What goes through your mind as we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday? Being involved in LIFE Leadership I tend to think of words that start with an F like Friends, Family, Food, or Football. But, most of all I like to think about Freedom. How did our Freedom come about? Have we forgotten, perhaps, the most important thing, ‘The Pursuit of a Dream’?
Pursuit is an action. It’s defined as a striving for, or a quest after something. I believe there are two parts to striving. In some cases it’s striving to get away from a negative situation. We want to see a personal situation change. Today we see the majority of people struggling to change a financial situation. On the other hand we see people in the pursuit of something to improve their situation. Either way we must be moved to action. Lessons about the pursuit of a dream can be learned from looking through history. However, there is no other time in the world’s history where people are seeing the need to ignite the passions to ignite people’s pursuit of a dream than now. But, by examining the past we can find endless examples of those in pursuit of a dream because of an oppressive situation. We find that when leaders became involved in moving from an intolerable situation, they created the necessary changes that are today recognized as history altering events.
An early example of leader’s in pursuit of a dream is the Biblical story of Ezra and Nehemiah. They lost Jerusalem to plunder and were led to slavery. They were however, given a chance to rebuild the temple and walls of Jerusalem. Like most leader’s, they were not aware of the long - term impact on their actions. They were faced with a very oppressive situation but their pursuit of a dream to restore their homeland moved them to action. From the study of Ezra and Nehemiah we can learn numerous leadership lessons. Because of the pursuit of a dream they faced fear, conflict, and discouragement. However, their pursuit of a dream to restore their homeland resulted in problem solving, planning, and teamwork. History is relentless in how it repeats itself. My first thought is “Are we now so slow to learn the lessons from the past?” Or, “Are we just oblivious to God’s providence?”
The great poet Virgil wrote about the founding of the Roman Empire in the ‘Aeneid’. The story tells about Romulus and Remus who left Troy right before it fell to the Greeks. They were descendents of Trojan heroes and established Rome in the middle of fertile farming lands in Italy. These heroes were in the pursuit of a dream. They had the courage to leave the oppressive forces of Greece. They began to instill the leadership qualities of hard work, discipline, endurance, and virtue, and as a result established the Roman Empire. Pliny, Seneca, Cicero, Polybius, and Virgil wrote about this history. Because of the pursuit of a dream, the founders of America used that written material to establish the longest lasting republic in history in the United States.
There is an obvious cycle from oppression leading to freedom. People respond when situations become intolerable. It appears that the pursuit of a dream to change their conditions leads people to action. Another example is when the Greek scholars fled from Constantinople in 1453. They carried with them the wisdom from Greek and Latin antiquity. The result of this new information accelerated the growth of commerce and culture throughout Europe. Familiar names like Michelangelo, Raphael, Copernicus, Shakespeare, and Isaac Newton produced unsurpassed science, beauty, poetry, and art.
People began to expect religious freedoms that came from the Reformation and Renaissance but it appears that the fluctuating cycles of history continue unabated. Political powers began to infringe upon the religious freedoms of people again. The Puritans and the Separatists began to cry for freedom. In 1604, ministers and non – conformists began to be silenced and exiled. The pursuit of a dream of religious liberty became stronger. William Bradford observed, “The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.” Immigration to Holland began. As persecutions continued, the Puritans fled to New England in the Pursuit of a Dream. These events led to the celebration of Thanksgiving.
Today we are now seeing a subtle type of bondage. We are losing economic freedom. We are seeing a loss of private property. People are feeling the bondage economically with over an $11 Trillion in home - owner debt. The Federal Reserve Board has become the largest purchaser of U.S. Treasury debt, effectively placing the U.S. Government in bankruptcy. James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees – Mogg wrote, “Debt cannot go on compounding faster than out put forever.” How many of us see our friends and family under financial stress and hardship? Our society appears to be lacking hope of a better life. It appears that complacency has become normal behavior. Today’s oppressive forces go undetected like frogs in a pot of boiling water.
The need for leaders in pursuit of a dream has surfaced again. The ancient Chinese proverb reads: “Last night I thought over a thousand plans, but this morning I went my old way.” Settled habits and addiction to the familiar will smother the dreams and ideas of the night. The pursuit of a dream and the hope it brings, once again needs to be restored. Clayton M. Christensen, is the Kim B. Clark Professor at Harvard Business School writes, “The truth was that having a house wasn’t what really motivated them. It was the building of it, and how they felt about their own contribution, that they found satisfying. I had thought the destination was what was important, but it turned out it was the journey.”
In the past, oppressive forces came and stole freedom. Unsuspecting leaders emerged who had an impact that they never would have perceived. Educator Ken Robinson wrote, “Current systems of education were not designed to meet the challenges we now face. ”Imagine…what can be?“ A leadership system that links business and culture and incentivizes the awakening of a dream.” Books like best selling author Chris Brady’s ‘PAILS’ and CD’s like ‘The Ant and the Elephant, Winning the Civil War’ from leadership expert Orrin Woodward are waking people up to the reality that living a fulfilling life comes from the pursuit of a dream. Is your situation or even the situation of the country worthy of the pursuit of a dream? What can be? Happy Thanksgiving, George Guzzardo