Let Your Reach Exceed Your Grasp

There were thirty of us selected in Leadership Metrocrest, Class IV in what seems like a long time ago. We were given tee-shirts shouting Robert Browning’s famous quote: “Let your reach exceed your grasp.” I’m not sure how someone could come up with so few words that say so much. I was the odd-ball of the class of 30. When we took one of those leadership characteristics and style tests during the first class meeting, the test that places you in one of four quadrants, the outcome was funny. Well, at least everybody laughed when it was revealed that 29 were split fairly evenly into three quadrants. I was in the fourth quadrant. I don’t recall what the groupings meant, but I do remember the outcome.

Leadership comes in many forms. The variations intrigue me. Another characteristic captures my fascination as well. It is the interactions between different disciplines. Taken a step further, it is the application of one discipline to another. Let me see if I can explain. Part of my enjoyment of working on utility rate studies and impact fees in years past (I only work on sales tax analyses and reports now) had a lot to do with the number crunching. But none of that is important to my point now.

But here was the deal. The work involved, actually required, planners, lawyers, engineers and finance people (me) to communicate with each other. I was fortunate to work with the same consulting team on several projects. We all had to interpret compliance with the state law that had requirements but no guidelines. Before long we could actually have one of us not in attendance at a meeting with the other three answering most questions for the discipline not in attendance. We knew what the missing person would say in most cases.

I love listening to a lawyer or engineer explain how they think. Since I am not the best person in the world to interpret maps, I appreciate learning what a planner sees that I might miss. Many people have an advanced degree potential under the same roof that goes ignored if they would just talk to each other and be a good student.

What Makes A City Great.

The City of Dallas once hosted an annual gathering under headline of What Makes a City. I added the “great” in my mind back then as well my blog today. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend those annual meetings, but I got copies of the presenter’s transcripts. I was awestruck with the mix of speakers. There were educators, historians, architects and planners. There were also farmers, ranchers and other philosophers and thinkers. Each was a visionary. And articulate. But most of all, they were passionate.


I first heard about TedTalks from a colleague. Then from another. Finally I Googled and found out about this amazing organization. It appeared that they have a simple but highly effective format – bring a group of people together to listen to a variety of presenters. The presentations generally last less than 18 minutes. The speakers are interviewed and their presentations vetted. The topics are varied. Oh, are they ever varied! But the quality of the lighting, sound and video is very high. Many of the speakers are experienced, but also many are ordinary people with an extraordinary urge to communicate and to compel the audience to think and see things from a different perspective.

You can go to www.ted.com to get a better glimpse of the organization. You can also have access to thousands of podcasts. I try to listen to one each day. While I tend to pick and choose, I have also found that a surprise is waiting in some of the podcasts that don’t sound very interesting at first. For instance, the topic might be about one thing, but you can easily see how applicable it might be in your own professional or personal life. If I were to put a single label to describe just about all of them, it would be the title of my blog.


The concept of TedTalks and their tagline Ideas Worth Spreading reaches globally. Last night my colleague Jerry Byrd and I attended TedxPlano. I was surprised to learn a few months ago that this was their third year to host an extension of TedTalks. That is the “x” designation in Tedx sites. There is going to be another one coming up soon at SMU. It’s funny how you learn of something you thought was new only to find its all around you and has been going on for years.

Last night at TedxPlano, it was exactly as I expected from what I had viewed on podcasts from all over the world. There were eight speakers presenting from the stage and two that were videos. There was a biology teacher talking about his experiences in class and the formation of opinions. One speaker talked about the challenges of managing an organization with Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials all trying to work together. One was a 20-year city manager who woke up one day, wrote her resignation letter, and took her skills and passion to a non-profit she felt called to serve.

There was a 17-year girl who blew us away with a challenge to apply adult expectations to the younger generation as she already had her own non-profit serving a need. The last speaker, a dance teacher, almost had the audience rising out of their seats to join her in her passion for teaching young girls raised in slavery in foreign countries to build self-esteem.

The common thread, as I reflected on the great evening was: let your reach exceed your grasp. One speaker who was proficient in several foreign languages emphasized how one tiny step of learning daily can keep pushing us out of our comfort zone to accumulate huge advances in knowledge and experiences. LFM



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