ThinkPieces

The Connection between Action and Hope

A John Ortberg quote has been capturing my imagination lately: The possibility of transformation is the essence of hope. I love this idea because it reminds me that positive change is always an option, and is the doorway to new opportunities and possibilities. The recent Comrades Marathon brought this home to me as I watched amputee, cancer survivor, and ex-drug addict Xolani Lavuno cross the finish line on crutches. He completed the course of about 90 km, against all odds, with his friend Hein Venter at his side. Just 18 months ago, Hein found him living under a bridge in Sunnyside in Pretoria. He gave him a job and a prosthetic leg, and helped him start running. The rest is history.

 We write ourselves (and others) off at our peril. When we think that things can’t get better, we abandon hope, and we abort possibility. And our notion that change must be significant, immediately, is naïve at best and disabling at worst. What if our current space is not a barrier to achievement but a training ground for growth? Comrades runners accept that to make their target and run their ‘ultimate human race,’ they will need to set aside many months to work on their aerobic (lung) capacity, lactate tolerance, hill-readiness and mental focus. Their training begins with a resolute decision: it is not something they stumble across or drift into – “Well what do you know? I have just discovered I am training for an ultra!” A certain number of kilometres must be covered each week to accumulate the necessary distance, and training slots are meticulously diarised and adhered to.

This reminds me of our THINKspiration mantra: If it’s not in the diary, it ain’t gonna happen! I may not have arrived at my desired career destination, but seriously, what am I training for, and does it show? Do my daily activities reflect preparation for my finish line? Or am I more focused on my frustration with my lack of progress? As Ortberg wisely says, transformation is not a matter of trying harder to make something happen, but of training for when it will happen. What am I doing about my technical skills, my reading routine, my relationship management, and my leadership practices? In a years’ time, what will I regret not doing now? What if the pain and frustration I feel today, could become the strength I feel tomorrow?

And what about others? How can I be a ‘Hein’ to someone else? Who are the people around me to whom I can offer a ‘hand up’ (not a ‘hand-out’) – a collaborative training proposal for success? Imagine what could be achieved if we each offered our support, encouragement, mentorship energy and social connections to just two people in our everyday environments … If we helped them craft a bespoke journey of action and growth to prepare for their chosen ‘finish lines’?

It has been said that leaders should be ‘Dealers in Hope,’ or ‘Dispensers of Hope.’ If the possibility of transformation truly is the essence of hope, we should be pursuing transformation - positive and active daily change - as if our lives depend on it. Quite frankly, I think they do. Thuma Mina!

“Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.” Alan Armstrong

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