We live in a world where we are made to believe it is about “me, myself and I.” If you spend more than a few seconds on social media, you will see one guru after another telling you that YOU can make it happen and from a marketing perspective, it’s brilliant.
Tell a selfish world that it’s all about them and they become rich by continuing that selfishness and that makes for a profitable “self-help” business.
But the truth is not as sexy and it certainly won’t make me rich.
No one achieves anything alone.
Of course hard work, determination and grit matters but leaders must recognize that whatever they have achieved was made possible from others. It is through this recognition, that leaders can then ensure they play a role in helping others achieve their dreams.
I have had a dream career and it wasn’t even a dream because I never dreamed of any of it.
I would have never entered law enforcement if it wasn’t for a group of Ft. Smith (AR) police officers that let a 19 year old kid “ride-along.” Michael Harrell, who eventually became the Chief of Patrol for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, was one of those officers. He was encouraging, kind and answered every dumb question I posed.
I have trained and consulted agencies for the last 25 years and it would have never happened if Retired Tulsa Police Sergeant Ollie Harris didn’t give a 25-year-old kid a chance to teach driver training and thus become an instructor to police officers in my state and city. While Ollie set me on the path of training, it was then Police One Editor Doug Wylie and Law Officer Editor Dale Stockton that took my local achievements and presented them to the world.
I didn’t ask for any of it and these men simply lifted me up into their world while asking nothing in return (except a few articles).
I achieved a rank in the profession that few do and I certainly did not aspire to be at a commander level but I would have never done that without three men.
Sergeant Mark Sherwood mentored me for months prior to the sergeant test and with just five years of service, he could have certainly had me pay more dues but he saw something I didn’t and pushed me to be better.
As I was sitting on a captain promotional list, I had an enemy in city hall. My union involvement had not exactly made me the first choice for the rank, even though I was on top of the list and it was Chief Dave Been that ignored his marching orders and promoted me. When I asked him why he took a risk in his career for me, he simply said that “it was the right thing to do.”
The training captain was where I figured I would spend the rest of my career and it wasn’t until Chief Chuck Jordan asked me if I was going to test for major. I told him I was happy where I was and he told me to take it…so I did. Chuck didn’t have to stop in my office that morning and he didn’t have to give me that advice but he did and my next rank was because of him.
I had plenty of achievements in my career and got the credit for some of them but none of them would have happened without others. Instructors like Dan Fuller, Jeff Downs, Dan Ward, John Martin, and Jack Hoehner were always there to do what was asked. I led several huge projects but that wouldn’t be possible without Matt Rose, Bryan Bryden, Will Dalsing and many more others.
Nationally, I co-founded Below 100 and while that is mainstream in the profession today, it would have never happened on the scale it did without Major Julie Harris. I was working for her at the time and when she found out about my involvement, she gave me paid time to teach the train the trainer course to over 3000 trainers in a year.
While I was blessed to have had so many hands lifting and guiding me, none of that could have been achieved without my family. From my father and mother supporting me and laying a foundation for success to my wife and kids that were always championing my crazy ideas and adventures, my life and career has been what it is because of them.
Who Are You Helping
I am realist about the remaining years of my life. Of course I intend to continue many of the things I do now and I will still be in classrooms pushing others to lead courageously but most of my life (and achievements) are behind me.
In the time I have remaining, I would be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of what is right in front of me. The opportunity to do what others have done for me over the last three decades.
Legacy and change isn’t built on what we accomplish but rather what we leave behind. Those I previously mentioned are all successful but their success has been exponentially enhanced by their investment in me and in turn, my investment in others is an extension of them.
This is legacy building and I encourage everyone to take a serious examination of who helped you and how you can help others.
Until next time…Lead On & Stay Courageous
Dr. Travis Yates retired as a commander with a large municipal police department after 30 years of service. He is the author of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide for Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His risk management and leadership seminars have been taught to thousands of professionals across the world. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Leadership and the CEO of the Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.