The Leadership and Main project is inspired by the incredible leaders in the community of Acworth, Georgia. The objective is to celebrate the people who have poured into my life as a young leader and share those lessons to inspire a generation of community leaders to make the turn off an ordinary road to an extraordinary way. Today we celebrate and study the most special community leader in my life.
To this point in our journey together, we have studied and celebrated individuals who used their local influence to gain a national voice like Martin. A historic voice that bettered others and the world we live in today. We have studied fictitious characters like George from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life who never made it out of his local community but was able to better others and the world he lived in (Bedford Falls, New York). He received an opportunity to view his life from a unique vantage point. He got to see his community as if he had never been born. He saw a world where he was not able to better others and could not impact the world that he lived in. Bedford Falls was not the same community without him.
Today’s community leader we study is my wife, Shannon.
Most people can point to a significant intersection in their life that changed everything for them. Can you think of yours? You may point to the birth of a child, the day you took your last drink, the day you graduated college, or the day you got married. While October 18, 2003 was a major intersection for me when Shannon and I got married, there were many others along the way. Maybe it was her family meeting mine through preschool at Kennesaw First Baptist Church which led to my mom babysitting her and her sister. Maybe it was riding the school bus together at Acworth Elementary School. Maybe it was when I dated her best friend in high school that allowed us to reconnect and develop a friendship.
From a faith standpoint, I believe that God speaks to us in different ways. Some people hear Him audibly, some hear Him through other people, and some require a good old fashion smack upside the head to make sure we get the message. That “aha” moment. The moment when something finally dawns on us. Men are not always known to be the most intelligent creatures on earth. Something we need or want can be sitting right in front of us and we can be oblivious to it!
This was the case for me. After we reconnected my Junior year, Shannon and I became best friends. The one intersection that changed everything for me took place late one evening around March of my senior year at North Cobb High School. I had committed to go to the Senior Prom with another girl, but something did not feel right. There was that nagging feeling that you just cannot shake. There was nothing wrong with the girl, it was all me. Then the proverbial smack upside the head came! My moment of enlightenment. Late that night, it hit me. Call Shannon and ask her to go to prom with you! I called. She said yes. The rest is history!
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and being romantic it is worth noting that we rode to prom in my dad’s Jeep Wrangler (with the top off) and I spared no expense on dinner that evening. We stopped at the International House of…you got it…Pancakes! Yes, IHOP. We were not the only people overdressed that evening. A dude was dressed as Elvis a couple of booths over. Random, but memorable!
Here are four of the many lessons that Shannon has taught me. Whether you are married or not, these lessons are universal to any relationship you have. Could be professional or personal.
Be Their Biggest Fan
I have coached youth sports for the twenty-one years that we have been together (dating and married combined), everything from wrestling to basketball to baseball to football. As a head coach in many of these cases I have had to make a lot of difficult decisions that are not always popular or create raving fans of me. Making cuts for all-star teams, disciplining kids for poor attitudes, selecting starting positions, deciding in a split second to send the runner home or not, or which play to call with the game on the line. Youth football has been the constant throughout our marriage. For the first seventeen years of our marriage, I did not have a child playing on the team. This required several nights a week and a portion of our Saturday of me not being at home. Most spouses could have been resentful, but she knew the joy I found in developing young athletes. She chose to be my biggest fan.
Fans can be encouraging or discouraging. Not much of an in between in the world of sports. Critics come with the territory of coaching as some of you well know. I know some of the awful things she has heard said about me in the stands, mostly through other people telling me. I can only imagine the things she has heard that she never told me! Despite hearing those things and being the one that sacrificed time without me so I could coach those people’s kids, she was always mine and our team’s biggest fan. Be someone’s biggest fan. Applaud them. Encourage them. Cheer them on!
See The Best In Others
As a leader we generally feel like we need to have it all together. We can work ourselves to the point of exhaustion trying to hide our weaknesses and covering up our struggles. Some of this is self-imposed, but sometimes society places that burden on us as well. It seems like the vultures are always looking for you to stumble and fall. With her, she always sees the best in me no matter my struggle. I can be vulnerable, weak, tired, discouraged, and flawed in her presence. Regardless, she sees the best in me, every single time. Community leaders should see the best in others.
There is the old adage that opposites attract. This could not be truer of us. Shannon and I are very different people. Communication is one of those areas! I get home from work, she asks me how my day has gone, I say “good.” I ask her how her day was, then after a while I am still waiting for the plane to land! We have both grown to recognize and appreciate these differences in each other. “Good” is not sufficient for her and I must do better. She has to be careful not to lose me and hit the bullet points. We both need to work towards the middle. We owe it to each other.
In the movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire) delivers an epic speech to his wife (Renee Zellweger). After an emotional plea to her to save their marriage, he famously says “you complete me!” This is so true. Any good relationship requires two people who complete each other. One person is a half to the other person’s whole. Our best teammates, our best co-workers, and our best friends tend to be strong where we are weak and weak where we are strong.
Be A Rock Star
I have a firsthand account that teachers are absolute rock stars. Teachers are integral to our community’s success. As a result of COVID-19 they have navigated virtual learning, in person learning, and a combination of the two. They have pushed through the distraction of public debates on what should be done and how it should be done.
Shannon is a teacher by title but is so much more. She is helps new teachers, she leads a team, manages the school’s website, is an advocate for each student’s individual needs, an encourager to others, all on top of being an amazing mother to Ashtyn and Grant. I have watched her work late into the evenings grading papers, flat out exhausted from a full day’s work. On the flip side, I have watched her celebrate while grading those papers when a child who is struggling to master the content gets a good grade or the genuine joy radiating from her when a child she is advocating for gets the resources and support they need to be successful. Do not choose to be ordinary as a leader in your community. Be extraordinary. Be a rock star.
Community leadership is the ability and willingness to use your influence to better others and the world we live in. That world could be in parks and recreation, government, education, or coaching like our family. It could be whatever world you live in. Community leadership takes time and energy. Too often that comes with sacrifice from our families. The scale of work-life balance can easily teeter towards others sometimes. That is why people like Shannon are so special in our lives. They are our biggest fans, they see they best in others, they complete us, and they are downright rock stars. I could NOT do what I do without her. I would not be able to use my influence to better others and the world I live in.
Ordinary To Extraordinary Intersection
Who are your biggest fans? Have you thanked them lately? Do you see the best in others or does your cynicism cloud your sight? Do you know that you need others to complete you and that you cannot do it on your own? Who are those people that you could not do what you do without them?