(Cleaning tables can save your home and lollipops can change your life).
From WBro Damien of Lodge Devotion
Recently I was not a happy man. It was 8 pm and I was at Ringwood Masonic Centre scrubbing years of grime from table tops. A regular hirer had complained of their condition and the sales person in me thought it would be very powerful to say I had personally cleaned them rather than having delegated this job to our cleaner. But a short job turned into a very long one, it was late, I was tired, dinner overdue, and I was fed up after a very long day. Grump! Gripe! Then I realized what I was doing. Epiphany! I wasn’t cleaning tables at all. What I was actually doing was saving a Masonic Centre. (We’ve since issued over $6K of invoices to that hirer). I was creating the conditions for success and at that moment, it meant scrubbing tables. Success often means identifying then doing small things.
The following weekend, WBro David Y called me after having to move all the tables at the Centre one Sunday morning – likewise he wasn’t moving tables, he was also saving a Masonic Centre. The 20 volunteers at Collingwood Masonic Centre’s January working bee might have been painting, repairing, sweeping, cleaning – but likewise what they were actually doing was saving a Masonic centre – just like the quiet guys who approve online banking accounts, keep the books, clean the toilets, sweep the yard.
It’s often the small things we do which have a large impact. It’s nice to talk about multimillion dollar donations, but often it is the phone calls, scrubbing table tops, moving tables, taking time to make sure people are okay and happy (and offering help) which really make the difference. They say don’t sweat the small stuff, but it’s often the small stuff that makes the difference between an acceptable or an outstanding result, between people feeling okay about you, or truly feeling that you have inspired them or that you being in their life enriches it.
Imagine a person laying bricks. Ask them what they are doing and they might say, “um, I’m laying bricks you idiot, can’t you see ?” Others might respond “I’m building a wall” while yet others doing the same task might realize what they are really doing and say “I’m building a Cathedral”. It’s all the same – brick laying, but realizing what that small action will achieve can motivate you to keep the seemingly monotonous task of brick laying happily underway for years. That’s “Having Vision”. “Bricks’ might be washing the dishes, phone calls, offers of help to others, lending someone $5 or simply listening to them when they need an ear. Sharing “A Vision” can motivate others to start laying bricks with you.
Lodges are the same. Cooking a meal for rehearsal is not cooking – its creating the situation for fellowship over a roast or curry. Calling your brethren every few weeks is not making phone calls – it’s about making them feel valued and connected. Truly, the telephone is the best working tool of many Freemasons. Sending summons out is not paperwork – its calling brothers together allowing the time for fellowship and future building. Giving them jobs to do is about making them feel included, valued, trusted and that they have a purpose. Asking them what they want is not about lip service but about trying to build a lodge which meets their needs…. The small stuff can make a big difference.
So where does the TOFU sit in this diet? TOFU is an acronym for “Take Ownership, Follow Up.” It’s pretty self explanatory. In a Masonic context, its realizing your lodge is YOUR LODGE. You own it and you are responsible for it. All members are. At the initiation of Bro James B, his Grandfather WBro Jim spoke of a lodges’ duty to candidates to look after and develop them, accept them and take them under your Masonic wing. Who does that? The Master, Secretary, Mentor? Yes, but every brother needs to take ownership for follow up on new and old members alike. Truly successfully lodges like ours have a culture of friendship and caring which extends, but not intrudes, beyond the lodge room into our daily lives. We are not perfect at it and need to keep working on it, but we do much better than many others. We need to think and act like brothers by taking responsibly for a portion of the “Masonic Experience” each brother AND his family has.
Whether at work, in your family, in lodge, at our Masonic centre and all the actives you engage in, especially in groups, practice some TOFU – take ownership and followup. If you don’t there might be no-one else who does, and if many do and co-operate in that – all the better. That’s leadership and it can come from anyone in the lodge.
I recently listened to a TED Talk podcast on “Disruptive Leadership”. There were several presenters but the most memorable story came from Drew Dudley speaking on "Leading with Lollipops". He asserts that many do not see themselves as leaders and he had “ come to realize that we have made leadership into something bigger than us. We've made it about changing the world. And I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do, that we've convinced ourselves that those are the only things worth celebrating. And we start to devalue the things that we can do every day.” Dudley then proceeded to tell a very memorable and funny story – if you want to skip forward, you can hear it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVCBrkrFrBE#t=41 - its better listened to than reading my summary below.
On Drew Dudley’s last day of University, a girl came up to him saying she remembered the first time she met him, four years earlier. The day before she started university she was terrified and burst into tears convinced she wasn't ready for university. Her parents said let’s go to registration the next day, and “if at any point you feel as if you can't do this, that's fine. Just tell us, we will take you home. We love you no matter what.” They go the next day and she “ looked around and I just knew I couldn't do it. I knew I wasn't ready. I knew I had to quit” when Drew Dudley walked out of the student union building wearing the stupidest hat she have ever seen. He was promoting a charity and had a bucket full of lollipops, handing them out and talking to people about the charity. A summarized transcript of his story follows is below.
“…you (Dudley) got to me (the girl) and you just stopped. And you stared. It was creepy. And then you looked at the guy next to me and you smiled. And you reached in your bucket, you pulled out a lollipop and you held it out to him saying you need to give a lollipop the beautiful woman standing beside you”. She said, she’d never seen anyone get more embarrassed in her life. He turned beet red and he wouldn't even look at her. He just held the lollipop out and she felt so bad for him that she took it. “And as soon as I did, you got this incredibly severe look on your face and you looked at my mom and my dad and you said, look at that. LOOK AT THAT! First day away home and already she's taking candy from a stranger! Everybody lost it, 20 feet every direction everyone started to howl. And I know this is cheesy, and I don't know why I'm telling you this, but in that moment when everyone was laughing, I knew that I shouldn't quit. I knew that I was where I was supposed to be and I knew that I was home. And I haven't spoken to you once in the four years since that day. But I heard that you were leaving. And I had to come up and tell you that you've been an incredibly important person in my life and I'm going to miss you. Good luck.” Walking away she turns and smiles saying ”you should probably know this, too. I'm still dating that guy four years later.” He later got an invitation to their wedding.
What a powerful difference he made to this woman’s life with a simple lollipop and a few words. In that act he influences her life so distinctly that she attended university and met her husband. But here’s the thing – he cannot remember this transformative moment. It was a small forgotten thing in his life which changed someone else’s.
No doubt many readers have likewise changed someone’s life without knowing it.
Dudly conclusion was simple. You can make others lives better by small things you say and do. You often won’t remember them, but the object of your benevolence will. You might change their lives. Finally, he says we need to realize what powerful agents we can be, but that as long as we make leadership something “bigger than us, as long as we keep leadership something beyond us, as long as we make it about changing the world, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day from ourselves and from each other.” And if we come to understand leadership as small acts, we can redefine it, and in doing so “ I think we can change everything. And it's a simple idea but I don't think it's a small one.”