Adjusting the Sails

Photo Credit: PralineB Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: PralineB Flickr via Compfight cc

One of my favorite John Maxwell quotes is this: The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.

The reason I like this quote is that it captures a fundamental behavior that most people exhibit. Whether they are optimists or pessimists, non-leaders only react to a situation, whereas leaders act on it and can even turn seemingly hopeless predicaments around to their advantage.

In my more than 2 decades of being in different types of organizations, I have observed that all of them have their share of whiners, fans, and leaders. And true to the Pareto Principle, only 20% belong to the latter group.

Whiners are people who complain about anything. In a small group tasked to do an activity, for example, they complain about the rules, about the time limit, about the difficulty of the situation, and so on.  

In society, whiners complain about the politicians, religion, the weather, and so on, but they do little else. These are the people who seem to live their lives 24/7 on Facebook and Twitter. You see them ranting about this or that, or arguing with someone else almost every hour.

Whiners are also the masters of blame. They point their fingers left and right, and front and back. Everything is everyone else’s fault. “There are killings left and right. This is your fault Dutertards! Trump won. This is your fault evangelicals and protestants!”

In the meantime, one has to wonder what else they are doing with their lives besides being miserable on social media — which they self-righteously think is actually doing something to help the groups they think they are fighting for.

The fans are people who clap and cheer, but again also do little else. They loudly agree with what the leader says, but when they are asked to produce, they find an excuse to not do it, or they perform poorly. These are also times when they turn into whiners, complaining about this or that and giving different reasons why they cannot come up with the expected results.

Leaders are few because they are people who are willing to buckle down and do the hard work. And let’s face it, who wants to do the hard work, right? But leaders roll up their sleeves and do it anyway because they know what matters is not your talk but your walk. What matters is not just what comes out of your mouth, but what comes out of your actions. In fact, many leaders are too busy doing what needs to be done that they have little time for social media and all of the drama that goes with it.

A couple of weeks back, I had a chance to reconnect with Rev. Arnel Tan who was the officiating minister in a child dedication where my wife was the ninang (godmother). He is an old friend whom I have known since my teens. He is also a fellow columnist in Sunstar. We had a brief laugh over a mixup that happened a few weeks back. Someone at the proofreading or layout department was probably too stressed or overworked that he or she ran my column with Arnel’s name and photo. It was good that it wasn’t any of my anti-religion articles or Arnel might have gotten into hot water for “writing” such a piece.

When I submitted the article the following week, I included a reminder for the editorial team to use the photo of the bald guy.

Anyway, Arnel told me something interesting they have going on in the church. He told me that on certain days, I think it was Thursday and Friday, they open the church for medical missions and feeding programs. They have volunteer doctors and nurses over to help anyone who comes into the building needing help.

What was particularly interesting for me was when Arnel mentioned that he explicitly told his junior pastors, “When people come in, do not try to convert them and make them protestants. Just help them with what they need.” This, I think, is a very enlightened approach to the diverse mix of religions and cultures we have in our city.

This is one leader we have who knows how to adjust the sails.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

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