Friday 29 April 2011

I’m not normal and neither are you

The following is a story from my soon to be released book, Changing What's Normal.

The biggest message I heard from my teachers at school when I was a teenager was that I was stupid. A common phrase from many of them was: What are you doing, stupid?

On Sundays in those years I heard a different message as follows, You are a sinner in need of redemption.

On many Saturdays I heard yet another message.
After sport on Saturday mornings I would often visit my Grandparents on my way home. My Nana Sherriff, whose shepherds pie I can still smell and taste whenever I think about it, often used to look across her kitchen table and say, You know you’re special!

I didn’t know who I was, and strangely enough when I look back, I wonder why I chose stupid as the picture I had of myself most of the time.

When I left school the only job I could get was working as a brickies labourer for a construction firm owned by friends of my family, a firm my Grandfather Sherriff worked for until his death at aged 76. I also worked for a time as a painter for another friend of my families.

One day I was painting a church, the same place where I heard over and over that I was a sinner. Mrs. Murray a friend of my mothers who lived across the road came to get me on this particular day as another friend of the family was on the telephone. There were no mobile phones in the 70s!

Noel, who worked for a recruitment organisation, was calling to tell me he had an interview for me with the National Australia Bank and that I needed to quickly cut off my long hair, shave off my beard, buy a suit (I didn’t own one at the time), and to do all this quickly.

The only good thing my school report card said was, Ian has a sense of humour so my interviewer didn’t waste any time cutting to the chase saying, There is no way I could give you a job son, I’m sorry. I thought I’ve got nothing to lose and replied, I am not going to get on my hands and knees and beg however I promise you if you give me a chance, I won’t let you down.

My interviewer then shocked me when he reached out, shook my hand, and said, You’re hired!

The next day when I started work my hirer, who became my first mentor, told me he wasn’t sure what came over him and said, I just had the feeling you were someone special!

So Nana Sherriff was right and for the first time in my life at aged 17 I believed her and I have never looked back.

I always knew I wasn’t normal and the reason I got into so much trouble at school was because I felt other people were forcing me to be like everyone else and I rebelled. I was fortunate that my first employer in the business world didn’t think I was normal either and his mentoring taught me that my quest in life was to be the best one-of-a-kind that I could be and that leadership is creating environments where everyone has opportunity to shine.

My first mentor had a great philosophy I later discovered originated with Goethe, the great German philosopher:

If we see man as he is, he can only get worse;
If we see man as he could be, he can only get better.


Sadly very few of the so-called educators I experienced in my youth understood the truth of these words.

I have been fortunate to work with a few people who get Goethe’s truth, and I have been honoured to meet several more.

Are you such a person?

Possible actions:

How normal are you?

Could you be more of a non-conformist?
If so what would you do differently and when will you begin?

How often do you celebrate that you are special?
Could you do so more often?

How often do you see people as they could be and celebrate the special nature of every human being?

Could you do so more often?

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community

If you have a deep hunger to:

make a real difference
leave a legacy
do something pioneering, breathtaking, and truly innovative
do well by doing good i.e. thrive in your business and solve a problem in your world at the same time
then please review all the details here of my year of changing what's normal leadership development program.

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