Find Your Way
In this episode of “Aim Higher,” I had the chance to sit down with someone who is a country music star, bestselling author, philanthropist and a truly humble, creative and generous soul—my friend, Jimmy Wayne. His success is made all the more remarkable by the fact that his life began in what can only be described as horror and tragedy, as he was threatened, abused, and abandoned by his parents and then caught up in a foster care and juvenile detention system that failed him utterly, as it does so many other young people who “slip through the cracks” of society.
“Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” – William Arthur Ward
You can read about Jimmy’s own personal rise to success and how he gave back to foster kids like himself in his remarkable book, Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way. But I want to point out one thing he said to me that I think is important to people who follow this blog and podcast for leadership guidance.
“Being able to write the songs and tell the stories and hear people’s response, that really helps me.” – Jimmy Wayne
Use Struggle to Achieve
Jimmy said, “When things are going really well, I’m probably the most miserable because I’m most functional when I’m under stress and struggle.” That’s something I’ve found to be true in my own life sometimes. It’s also true in many leaders I’ve observed whose skill sets were partly honed in high-stress circumstances when they were young. And while those circumstances can honestly provide an excellent “refining fire” for strong, positive lifelong traits, it can also set you up—if you’re not careful—for the kind of situation Jimmy is describing.
There is a difference between being “good under pressure” and being “only good under pressure.” As a leader, if you can’t feel “high functioning” unless you’re putting out fires … there may come a point where you find yourself quietly starting fires as you chase that adrenaline rush.
Everyone has their own personal history to contend with. Jimmy Wayne overcame many, many more obstacles than most of us will ever have to. His story is inspirational on a personal level. But it’s also a great reminder to us, as leaders, that while we can take inspiration from our own personal hardships, we shouldn’t let them control an intentional leadership journey.
“Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening.” – Aretha Franklin
Leaders Create Leaders
Jimmy says that his foster mom “changed every cell in my body.” That’s moving on a personal note, but I also was inspired to think about it in terms of our lives at work. Leaders don’t create followers; they create other leaders. Leadership is about driving positive change in others, literally helping to change the direction of an organization but also individual lives. For my friends and mentors who have changed me, I am grateful. Imagine if we all went to work with the idea that we are helping others change in such a positive way.
If you haven’t read his book, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Listen to our discussion on Apple podcasts by clicking here.
For more information, see Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way.
“Don’t walk only when it is convenient; don’t merely walk till you get tired; keep walking through it all. Walk to Beautiful.” -Jimmy Wayne