July 5, 2011
Every Day is a Gift by Gerald Meck
On Father’s day, as I was exercising at the Ephrata Recreation Center, I debated whether to write about the importance of leadership succession planning, servant leadership or managing by values.
While these thoughts were circulating through my mind, I was watching the US Open golf tournament. During the tournament NBC aired a segment on golf pro Ernie Els, telling the story of how Ernie and his family responded to the challenge of raising a child with Autism.
For several years Ernie and his wife hid the fact that one of their children had Autism. They wanted a “normal child” like the rest of their friends and golf peers. However, after hours of physical therapy, testing and medical treatment they finally came to terms with their son’s condition and began to embrace and celebrate his life.
As part of coming to terms with his son’s condition, Ernie established the Els for Autism Foundation in 2009 with the goal of funding an Autism Center of Excellence; the first in the world. Autism effects one in 110 children. Learning that a child has autism hits families hard. Ernie says “I will be fighting for the rest of my life to try and help others in the same situation.” The Center of Excellence will launch a global digital learning platform that will make best practices in education and therapy available to thousands of children on the Autism spectrum around the world. Ernie is now providing the leadership to assist other children and their families in dealing with the challenges of Autism.
This story reminded me of a leadership theme during my 26 years as President and CEO at United Disabilities Services (“UDS”). My theme was “Every day is a Gift.” There were challenges, disappointments, times when things did not go as planned. We needed to find ways to turn those challenges and disappointments into opportunities.
Ernie Els is a wonderful example of how an individual turned a challenge into an opportunity for thousands of other people. As a leader I asked myself each day “What am I going to do with the gift of this day?” At UDS, I asked our 400 employees what they were planning to do with this gift of a day, to write it down and share it with me. I was amazed at the creative and thoughtful responses I received.
What are you going to do with the gift of this day?
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