My son Marc was expelled from school a number of years ago because of a senior prank that went way too far. He and his friends got up in the middle of the night, broke into their school, and vandalized it. They stole the keys to school vehicles and drove them. You didn’t even have to go in the school building to see something happened.

The principal was the first to arrive the morning after the night before. The evidence of their prank was everywhere: in the parking lot, on the lawn, and down every hallway in the school. (I’m leaving out a few details for obvious reasons.)

The entire school was shut down. Notifications were sent out immediately that the school had been targeted and that until it was deemed safe to return, students were to remain home. An investigation started, and all parties involved were identified, named, and brought in. Marc was expelled. 

And there we were—two parents sitting in the living room with our son. We both wanted to kill him. We were disappointed, but even more, we were really angry. We were also embarrassed. Everyone knew that our son was the leader behind this: the faculty, all the parents, our neighbors, and our community. It was extremely embarrassing.

So there we sat in the living room. My wife spoke first and articulated well how we were feeling. She said it better than I could have. When it was my turn to speak, I was just trying to come up with something that expressed our outrage. I was trying to figure out a way to really let him have it. Literally, in a moment, an unplanned set of words came out of my mouth. Instead of giving him the stern lecture I wanted and intended to give, I said something totally different and out of character for myself.

Marc, you must use this power for good!

There was some nervous laughter from both of us, and that was the end of the conversation for about six years.

Six years later Marc has not only finished college, but successfully entered his career. A few months ago my wife and I were sitting with him in our living room. Marc said, “Dad, have you ever read my LinkedIn profile?” I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t. He opened up his laptop and pulled up his profile.

The entire introduction on LinkedIn was the story of being kicked out of school…AND those words I had spoken to him: You must use this power for good. Unbeknownst to me, that moment and those words had changed his life.

Chapter 4 of your year in LEAD 24/7 was on Shaping Culture. An organization’s culture is defined by the collective behaviors in that organization. “Shaping culture” is just a fancy way of saying “changing behavior.” And that’s not easy to do—personally or professionally.

That’s why the book Switch (required reading for the LEAD 24/7 Shaping Culture chapter) is subtitled How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. And let’s face it, change is usually hard. 

One of the tools for changing behavior from this book is called Find The Bright Spots. Most of us look for what’s wrong so we can fix it. Finding the bright spots means identifying what’s good and what’s working, and then figuring out how to encourage more of that. It helps us focus on what’s working instead of what’s wrong, and that can be a tough mental change to make.

The creativity, teamwork, and planning that it took for Marc and his friends to misbehave so effectively as a part of that prank were actually great qualities. Frankly, I believe it was divine intervention in that moment that caused those words to come from my mouth: You must use this power for good! In that moment, sitting in the living room trying to figure out what to say, I made a switch from highlighting what was wrong so we could fix it to finding out what was working and trying to figure out how to do more of it. I found the bright spot.

I share that story because it was difficult—EXTREMELY difficult—to find the bright spot in that moment. And you may be facing some challenges where it’s really hard to find a bright spot.

Finding the bright spot changed everything for my son. He began channeling all those good qualities for strategy, execution, and creativity into something great. Finding the bright spot changed his life.

So go ahead: Think about the person or situation that gets you worked up, embarrassed, or disappointed. I dare you to find the bright spot. 

Lead on,

Image by Bernd Thaller. Used under CC by 2.0 license.