My first experience at really digging was when I was in the second grade. Ever since I can remember, I had a love for water fountains. And, in the second grade, I decided I was going to build one … right in our backyard! I saved my money to buy a long hose, a simple straight nozzle, some bricks, Sakrete for making the concrete base, and some flowers.
It was a fairly basic design. I would hook the end of the hose to the outdoor water faucet coming out from the back of the house. I would then dig a really long trench to bury the hose under the ground all the way from the faucet to my perfectly conceived location for the water fountain.
The fountain design would feature an 18-inch by 18-inch cement center made with the Sakrete. I would build a wood mold for pouring the 4-inch deep cement square. The trench, with the hose, would end just under where the cement square would be poured. I would attach the nozzle to the end of the hose and then anchor the nozzle, pointing straight-up. Once the cement was poured, the tip of the nozzle would stick-out about an inch above the level of the cement. Outside the 18-inch square, I would dig another 12-inches out in all directions to create a flowerbed frame around all sides of the cement square. I would then frame the flowerbed on all sides with bricks. And then, of course, I would plant a bunch of bright yellow and orange marigolds. It seemed like a perfect plan!
The first challenge, as you might imagine, was getting my Mom and Dad to say YES! I still can’t believe they said yes … my own children would tell you I would have never allowed this to happen at our house! The second challenge was the trench for the hose. For any age, but especially for a second grader …
It took a lot of digging!
I thought I would finish the entire project on one hot summer day. By sundown, on that first day, I had almost finished … digging the trench! I woke-up in the middle of the night from the throbbing pain of the blisters in the center palm of both my hands. And I still had to dig out the entire area for the fountain itself.
Digging was much harder and took much longer than I ever imagined. I think it’s precisely the experience leaders have faced when trying to discover their own core values.
It takes a lot of digging.
The adventure of discovering your core values goes beyond digging a trench. It’s much more like digging a well. It takes a whole lot of digging. Let’s assume the reservoir of water is sitting at 100 feet deep. Digging 100 feet would be hard enough. The even harder part would be arriving at 25 feet, 50 feet, 75 feet, or 99 feet and still having nothing … but more dirt.
Yet at the 100th foot … there it is. Water. The journey to your values is very similar. I sense the frustration of leaders digging for their values at 25 feet, 50 feet and beyond. It often feels like you are no further along than when you started. Just more dirt! It’s there you have to keep digging. And digging. And digging!
The digging is our choice. It’s the choice every leader has to make. It seems to be a harder choice than I first realized it would be. Staying with it seems to be even harder. I remember the palms of my little second grade hands were starting to be really sore as I would look back and forth from the location of the faucet and the desired location of the fountain. At least I could see the distance in-between and could see how much further I had to go. We don’t always know how much further we need to dig to reach the well of our values. We have to just keep digging. And digging can be hard. Yet, there is one thing certain …
The water is there and waiting whether you tap into it or not.
And the same is true for the values of a leader. The well is waiting within. It isn’t about looking around for some convenient pond to tap into. It’s about continuing to dig where there seems to be nothing. When you see more dirt … just keep digging. The well is waiting to be found.
Once you break-thru and find the water … discover your core values … it provides an endless reservoir of insight, strategy and direction.
The blisters on my little hands healed in about a week. Yet years later, when I moved-out following my college graduation, that little backyard fountain was still flowing. In some ways, you might say a lot of digging went a long way.
And in some ways, you might say your core values are the fountain of your leadership. It all begins with a lot of digging. The question isn’t if the reservoir is there. All is well at the well. The question is … are you willing to dig for it, tap into it … and let your fountain flow.