Eyes Wide Open

You might have noticed that the Benari tagline starts with “Pay Attention”. For many this means focusing on the task at hand to the exclusion of all else, wearing blinders to ensure that nothing intrudes.

It means the exact opposite for those in positions of leadership, those charged with ensuring their enterprise keeps moving forward successfully. For them, paying attention means having a 360 degree view, observing as widely as possible. Yet they too often find themselves focused narrowly, oblivious to good ideas and opinions of others surrounding them.

Focusing narrowly makes it much more difficult to make the best decisions. It leads you to ignore information, information that often holds the key to breakthrough ideas. Worst of all, it keeps you from understanding others, from learning what drives them, what excites them, what basic beliefs underlie their actions.

A few days ago I listened with interest to Krista Tippett’s NPR show On Being, as she interviewed Sister Simone Campbell, fighter for social justice and exceptional speaker. I was struck by Campbell’s thought, so similar to mine, about how “having the willingness to see their perspective leads to better decisions.”

Having the willingness, the openness, the flexibility to not just listen to but to actually hear and understand someone else’s perspective is the path to expanding your options. Expanded options lead to better decisions and better decisions lead to better results.

Get out of your comfort zone and enter the comfort zone of others. Pay attention to the people and the world around you. Most importantly, be willing to consider that the best option, and ultimately, the best result, can come from anywhere.

Sister Simone Campbell, left, and Sister Diane Donoghue, right, lead the way as the the "Nuns on the Bus" arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 2, 2012, after a nine-state tour to bring stories of hardship to Congress. Sister Simone Campbell is executive director of Network, a liberal Catholic social justice lobby in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sister Simone Campbell, left, and Sister Diane Donoghue

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Let The Adventure Begin

My last blog, Consider Rightly, is about responding to random events by turning them into adventures.. Adventures take you places your never expected, or wanted, to go. They lead you to people you never expected to meet, connections you never thought you would make. Adventures push you to re-examine your beliefs. Adventures lead to subversive ideas. But adventures can be disruptive to your orderly world. They can be risky. And risk? Risk is frightening.

Risk is frightening because you put yourself in situations beyond your control. During the Ebola crisis I needed to go to Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, countries sharing borders with Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia…the epicenters of the disease. What should I do, I asked myself, take the risk and help build food security for the countries and economic development for the poorest farmers or sit home just in case Ebola spread?

My passport now has new visas and stamps. And there’s a project well on its way to success.

If you can’t take the risk along with the adventure, change comes slowly, if at all. If you remain in your comfortable chair with your comfortable view, surrounded by familiar people, the world will rush by, as it does at a faster and faster rate. These days no one can afford to be stuck in what they do.. When random events or unexpected opportunities appear you can’t let them go by because there’s some risk involved. Grab them.

We’re not talking unevaluated risk, risk jumped into without any thought about what it means and its possible consequences, good and bad. Rather we’re talking opportunities that are risky but after careful thought and evaluation you determine the risk is worth the possible big return.

Peter Drucker said “people who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” The math is inescapable. The result is quite different.

Leaders who take reasoned risks find that many of the risks they take move them forward in leaps and bounds enabling them to swiftly and efficiently overcome the two big mistakes and race ahead. Leaders who are risk averse don’t have their adventure skills in place to overcome the two big mistakes so find themselves backsliding.

I’ve been invited to be the third partner of a new company with an innovative and creative idea for reaching and helping those at the bottom of the pyramid, the poorest in Latin America and Africa. It’s exciting to be asked…and a huge risk. After some discussion about what has been done and where it’s going (my due diligence about the risk/reward) I accepted the invitation.. It’s a sizable commitment of time and resources. I have to drop some other things I’m doing and stick my neck way out hoping the hatchet doesn’t fall.

On many levels it’s risky, and yet, the opportunity is so intriguing, its potential benefits enormous. Let the adventure begin.

risk sheepherders



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