Personal leadership conversations on the Leadership Platform show on CliffCentral provide us with valuable glimpses into the way top leaders and performers handle the highs and lows of their lives. The aim of this column is to draw a comparison with our own lives and the commonality of highs and lows faced by great leaders.
During the past few weeks Leadership Platform interviewed on separate occasions two outstanding young women who are prominent internationally for exceptional achievements in their young lives. They are Natalie du Toit and Catherine Constantinides. We felt inspired as they responded sincerely to questions relating to the highs and lows of their lives to date.
Natalie du Toit
Natalie experienced a tragic scooter accident at age 16 causing her to lose part of one of her legs. She was a promising swimmer at the time with strong hopes of Olympic glory. We talked her through the journey she embarked on to regain her confidence and live up to the hopes of people around her encouraging her to keep fighting. She certainly is a fighter! She became an icon for this country, famous over the world for her achievements as the outstanding Paralympic swimmer and also at the same time reaching the almost impossible heights of competing at the Olympics with the best swimmers in the world who were not physically disabled. Natalie is the nicest person you can imagine, yet she is a living example of unparalleled courage and tenacity.
On the surface she seems to be a completely different kind of person to Natalie, yet she most definitely has in common a passionate fighting spirit that enables her to reach dizzy heights of performance in spite of being so young. Catherine will not discuss her age with us because she has experienced prejudice because of her youth. We deduct that she is not yet 30! She was the first Miss Earth which has now become with her passionate leadership a powerful leadership development initiative. She is a Lead SA executive, works with UN agencies, heads of state and top CEOs in her efforts to build a better and healthier planet. She received many other accolades in her dramatic career to date.
Catherine, also in common with Natalie, experienced many lows in her life, including a traumatic brush with human trafficking abroad. She has often been let down and hurt yet she remains a fighter for positive causes.
We all have highs and lows!
In fact, both these two exceptional performers share with us the reality of having on-going highs and lows that all of us have to confront and overcome each day.
The following recent practical experience in my life reinforces the universal reality of highs and lows in our lives and the importance of learning to live with and to overcome our lows.
An inspirational personal experience
During the past few days my wife and I have been sharing valuable time with some of our children and grandchildren in the bush house at Kruger National Park. After a full day we would sit around the large table surrounded by eleven filled chairs and each one was asked to share some highs and lows of the day. This is a practice that some of our family follows regularly, encouraging responses from all their children and the adults as well.
Everybody has highs and lows each and every day. It was enthralling to share these experiences and perceptions with each other. Participating in this inspirational activity I became aware of the commonality of life with those great performers we have the privilege of interviewing on the Leadership Platform show on Cliffcentral.com. We all face perceived highs and lows every day of our lives.
What makes the Natalie’s and Catherine’s different from most of us is not the fact that they face less obstacles or lows than everybody else, but that their attitude towards their perceived lows motivates them to refuse to be stuck in negative attitudinal mode.
Going back to the inspirational family experience – these children (and adults for that matter) are being trained to face their perceived lows in life and encouraged to view all of life in context with the bigger picture. I could see the formation of Natalie’s and Catherine’s in front of me without the imposition of force or judgmental attitudes by the parents. The flashes of highs and lows was like a playback of the day happening around me. It was at times so funny that we were bubbling over with mirth. At times we could see right into the soul of those around us as they shared their innermost impulses and impressions of the key experiences of the day. The one sixteen year old boy, Louis Eppel, has a vibrant and passionate zest for life and he battled to consider any of his experiences of the day as ‘lows’. He is already learning that negative perceptions don’t belong as permanent boarders in our hearts and minds.
Yet perceived lows in life are the reality of all of our days. It is the processes we master to overcome our lows that make us into Natalie’s and Catherine’s, each of us unique and special in our own right.
We ask our readers to ponder for a moment the following key questions:
- Have I allowed my personal self-image to become cluttered with the idea that I am a person dominated by ‘lows’?
- Have negative perceptions of my life become permanent boarders in my heart and mind?
- Are these negative images top of mind in my life?
The abundant life
Some time ago we quoted in this column the council of a spiritual giant, Thomas S Monson. We summarise his council about achieving the abundant life:
- Have a positive attitude towards life.
- Believe in self, others around you and in universal principles.
- Be courageous.
We believe that many of our great leaders and readers reflect the above attributes of an abundant life, including Natalie, Catherine and Louis.
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