I recently came across an old story about a pencil and a pencil maker. In it, the Pencil Maker explained to the pencil, before putting it in the box, that there were five things the pencil needed to know to fulfill its purpose. It went something like this:

1.  You must allow yourself to be held in Someone’s hand if you want to do great things.

2.  You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.

3.  You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.

4.  The most important part of you is what’s inside.

5.  You must leave your mark on every surface.

How many of us glide through life on our self-directed path, avoiding discomfort, denying mistakes, judging others and trying not to stir the waters?  What a cultural revolution we could start – what passion for life and impact on the world we could have – if we simply thought of ourselves like pencils!

If we want to do great things, we need first to understand the greatness of the world around us. We are each one tiny element of a creation that spans much farther than our finite minds can comprehend.  To make a difference in this world, we need to respect its greatness, empathize with its needs and explore how the gifts within us can help serve them.

Iron sharpens iron, but the sound can be wretched. Pain isn’t fun, but without it, complacency sets in; and nothing great comes from complacency.  If you are in – or recovering from – a period of pain, explore how that pain has made you stronger. You will very likely need to tap into that strength in the future, either for yourself or for someone else. Even a pencil broken in half can still be sharpened and used again.

I’m amazed at how so many people are so resistant to utter the simple words, “I am sorry.”  These three words, spoken in sincerity, can heal wounds and undo wrongs. As a parent, apologizing for a harshly spoken word to a child can build trust and teach them the art of forgiveness.  In the business world, the way we own up to and manage mistakes can actually strengthen a customer’s loyalty to us (see more on mistakes).

Many of us know that we have untapped potential. There is greatness in each of us. Give voice to that greatness; explore the passion of it and where it could lead you. Understand your own strengths and find a way to use them to make a difference in the lives of others. That is success!

If you just want to watch the game, stay home. If you’re just playing around, stay off the court. If you’re going to play, play to win. Make a difference in this world! Let the world benefit from what you have to offer it. Leave your mark!

This entry was posted on Monday, June 28th, 2010 at 1:41 am and is filed under Effectiveness, S.H.A.P.E.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.