July 26, 2012

Learn from Them

We live in an interesting time. We may work in environments which feature people from several generations. This poses challenges and opportunities. Millennials can learn from older stakeholders. Leadership can gain fresh perspective from younger colleagues who appear fearless in an era when adaptability seems effortless to them.

I have the unique privilege of working with leaders of all ages from around the world. They often need to collaborate virtually across sectors and experience demographic, geographic and language differences yet share one trait which is a desire to learn.

Too Soon Old

This is a poem attributed to a man named Dave Griffith. Some have claimed a dying man in a nursing home wrote it. What's important is what we learn from it.

What do you see nurses? What do you see?
What are you thinking, when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, not very wise
Uncertain of habit with faraway eyes
Who dribbles his food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, I do wish you'd try

Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing sock or shoe
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will
With bathing and feeding the long day to fill
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse you're not looking at me

I'll tell you who I am as I sit here so still
As I do at your bidding as I eat at your will
I'm a small child of ten with a father and mother
Brothers and sisters who love one another
A young boy of sixteen with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now a lover he'll meet

A groom soon at twenty my heart gives a leap
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep
At twenty-five now I have young of my own
Who need me to guide and a secure happy home
A man of thirty my young now grown fast
Bound to each other with ties that should last

At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone
But my woman is beside me to see I don't mourn
At fifty, once more, babies play 'round my knee
Again, we know children my loved one and me
Dark days are upon me, my wife is now dead
I look at the future, I shudder with dread

For my young are all rearing young of their own
And I think of the years and the love that I've known
I'm now an old man and nature is cruel
It's jest to make old age look like a fool
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigour depart
There is now a stone where I once had a heart

But inside this old carcass a young man still dwells
And now and again my battered heart swells
I remember the joys I remember the pain
And I'm loving and living life over again
I think of the years, all too few gone too fast
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last

So open your eyes people, open and see
Not a cranky old man, look closer, see me

Perhaps this may lend more insight and compassion for ourselves and those around us in business and in life.

Kneale Mann

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