“You gotta be true to your sixteen-year-old self.” – Lesley Gore (1946–2015)
Ever since I found this picture of me as an employee of the McDonald’s in Blue Springs Missouri back in 1984, I have been thinking about my sixteen-year-old self and what I was dreaming about back then. Where I thought I was going. Who I thought I would become. What I thought my life would be like.
My life from this picture taken at age sixteen has been working in my chosen profession: the restaurant industry. And it has changed my life in so many wonderful and profound ways. It created opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have dared to dream about back then. At age 16, I was excited. I was passionate. I was dreaming. I felt connected. I knew I wanted more of all those feelings.
And here I am. 36 years later and I am still here. Still excited. Still passionate. Still dreaming, and hopefully a bit more focused. I consider it my life’s work to create opportunities for others and pay forward the generous investment many different leaders have made in my development over the years. And that work has been very fulfilling.
But yet something is gnawing at me since reading that quote from Lesley Gore, “You gotta be true to your sixteen-year-old self.”, which I heard quoted by RUSH drummer Neil Peart in his excellent book “Far and Wide: Bring That Horizon To Me”. I am still processing what being true to my sixteen-year-old self would look like in the most completely authentic way possible. I’m challenging myself on if I am really being as true as possible to who I was in 1984. Not that I haven’t grown, or that anyone shouldn’t grow. We should grow. But there is something about the ethos of who we were at 16 that is powerful. Our DNA doesn’t change. We are who we are. I want to be more of who I was and who I am. The challenge is to figure out where I’ve settled. Where have I walked away when I should have stayed? What does success look like now?
While I am not totally sure what that looks like I am committed to finding out. I see it as being a combination of what I am doing now, creating culture, inspiring greatness, and creating opportunities for young leaders, but maybe with more reach and intentionality. What that looks like, I am not completely sure, but I am getting closer to figuring it out. But I also realize that it is a journey, not a destination.
I do know that I have the same love for the restaurant business that I did when I started at McDonald’s in 1984 at the age of sixteen, and I know that this space is where I was meant to be. I hope to keep inspiring leaders everywhere to reach their true potential, to live in their strengths, and to inspire greatness.
Here’s to the challenge of being true to who we are, and who we’ve always been, and celebrating wherever that journey leads for each of us. Above all, be true to your sixteen-year old self.