On Leadership, Passion, and Gluttony: The Courage to Change

Beer Diver

For better and for worse, I am an immoderate person, with an appetite for life that is at once passionate and gluttonous.

Once I commit to something, I am “all-in” and have little use for moderation.

Passion and Gluttony

In some areas of my life this has served me well. For example. the nose-to-the-grindstone focus with which I pursued my graduate degree is a time when I benefited from my passionate behaviors. But in other areas of my life, my immoderation brought out the worst in me. For many years, especially during the time when I was on the U.S. High Diving Team, I drank way too much.

Passion and gluttony, the bedfellows of immoderation, brought out the little devil in me.

Heavy Drinking and SportsThe lifestyle I led as an extreme athlete was conveniently conducive to my immoderate ways.  For over 7 years I would hurl myself off a small platform over 100-feet in the air. I loved and lived for those potent self-generating drugs adrenaline and dopamine.

Few high divers actually like doing the high dives, but every high diver loves the high that it produces. We seek it out…everywhere we can. By day, during those raucous years, I was an All-American high diver. But at night, I was a low-dow barfly.

In the towns where my teammates and I performed, everyone seemed to want to buy us drinks.

And we graciously drank what they poured.

Over time, though, the balance between goodie-two-shoes athlete and falling-down drunktilted off the bar stool.

In a word: I needed help…

Enter a Man Named “O.K.”

Men, I think, need male mentors. Mine came in the form of a person named O.K. (Even today I can’t tell you what O.K.’s initials stood for, but that’s okay with me.) What matters more is what O.K. himself stood for:

  • Rigorous Honesty
  • Personal Fidelity
  • Perpetual Gratitude

He modeled all of these characteristics, and in the process, I like to think, helped bring them out in me. I met O.K. about 9 months after I entered a program to stop drinking. I liked the way he made me feel welcomedin a room full of strangers. He’d ask me how I was doing, and seemed genuinely interested in my well-being.

So, I asked him to be my sponsor in the program…

And as it turns out, this was a wise choice!

It turned out that O.K. was sponsoring about 40 other men just like me.

Leadership Model

O.K. did what great mentors do; he helped me come to terms with who I am, warts and all. He helped me learn to hold myself accountable to the person I was destined to become, and to honor my dreams. He helped me develop a spiritual identity, and to take stock in all of the things for which I should be grateful.

In short, O.K. helped me move away from my Peter Pan-like perpetual adolescence so that I could become a man.

Behavioral Excellence 

O.K. was simply a great man. He was there for me in big ways and in small. Four years ago, for example, the night before I had prostate cancer surgery, it was O.K. who stayed with me and calmed my nerves.

His own father had also had prostate cancer surgery, and at the same hospital, 4o years prior.

He shared with me that the experience he had mentoring me had become an opening to a much better relationship between him and his dad. Somehow hearing that story was comforting to me:

That cancer could actually result in something good.

Lifelong Excellence

Yep, O.K. did what mentors do; they share their story and in the process help you develop and improve your own. Change, for most human beings, is seriously uncomfortable, and thus mostly avoided. But change we must if we are to evolve and grow.

Because of this, I am still an immoderate person.

Today, though, because of O.K., I direct my immoderation towards healthy things like being a good dad, husband, and friend. And that’s a change for the better. I had to willingly redirect my passion and intemperance to ward a greater goal. And to do this , it took a great mentor and a lot of courage.

Recently, after some complications associated with a stent in his heart, O.K., my friend and mentor, passed away. Though deeply sad, I am filled with gratitudefor having known such a beautiful human being.

The best I can do is to honor his life by trying to be a mentor to others by sharing my story.

