazed to get not only responses but conversations with all three people. It was a lesson for me in how the assumptions we make can block us from taking action.
Recently, I was reminded of the power of reaching out to one’s heroes when I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Mrs. Frances Hesselbein, the former CEO of the Girl Scouts of America who was appointed by Peter Drucker to oversee his foundation (which has since been renamed The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute), as well as the prestigious Leader to Leader journal. After a fleeting connection on Twitter, I’d sent her a copy of my book Leading with Intention: Every Moment Is a Choice, fully expecting not to hear anything further. However, she not only read my book, she asked me to submit an article for the journal. While that was thrilling in its own right, the opportunity to talk with her was the cherry on top. She was, as I expected, inspirational, insightful, and completely delightful.
So, I leave you with this message: if there are people you admire, people whose work inspires and teaches you, reach out to them. You may be surprised, as I have been time and again, by how much these bigwigs actually want to engage in discussions about their work. Go meet your heroes!