Worth Fighting For

I come from a lineage of “fighters.” Not the kind that argue, the kind that know what it takes to hold true to a dream and fight for an outcome against great odds.

My maternal grandmother, Ada Faircloth Marsh, was a fighter. As a poor farm girl in eastern North Carolina she finished high school a decade before the Great Depression. Ada was the oldest of three. Her parents were tenant farmers who depended on their children to help in the fields. With school behind her, Ada was destined to pick cotton and harvest tobacco full time.

My grandmother had other ideas. She dreamed of attending college and becoming a teacher….something that farm girls simply did not do. Afterall, ‘Why would any poor family invest money in a daughter?’ went the conventional wisdom of the day. That money was better spent on seed, farming tools and curing barns. Yet, my grandmother held to her dream.

Day after day, out in the fields, Ada begged her “Papa” to send her to a nearby teachers college. And with every no, she’d regroup and ask again, and again, and again. For nearly a year, she pleaded, she made her case, she fought for her future. And finally, she got her yes.

But much hard work lay ahead. Ada went to Pineland Teachers College where she cleaned tables in the dining hall and took on every other odd job she could find to offset tuition. When her sister, Lila, was ready, Ada made way for her, as well.

Back home, the men in the community ridiculed Papa for sending his daughters to college. But, he had the last laugh: Papa was able to get farm loans from the local bank using his daughters’ teacher salaries as collateral.

My grandmother’s 3rd Grade Class, 1959.

Ada and Lila lived fine lives… between the two, they logged more than 70 years of teaching in the North Carolina public school system. And masterful teachers they were!

Loyalty Lesson: In today’s siloed, turf-focused firms, it takes “fighters” to unify the company around the processes and systems that deliver dependable customer experiences. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s typically a long, arduous, uphill path for leaders with the courage to take on the challenge. As my friend and fellow author Jeanne Bliss preaches,“You gotta believe.” And that means relentlessly committing to and fighting for the cause.

The fight is worth it because the emotional payoff is so huge: You can look back with pride and satisfaction in years to come with the knowledge that you gave your all. But, sadly, many feel fear and run from the fight, unable to “man-up” for the hard work required. And by doing so, they remove themselves from any chance of receiving the unimaginable lessons this challenging work will bring.

Don’t retreat. Be a fighter. Commit to the loyalty work.

You’ll grand kids will love your stories!

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