A version of this post originally appeared on The Student Branding Blog, March 1, 2010. I’m reposting it here today because today is the last day of my first semester long course in personal branding for MBA students at UNR.
There is no book that I have recommended more than Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.” It’s a bit abstract, however, abstract thinking is an important skill to develop and I would encourage you to struggle through it.
The fifth discipline is systems thinking. Systems thinking is the ability to “see the big picture,” to understand cause and effect, and to know how to take actions today that will produce significant and lasting results now and in the future. I firmly believe that anyone who masters the discipline of systems thinking will be a much better leader than someone who only sees their situations as snapshots.
My copy of Senge’s book was given to me in 1994 by my mentor, Mary A. Newman. Mary was one of the professors I met during my master’s degree studies. Not only did Mary turn me on to systems thinking, she was also the one that encouraged me to go on and get my Ph.D. – something I had never even considered doing before I met her.
I did not know it in 1994, but I see clearly now that Mary helped change the trajectory of my life. If I had never met Mary, I am certain that I would not be writing the blog post you are reading right now. Before I met Mary, I never considered that professors could be friends with their students. Now that I am a professor myself, I count several of my former students as good friends. Mary and I have been friends now for over 16 years.
We can only see how people changed our lives by looking in our rear-view mirrors. When it becomes clear to you that someone had a profound effect on your life, make sure to take the time to find them and thank them.
Always be aware of how things you do for others in the course of your life might seem small at the time but could end up having a huge impact. When you give yourself to others simply for the opportunity to help them in some small way, you become truly remarkable.
Don’t miss the big picture. If you want to have a remarkable brand a year from now, you have to give yourself permission to behave like a remarkable person today. Seeing your personal big picture is hard enough; assuming responsibility for changing it requires real courage and wisdom.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!