Unlearning Past Lessons to Reach Future Growth... After three and a half years with a large accounting firm, I received a promotion to Manager. My first order of business was going to our training facility outside Chicago, where I joined the 500+ others who had been promoted worldwide that year. We attended teaching sessions lead by some of the brightest minds in business, academia and industry. They helped us realize that despite any talents making us worthy of promotion, we all had many lessons to learn, and some lessons to unlearn. 

I vividly remember one speaker who convinced us to not only change how we do things, but how we see things. He showed on a giant screen a large box that included smaller boxes, each containing a letter A, B or C. He then said that our goal was to draw three lines, one connecting Box A to A, one connecting B to B and one connecting C to C. We had two rules: (1) the lines could not cross another line; and (2) the lines must stay inside the box. 

The speaker said that if we had seen the puzzle before, we must lay down our pens and remain quiet. You can bet that an old country boy from North Mississippi like me had never seen anything like that. After 2-3 minutes, he asked if anyone had solved the puzzle. No one raised their hand (I was so relieved it wasn’t just me). With a marker on the big screen, he drew the first line for us, connecting Box B to B. Immediately we heard a few loudly whisper, “Ahh, now I get it.” They had to lay down their pens and remain quiet. After drawing the second line, from box C to C, quite a few more had epiphany moments (but not me). By the time he started the third line, the rest of us either knew the answer, or pretended we did, and anxiously waited to hear his lessons on leadership. 

He first explained that being promoted to manager was more about future potential than it was past performance. In the future, we must begin discovering new opportunities that our current way of seeing things was hindering. We had all grown up learning that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but straight lines would not have solved our problem above. Second, we had learned that you never start a puzzle until you can envision the final solution, but no one could envision that solution without having one of the lines drawn for them. Finally, we had learned that “doing things in order” meant we always start with A, then go to B, then to C, but our puzzle was best solved by starting with B or C, and doing A last. 

Over those next two weeks, we learned many more lessons to help us become better leaders for our clients and our firm, and it all began with how we see things. In the days ahead, we’ll talk more about those lessons because many are like lessons Jesus taught his disciples. As we approach the upcoming General Conference, please join me in praying that all of us “see” things like Jesus and that decisions made, and any left un-made, will perfectly align with God’s will for us as the Church. We’ll see you Sunday. 

In the grace and peace of Christ: Ed, Will and the First UMC Family