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Good Leaders: What one word would you tattoo on you?

The Thanksgiving table at the Batz House this year was overflowing with the word “grateful.”

Six years ago I wrote a blog about tattoos, wondering what “mark” would I consider branding myself with. Now, years later, I’m asking the same question slightly differently…if you could have a one-word tattoo anywhere on your body that best describes you, what would that word be?  I recall being mind-tied years ago. Today, I have an answer with conviction: Grateful. It’s my favorite word. (I’m still not sure about a tattoo.)

The danger of the season

Last week was Thanksgiving, the official holiday of “grateful.” But the rest of the year, it’s more than just a word. It’s an attitude that includes both serving and leading. Looking back on the first 54 years of my life and leadership, it’s the people who live, love, and work from a place that is “grateful,” that I admire the most. Mainly because we know that it’s not easy to be consistently grateful.

When I turned 50 (almost 5 years ago) I decided that I needed to find a place in my heart where I could live and lead from a place that is “grateful” every day. So now, I start each day with a meditation on the word grateful. At home, and on the road. It’s something I learned from my grandmother who lived to be 103.

Perhaps if I ate from this plate everyday, I would be less likely to forget that most of my struggles are silly.

The net effect is a feeling that I’m never alone. It seems as if 90% of what I’m grateful for are the good people in my life. The people who support, encourage, and help me be accountable for all of the goodness that we create together.

Grateful is not perfect

But this doesn’t mean that I get it right all the time. And grandma didn’t always get it right.

There are moments when I’m angry and selfish. Envious and greedy about my time, and my money. There are episodes when my faith stretches too thin for my fears and I do silly, embarrassing things. Sometimes the convergence of my challenges, my raw humanity, and my inner expectations collide in moments of bat shit crazy, where I humiliate myself. It’s silly, because 99% of the people on the planet would consider my struggles to be trivial. Eeegaahds.

But the centering phrase that helps me persist is, “Where is the goodness in this?” It’s a paraphrase to trigger my, “Why should I be grateful today?” response.

On Sunday after Thanksgiving, I helped my friends harvest trees at a Christmas tree farm in Wisconsin. What fun!

I find the goodness in my family and friends. I find the goodness in my colleagues who make my work light, easy, and joyful. I find the goodness in sore muscles from hard work and exercise. I find goodness in the miracle of airplane travel. And I find goodness in the daily struggle to role model goodness.

Good leaders live and work everyday as if it’s Thanksgiving, because they are grateful. And they know that grateful does not mean perfect, but they find the goodness in everything anyway.

Please share with me: what word would you tattoo on you, because it’s your favorite word?


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