By Elizabeth Jones
March 23 – 25, 2012, we hosted our annual Caroline D. Bradley Seminar in Atlanta, Georgia. The event, funded by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, provides an amazing opportunity for the Caroline D. Bradley Scholars and their parents to learn and grow intellectually and personally in a unique community.
Each Seminar deals with a theme that focuses on looking inward and challenging ourselves to grow, not only intellectually, but also personally. We all could benefit from time to reflect on things like core values, the importance of resiliency, good and evil, and how to open our minds to possibilities.
Scholars, parents, and CDB alumni participate in cross-generational conversations that tackle these challenging topics each year. This year, the theme was “Possibilities.”
Using the video “Leadership: An Art of Possibility” by Ben and Roz Zander as a starting point for the conference, the group discussed aspects of opening up your world to possibilities.
Quiet the Voice Inside Your Head
One of the major points of the video was to “quiet the voice in the head” – the inside voice that is always talking to us! “You are not prepared,” or “that was a silly thing to say,” or “really, you had to eat the whole thing?” all come from that voice.
It was fascinating to hear what voices played in the heads of each age group. They really are not all that different. That was a revelation to many.
Another popular take away was rule # 6. In the video, Ben Zander tells this story:
Two prime ministers were discussing issues of state. A field aid enters the room franticly waving his hands. “Sir, I am sorry to interrupt but…” The prime minister stops his trusty aid and says, “Remember rule # 6.” The aid smiles and leaves the room.
A few minutes later, another staff member enters the room clearly upset, hair disheveled saying, “Prime minister, I really need to speak to you. You see…” He, too, is stopped and told to remember rule # 6.
When the meeting is interrupted a third time with the same outcome, the visiting prime minister is overcome with curiosity. “What may I ask is rule number 6?”
Beaming, his colleague answers, “Rule #6 is don’t take yourself too seriously!”
“Well, that is great – what are the other rules?”
“There aren’t any!”
The Possibilities Imagined
I am always amazed at the caliber and depth of discussion at the Seminar. Adults and kids alike ponder life-changing or affirming issues. These discussions among future thought leaders provide a foundation that builds confidence and tolerance.
Over the weekend we discussed how to examine old assumptions and explore new ways to approach familiar situations. We reflected on how to quiet the negative voice in the head and to remember rule #6. Armed with these and other tools, participants left realizing they have the ability to reshape or rewrite their future. Often that means stepping into unfamiliar territory and taking a risk.
If we can let go of unproductive habits – open up our mind, our heart, and our will to new possibilities – we can impact who we are and strive for what is possible, not just what is likely. It takes looking at something in a new way and being ready for the future. I believe the importance of this concept is that it not only articulates what a leader should do, but also who the leader is.
We have been given a gift of a country filled with bright young minds. Teach them to think. Help them embrace all that is possible.