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A bread-winner learns that winning is not about the bread

As a leader, what is it that’s precious to you?

One way people are dense is when they can’t find something precious that belongs to them: Their purpose.  Their mission.  Their genius. Without it they get stuck. Life starts to weigh them down. More than anything they want to start thriving again, but they’re so dense they don’t know how.

Case in point: Albert was stuck.

As the Chief Technology Officer for a Fortune 500 company Albert had led many successful innovations and made himself and the company quite a lot of money, but he was frustrated and irritable all the time. When I asked why he said, “I have a serious time management problem.”

For example, he said he spent all his time commuting. “And when I’m not commuting, I’m at the office, taking care of my executive management team.  Or I’m home, taking care of my kids. There’s never any time for me!” he complained.

I asked what would he do if he had all the time in the world? If he could go to a place where there were no responsibilities or distractions, no demands on him at all, how would he spend his time?

Al shook his head.  “I don’t know,” he said.  “Last weekend, my wife and kids were away.  Nobody needed me.  I had no idea what to do with myself!”


He reminded me of the story of the World’s Greatest Baker:

Once upon a time there was a baker who baked the most delicious goods in all the land.  One day the king tasted one of his flaky delights and said, “Who is the gifted artisan who made this pastry?  I must meet him.”
So the baker was summoned to the castle and the king complimented him on his gift for baking.  He said, “Baker, what is the secret to your extraordinary excellence at your skill?”
The baker said, “Well it’s very simple, King. Ever since I was a young child I was exposed to the craft of making baked goods.  I fell in love with baking.  It made me happy.  I loved how happy I felt when I was baking.  I loved how happy other people were, when they smelled what I was baking and when they tasted my creations.  Mastering the skill of baking spoke to my head and my logic.  But making people happy spoke to my heart and my soul.  And as I grew up I never stopped following that feeling. That is the secret of my mastery as a baker.”


After I finished, I let the story sink in. Al said, “I wish I could feel like that again.”

“You can,” I said.  I pointed out that there was a reason his family and his team needed him. No, it wasn’t that they needed him to serve them. That wasn’t it at all. They needed him to fall in love with his work again.  They needed to see him joyful and passionate in what he was doing.  Because they loved him, they wanted him to thrive.  So it wasn’t a matter of time management or being successful in leading high performance teams. It was a matter of finding his sense of purpose.

“Somewhere along the line my focus changed,” he admitted.

He recalled that he once had a passion for making people happy with technology – just like the baker with his bread. But over the years and promotions and growing responsibilities he had lost sight of his dream. He thought he had to make money. As he made more money he felt a greater responsibility to serve people.  But serving others, he learned, is not the same as making them happy. He wasn’t being a great leader. He wasn’t sure how to be a great leader or lead a high performance team. He wasn’t even making himself happy.

I told him that all leaders are dense in some areas that weighs them down and makes them blind to what they most want in life. Al had become a good bread-winner. But he’d forgotten his reason for making the bread.

The goal for Al and for anyone who feels dense today is to be more like the World’s Greatest Baker.

Lighten your heart a little bit.  Reflect on why you started doing what you do and remember what you loved about it. That’s your purpose. It’s your true genius. And if you can reconnect with it, you can start thriving again – and so can those around you.

Like to know more about how being “less dense” can work for you?  Go ahead…find your genius!


About Jack Skeen

Jack Skeen
Jack Skeen, founder of Skeen Leadership, has been coaching bright and successful leaders for close to two decades, spending thousands of hours addressing every imaginable leadership, business and life issue with wisdom and professionalism.

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