By David Lund
Yeah, runnin' down a dream – That never would come to me – Workin' on a mystery, goin' wherever it leads – Runnin' down a dream – Tom Petty
In life we think dreams, big ideas and accomplishments are someone else’s domain, but not ours. We think those people are special, gifted, magical. They were the ones who were chosen for that higher calling to be that explorer, the writer or the leader that made a difference and really had something special to do and share with the world.
Well, that is not true.
We all have that something and it is right there, inside of us and we can see it, feel it and we know its power. Yet we almost always ignore it, run from it and diminish its meaning and potential. The thing we have inside of us needs to be worked on every day, like we are polishing a precious stone. But ignoring it and walking away from it and not doing the work is the path we almost always take.
Why do we not follow our path to adventure, pure engagement, a calling of the soul? Why would we not want to have a life full of such enthusiasm and joy?
My dream hit me like a big rock, square in the forehead at 4 p.m. I had spent the entire day giving a class inside my hotel to 40 department managers on hotel finances for dummies. I did not tell them that was the name, it was coined something else. I really did not want to do this workshop but my General Manager had made it a mandatory.
“No workshop, Mr. Lund, and no bonus this year,” he said, “It is the right thing to do.” He said this because I explained why my forecasts were so weak.
“The other department managers give me crap information, always late and I end up changing 90 percent of it,” I asked, “Why can’t they send me good quality information and why do I have to hound them every time?”
Well, at 4 p.m. that day class was over and I had a lineup of leaders wanting to talk to me and thank me for the day. I heard some amazing compliments:
- “Finally I know what you do with my stuff.”
- “Had no idea that my numbers were sent to corporate.”
- “No one has ever shown me the P&L this way.”
- “When are you going to do anther class on the financials?” and on and on.
Unbelievable. I was elated and stunned. I felt like a celebrity, not the controller that when seen people would normally run in the other direction. These were the same leaders that were always late with their forecast or budget or month end commentary information. That evening I reflected on what happened and all I could think of was, this is a game changer. I am on to something. I remember telling my wife how much I liked giving the workshop and she said, “Do it again!” So I did.
Fast forward seven years. I am now the regional controller in another country, having accepted a transfer four years earlier. My workshop had won my company an international innovation award the year after I created it. I had delivered the workshop many times in my hotel and inside my region, and refined its content and practiced my delivery. Every time I gave the workshop my students would line up and give me the most amazing comments. I loved spending the day lighting up these leaders. I also realized that my job as the chief collector of financial information in the hotel got easier and easier the more I educated my peeps.
This was magic
The class changed my life and theirs, too. Now they saw the financial piece as not scary and not difficult. Remember your version of the boogie man when you were a kid? Where was your boogie man: under your bed or in the closet? You can insert your version. One day you turned on the lights, looked under your bed or in the closet and GONE! You no longer believed in the boogie man. Well, this belief, “I’m not a financial person,” is exactly the same thing. The leaders believed this was something hard, beyond them and scary. The workshop showed them this was not true and, like the boogie man, they stopped believing they were incapable of being a financial leader. This was magic.
I often thought about my workshops and dreamed about taking this idea to the world. Be careful of what you dream.
One day my job came to an end. When it did I had a choice, go find another job like the one I had or go on an adventure. The idea of the adventure was very scary. So much uncertainty, I did not know where to even begin. But for me the other side of the coin was unacceptable. To go back to the grind, to return to the politics, the greed, was not in my cards. I remember going to an interview for a similar roll in another brand, I nailed the interview, said all the right things. I left that interview, got in the elevator and loosened my tie, and by the time I made it to the street I was pretty sure I was going to puke. I was freaking out. Why am I doing this? I know this is not what I want, damn it!
That was it for me. No looking back – just looking ahead. My adventure was now underway. There was no way I was going back to the corporate world. I knew I had an idea that lit me up. I believed it would work and from that day forward, every day when I would wake up it was my mission to put wheels on this workshop and change the way hotels work financially. I could see my path.
Funny thing is, the more I worked on my vision the more the path became clear. I know some days I would question my idea. Was this really going to work, would it be successful, would hotels hire me to change their financial leadership?
I did not know the answer but I believed there was nothing else in this world that I wanted to do.
That is what keeps me in action. I do not want to go back so I better make this work. That is a powerful incentive – to not want to go back to prison.