So, do you have struggles in life that impact your efficacy as a leader, associate, or friend? Are you in need of a mentor? What are you doing to couple with another, or seek out help? Conversely, do you have something to offer others in need? What can you do to make others’ lives a little more “O.K?” I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Bill Treasurer
Bill Treasurer is Chief Encouragement Officer at Giant Leap Consulting, Inc.
He serves his clients with courage-building resources that reach the bottom-line
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Image Sources:  tommyland

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8 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for going out on a limb and sharing such a deep and personal part of your life!…how can I not share this with the world ?…we all need these bitter sweet moments to remind us of the true meaning of life….just remember that O.K. will still be mentoring,even if no one is aware ! Not only are you passing it along,he will be by your side with even more strength and power than he had while here…very inspiring !

    • Thanks for your kind words Dee Dee. Thanks too for sharing this post with others. Yesterday I attended OK’s memorial service in Atlanta. It was a VERY well attended service…deservedly so!

  2. I loved this article – so personal and passionate! And then I read your title “Chief Encouragement Officer” and I thought “how perfect and creative.” Thank you so much for starting my Monday with gratitude for all those that have mentored me and renewed my desire to mentor others. Wonderful article!

    • Thanks Mari. Starting the day with gratitude is a great way to ensure a good day. I sometimes forget to do so, though. Encouragement from people like you helps me remember. I guess that makes you a CEO (chief encouragement officer) too!

  3. Hello Bill,

    What a wonderful story filled with deep reflection and authentic openness and honesty in disclosing how at very personal time in your life you chose a mentor who put you on the path to self-awareness and who challenged you to grow up. You were blessed when O. K. came into your life and his wise mentoring and friendship clearly changed your life. I am deeply sorry to hear of his passing but his legacy will remain alive through the lives of the many people he helped and loved. I agree that all men need someone like him in their lives although he seems so exceptional, most of us would settle for someone reasonably close to him and his wisdom. Sheldon Kopp used to say that the only way we can really help others is by “telling our tales” and I think O.K. would approve. From reading your story, I have no doubt that you are carrying on his mentoring and character based legacy. Your love and gratitude is inspiring. My best wishes for you in the future and thank you for the post with all its learnings.

    Doug

    • Hi Doug, thank you so much for your kind comments. I attended OK’s memorial service yesterday in Atlanta. It was bittersweet.

      When ever anyone asked OK how he was doing, he’d always reply “I’m OK!” – which, of course, he really was.

      Yesterday one of OK’s other sponsees said to me, “We have to remember that OK lives in all of us men now, so we’re all OK.”

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post Doug. The comments have been very affirming.

      All the best to you!

      Bill T.

  4. Bill, you’ve shared an excellent post that points so clearly to the importance of self-awareness for leaders. Moreover, your post shows us how essential it is to accept the support of others in order to build that self-awareness that truly allows us to lead.

    Not long ago I worked with an executive who was also a competitive triathelete. His drive and work ethic were utterly off-the-charts, and it had served him well personally. As he rose to lead larger groups of people, the intolerance he displayed for “laziness and mediocrity” boomeranged on him in the form of the departure of some key players and important members of their staffs, too. No small number of his “style issues” arose from his inability to see that he was in fact a completely extraordinary person. When he saw himself more clearly, he could accept that other people weren’t lazy or “worthless,” to use his word, but that his own standards were so impossibly high that even he could never live up to them. By being so consistently hard, he had become brittle, and had paid a heavy price not only in his work relationships, but in his personal life as well.

    He did the hard work of repairing a lot of those work relationships, and even backed off of his self-recrimination. As his self-awareness grew, he became a stronger leader not by being relentless and hard, but by being flexible, resilient, and tough.

    Thanks for a post that reminded me to take a look in my own mirror, too.

  5. Hi Jonathan,

    I’m delighted that you enjoyed the post. I loved your story about the hyper-driven executive. I’ve worked with a few (mostly, but not exclusively) men like this in the past. They tend to judge others by the standards to which they hold themselves accountable, which is usually so high that even they don’t live up to. They stay in a perpetual state of disappointment with everyone and everything around them. It’s too bad that it takes things like departures of key players to serve as a wake-up call. The good news is, as you know, these significant events often become the conversion point, resulting in a new and better way of being at the far arch of the story.

    Thanks again for your kind reply!

    Bill T.

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