Room for Improvement

Walking into the corporate headquarters of the Jenesis Group, visiting for a day with my friend James Jensen, I was struck by a large sign in the foyer that asked, “What is the largest room in the world?” The sign then answered, “The Room for Improvement.”

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My friend James noticed my eye being drawn to the message on this large sign, and he kept his face trained on me as I read through the words and then broke into a grin. Then James laughed his big, “I really like life” laugh, his eyes twinkling like stars. At the bottom of the banner was the name, Ronald Jensen, 1930-2005.

This visit to the Jenesis Group was just a year after Ron’s untimely death, and my friend’s laughter was a mixture of his grief in missing his larger-than-life father and merriment in remembering the countless times his dad had spoken those exact words to him when he had just demonstrated to his dad how vast his “room for Improvement” was. Ron and his son James did not have an easy relationship, but they did have a beautiful one that was filled with love and great mutual admiration!

Close to a decade has passed since I spent that day with my friend James in Dallas, but I think of it often still. The largest room in the world: “The Room for Improvement.”

Leaders are learners. The good ones are. Every excellent leader I have the privilege of serving is pursuing an intentional plan for their growth and improvement. The best are the best because they have been relentless in getting better. They have a coach. They join a learning circle. They devour the writings and insights of others. They know just how much room they have to improve.

A man dear to my heart and whom I had the privilege of sharing a speaker’s platform with on several occasions – the late Charlie “Tremendous” Jones – always said that the two influences in our life that we can control are the books we read and the people we hang out with. Another colleague and friend, Orrin Woodward, who was himself a long-time protégé and friend of Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, says it this way. Pay attention to these three influences, “the books you read, the CD’s and podcasts you listen to and the friends you align with.” These are the great shapers of our future and destiny.

The greatest room in the world is the room for improvement. The greatest tools we have for our growth and improvement are the choices of great books to read, great ideas and encouragements to listen to, and positive, challenging friends that we walk through life with.

Often I say to groups of leaders I’m serving that we have a sacred duty to grow up. Great results, impactful leadership, and difference-making contributions come from mature, wise, resolute, humble, courageous men and women who have made the decision, day after day and year over year, to grow. They’ve relocated themselves from “The Room of Excuses” to “The Room for Improvement.”

Alternatively, many people dodge “The Room for Improvement” because it looks extremely challenging and often painful to live in that room. In truth, to live on earth is “extremely challenging and often painful.” Our very living carries this exact price tag. You know what I’m talking about. So here’s how I look at it: if I’m going to pay full fare either way – by dodging growth or by embracing it – then I may as well just go ahead on the growth path, which is where all the enduring rewards are, all the opportunities to make a difference, all the joy and all the satisfaction.

Looking back on 2014, what was one of the most impactful, positive, life- (and work) improving books you read? Who do you download and listen to regularly in order to keep a sharp edge on your growth as a human being? Or to be encouraged? Have you reached out lately and scheduled a cup of tea or coffee with the key friends or mentors that speak life into your life? Share with us what you are thinking, reading and doing for your growth and improvement. This way our influence on each other can grow even greater.

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