How to Make Great Leaps

The Wisdom of Margaret Thatcher

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Let’s dive in…

I’m in the hallway outside a classroom at MIT’s Exec Ed building and a lady with purple hair is telling 60 business owners to play basketball.

Everyone makes a dribbling motion with their hands. She says, “That’s not playing basketball. You’re not shooting or driving into the paint.”

Suddenly everyone is running around, jumping, pretending to come off a pick, etc.

I’m frozen. I didn’t even make the dribbling motion. At first I feel awkward. I’m the only person not playing along. Why?

Then I think, “What am I some marionette that dances around to her orders?” Did I mention I have a problem with authority?

The moment passed but I didn’t really understand it until several weeks later when I was reading an anecdote about the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

In 1995, long after leaving office, she did an interview with a Swedish journalist. He had a gimmick of asking former world leaders to jump up in the air for a photograph (sounds familiar). Why? Who knows? Sweden is strange.

Thatcher refused saying, “I made great leaps, not small jumps in a studio.”

Bam, mic drop!

I wish I’d had a line like that for the basketball farce.

What I identified with was her refusal to demean herself or to dance to someone else’s tune.

After all she was the leader who famously responded to the idea that her government would do a “u-turn” by tacking back to the political middle: “You turn if you want to. The lady is not for turning.”

Again, mic drop.

She had authority, dignity, and honor that might have made her less flexible but served as a North Star and allowed her to make those “great leaps.”

I don’t claim to be any Margaret Thatcher but I can aspire.

In my view, we are too focused on personal revelation, grievance, and “being vulnerable” today. We don’t aspired to things beyond ourselves.

This isn’t partisan in any way. It was Kennedy who said “ask not what your country can do for you,” and called for us to put a man on the moon, “not because these things are easy, but because they are hard.”

It was Lincoln who asked us to act: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle….”

This is a far cry from our modern confessional and essentially narcissistic culture. Our leaders reflect that same problem.

After reading that anecdote, I kept thinking, what Thatcher would do if she had been confronted with a Trump?

I’d bet she’d say something like, “You’re very entertaining Mr. Trump; it’s just a shame you are terrible at running a country.”

Biden? “For God sakes, man. The retirement home is that way.” Fill in your own take downs.

I’d like to see a little more spine, clear vision, and a lot less confession and pandering to base instincts. I guess I’ll be waiting for a while.

BTW, after the basketball session, the purple haired lady taught us how to tell stories better. That part was good and informed the beginning of this post.

I guess I’m more flexible than I thought.

Keep growing,

Alan

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