Last week, I heard my father speak to several hundred high school students about the realities of today’s workforce and workplace. Several days later when Steve Jobs passed, I made an interesting connection. Jobs was the world’s ultimate contrarian. In a famous speech at Stanford, he challenged the college graduating class to be careful about spending too many days doing things they don’t like. Spend every day like it is your last, he encouraged them. “Do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. And don’t settle,” said Jobs. There was such a parallel between Job’s speech and my father’s address that I had to share.
My dad’s first key point was that when you are young, you do not know yourself. You’re made up of other peoples’ ideas, thoughts, values and opinions. It is your family values and your friends that make up what you believe in and what you stand for. You begin to figure yourself out in your high school and college years – you don’t learn your personal culture or “culture of one” from the educational system.
Even once we’ve figured out our culture of one, my father believes that few of us know how to truly maximize ourselves. There is always a gap between who we are and what we are capable of. Having awareness of that gap is the first step of maximizing your potential. My father believes it is a leaders job to challenge folks to work on and close their gap.
At CBI Group, closing the gap is a big part of my goal as an employer. I have created an environment where people can both figure out and live their culture of one. I challenge them to define their gap — the gap between what they are capable of and what they are currently producing. This is what culture can be — how leaders can unleash the best in people.
This “Burkhard Theory” is something I have heard my father talk about hundreds of times, for most days of my life, in fact. I have worked on my “culture on one” and I live each day to maximize what I am capable of. I am not smarter, more gifted, blessed or special than anyone else. I just work harder at improving myself and that gives me confidence. This is our contribution. This is what we stand for. And those are my dad’s words. I simply chose to live them.
We can all take a page from Steve Jobs and his life. Hope you enjoyed the talk.