A pithy rejoinder is often better than a long speech, and a good American movie is sometimes more effective than a personal development book. If we have a good think, many of us can remember a “made in Hollywood” scene that has changed the path of our life, can we not? I won’t give you mine today, but I would invite you to watch this scene again that is taken from the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” and that I have often shown during my training sessions…
Do you remember this film that is based on a true story? Chris Gardner, a salesman played by Will Smith, finds himself bringing up his 5-year-old son on his own when, weary of the eternal money problems, his wife leaves him. Having hit rock bottom, and up to his neck in debt, he desperately strives to retain his dignity despite being forced to sleep rough. He then meets a stockbroker who offers him an opportunity that he seizes to try and land a job in finance despite his atypical profile. Through courage and determination, he manages to overcome the obstacles and not only to pull through, but also to earn a very good living and to find happiness… (all that against a background of melodramatic music, of course).
But let’s return to our scene. Chris Gardner’s son on screen (who is also Will Smith’s son off screen) is taking a shot with a basketball shouting with the enthusiasm of a five-year-old kid that he is “going pro”. Being reasonable, his father starts by bringing him down to earth: “You’ll excel at a lot of things. Just not this. I don’t want you out here shooting this ball around all day and night.” Then, seeing how disappointed his son is, he changes his tune:
“Don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something. Not even me. […] You got a dream, you’ve gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.”
Like him, I really think we need to believe in ourselves to give ourselves every chance of building a genuinely ambitious project. When you want to get somewhere, it is essential not to listen to doomsayers and advice-givers who demoralise you while claiming to want what is best for you. When we seek to surpass our limits, like this kid who wants to become a professional basketballer, we inevitably incur the disapproval of all those who have never dared to surpass theirs. It is then fundamental to fight against the prevailing tide of pessimism and not to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the toxic comments. By “protecting our dream”, we give ourselves the means to make it exist in full, while remaining focused on our goal.
To lead a project to success, the role of the manager is also to protect the determination of his or her team, without allowing negativism to get the upper hand. He or she must fire each of them with the motivation necessary for progressing imperturbably, even if the situation appears risky. As Mark Twain put it so well: “They didn’t know it was impossible, so they did it.”. QED.
And how about you, how do you manage to protect your ambition and the ambitions of your teams?
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