The Extraordinary Ordinary

In the documentary, The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes, Garrison Keillor describes the experience of first seeing his newborn daughter by saying he was “stunned by the fact that what he had seen was so utterly ordinary.” In so doing he poignantly points out that while the experience was extraordinary for him, it was an ordinary everyday experience that occurs thousands if not millions of times a day.

The extraordinary ordinary has a way of humbling you, of bringing into focus the events that define us as human beings.

OverwhelmingOrdinaryMomentsRecently I had the pleasure to have one of these extraordinary ordinary experiences. On July 13th I became a new grandfather to a beautiful baby girl. Holding her in my arms for the first time I marveled at how incredibly extraordinary it felt!

I was overwhelmed with an indescribable emotion that I had never felt before. It was so different from what I felt when my son, my granddaughter’s father, was born that I have spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the difference. I must admit defeat in my attempts to put it into words. Those of you who are grandparents yourselves understand what I am talking about. Those of you who are not… well, you probably don’t.

When I discovered last November that I would become a grandfather this summer, I wrote a post talking about passing the torch of leadership to the next generation. I said a good leader knows when it is time to stand aside and that the whole event brought home to me that my primary role of leadership as a parent was ending.

A good leader also knows that just because a role is vacated doesn’t mean that it will be filled or, even if it is, that it will be filled adequately, responsibly, and with skill. Although many of the skills of leadership can be taught, there are aspects that cannot.

A good leader must know not only when to step aside but also when to get out of the way. I can put you in a leadership role, but you must discover how to take the role and fill it. Filling the roles of parenthood and becoming a father and a mother requires discovering something about yourself as a leader.

Both require that you think and act beyond the present for the best interests of more than just yourself. I watched it happen in the blink of an eye with the birth of my granddaughter. It was palpable when I walked in the room where my daughter-in-law held her newborn daughter, and it was overwhelming when my son held my gaze as he placed my granddaughter in my arms for the first time. It was an extraordinary ordinary moment.

Now, my granddaughter? She is simply extraordinary!

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About Gary M. Jordan Ph.D.

Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D. is a premier authority on behavioral theories and assessment construction. He has over 32 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. Gary earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology – Berkeley, and spent 18 years in private practice where he specialized in helping angry adolescents, couples in conflict, and individuals searching for more meaning and satisfaction in life.
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