At 5am yesterday, I had a 1% lead in the Johnny Bunko contest. By Noon, my lead had not only slipped away, but any prospects of winning the contest had evaporated as I was behind by 50% of the vote.
What explains this?
Many of us know Seth Godin as the voice of permission, viral, free prize, liars, purple cow, dip, meatball sundae marketing. Many others know him as the founder of Squidoo and Triiibes. What you may not realize is that Seth is a man of remarkable influence beyond these examples. He is a person of generous spirit who acted yesterday to elevate the Bunko contest from a tight contest between two ideas to a recognition of the leadership of a woman that many of us have come to admire and love - Becky Blanton.
Friends and supporters have been writing me concerned about my disappointment, about what nefarious dealings were happening to take away my victory. No disappointment, nothing underhanded, only the most collaborative competition that I've ever been a part of.
Here's a part of the story. Mid-December, I found out that I was a finalist in the Johnny Bunko contest. My 7th lesson - Say Thanks Every Day - took an early lead. The day after Christmas Becky contacted me resulting in my joining in a group of passionate leaders who gathered together in the kind of tribe Seth writes about in his book, Tribes. Some thought this was a bad idea. Like the Pope inviting Osama bin Ladin over for dinner. Becky knew what she was doing.
Over the intervening three weeks, we've emailed, talked in forums and on the phone. We've become friends. Our relationship transcends the contest. So does Seth's endorsement. So does the importance of Johnny Bunko, Dan Pink's brilliant peek into the world of careers, and so does the importance of both of our 7th lessons.
I wrote extensively on Say Thanks Every Day throughout the contest. I believe it was the best idea because I felt that Johnny's expression of gratitude to all those in the story would lay the foundation for greater collaboration in the future. I saw in that idea a Revolution of Thanks and Welcome emerging that could change the world. Still do.
Becky thought her idea - Stay Hungry - best expressed what the 7th lesson should be. She and her tribe created an impressive graphic ebook to communicate her message.
In the end, Seth's generous act elevated the entire experience beyond a contest to an affirmation of both ideas, of Becky as a leader, and to our cheerful, collaborative spirit as co-belligerents in the battle of Bunkoville.
For those of you who worry about me in this experience, please don't. I may not have won the contest, but I did not lose. I have gained more than I expected.
First, I gained a friend in Becky who is like my twin, and her tribe who have embraced me as one of their own.
Second, I gained the opportunity to engage thousands of people from across the world in a discussion of important ideas. Let us not stop. We need to continue this conversation for all our benefit.
Third, I lived up to the challenge that I made to myself to preserve my integrity. By doing this, I was committed to not making this personal. Johnny's 3rd. lesson is "It's not about you." It never was. It was about the idea. Many of you have written me to thank me for celebrating the importance of gratitude in your own life. If I had turned desperate, mean and vindictive as my lead faded, so too would my self-respect and yours for me as well. In the end, how I feel about myself, my integrity, is more important that a great prize.
Fourth, I've gained from being able to reconnect with people whom I respect and give my thanks for their support and help. By inviting them to participate, I grew my own tribe. In particular, I thank my close friend Tom Morris for his support and tireless recruitment of votes.
Fifth, I gained a deeper appreciation of gratitude as a comprehensive set of beliefs and behaviors that are well suited to the challenges of our time. The contest may be just about over, but my commitment to this idea is not. My commitment for this year of 2009 is to encourage in each of you a revolution of thanks and welcome that transforms the relationships in your lives so that you will be prepared for the great things that will come when hard times diminish.
Lastly, thank you Daniel Pink. You have a great instinct for spreading ideas. You have a great talent for writing books that beg to be read. And my only regret is, not that I won't be able to attend the TED conference, but to travel with you.
Thank you all. It is time to move to the next opportunity, which is Lessons in Leadership next Tuesday here in Asheville. Ya'll come if you can. Thanks.