Black Belt Leader as Beginner: Part Ten

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — 

I took the one less traveled by, 

And that has made all the difference.” 

— Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken


Black Belt Leaders have learned that in any given situation we have the opportunity to either focus on our possibilities or our limitations. It’s up to us. This fact has never been clearer to me than when I was teaching a public two-day leadership program a few years ago. At the end of the first day, I was gathering my belongings when a student approached me with a big smile on her face. 

“I want you to know, Robert,” she said, glowingly, “that this is one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. It’s very inspiring!” We talked for a few minutes about her professional goals and the many opportunities that lay ahead of her. Then we bid each other good evening. 

Prior to the beginning of class the following week, I was standing at the chalkboard when this same student — the one who had been excited the week before — entered the room. Immediately, I could tell by her demeanor that she was not very happy. To start the class, I asked the group if there were any questions. To this, the formally enthusiastic student shot her hand into the air.

“You know, Robert,” she said adamantly, “those leaders you spoke of last week — Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, the Dalai Lama — they’re not like us. If you think they are, you don’t live in the real world. We could never be like them.” 

I had spoken on the first day of Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, and the Dalai Lama as leaders who focused on the possibilities. As “Black Belt Leaders in the Making,” what do you think happened to this woman? What would you say prompted her to lose faith?