The Watcher


A couple of months ago, I walked into a large sporting arena first thing in the morning.  I was attending a conference on education and the keynote speaker was about to take the stage.  My expectations were definitely mixed at that point.  Of course, I recognized the name Jane Goodall.  Most people do, she’s the lady that did something somewhere in Africa with a bunch of monkeys.  I was not sure what her message was going to be or how it related to any of my interests, but I figured with that kind of name recognition she must have something to say right?

It didn’t take long before I was enchanted by the wit and wisdom of Dr. Jane Goodall.  Her captivating tale went back to her birthplace in England where as a young child she purchased a used book that she read cover to cover in her favorite spot sitting in a tree.  That book was Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The exciting adventures described on those pages and a lifelong love of animals fed the fire of what became a passion.

At the age of twenty-three, with no job prospects or practical experience Jane journeyed to Africa.  There she approached the most prominent researcher of primates at the time Dr. Louis Leakey.  Dr. Leakey must have seen the immense talent that resided within the heart and mind of his future protégé.  Leakey not only hired Goodall, but encouraged her to receive the education that was required to be successful in this field of study.

Over the next nearly six decades Goodall has studied chimpanzees and advocated for conservation efforts across the world.  Most notably, Goodall was the first to discover that chimpanzees were tool users, a fact she learned when she earned the nickname The Watcher for her technique of observing the chimpanzees in their habitat.  She has founded the Dr. Jane Goodall Institute and when not working at the Gombe National Park in Tanzania the seventy-nine year old crisscrosses the globe advocating to make the world a better place for animals and people.

A lady that lived in the jungle following chimps, that’s pretty cool.  Travelling the globe to meet leaders, dignitaries and celebrities, that is a life most people would envy.  But, these were not the takeaways for me.  The thought that resonated through my mind that day was, “here is someone who has lived their dreams.”  Not only has she lived her dreams, she can say that she used her dreams to make a difference.

I have no doubt that when she first talked about going to Africa many of her friends and family thought she was delusional.  At one time or another, most of us have probably been told our dreams were crazy.  The lesson that we can take from Dr. Goodall is to not listen to them.  Once you realize what your passion is relentlessly pursue it like she did.  Dedicate yourself to it no matter how difficult achieving it may be.  If you need a mentor, find your Dr. Leakey.  Remember the old adage, ask and you shall receive.  If you need more education or training, set a course to make that happen.  By living your passion you can achieve your own dreams and look back at your life and see the impact that you made on the world.  I can only hope that you were inspired by the story of the Watcher as much as I was.

What is your passion that would be your life’s work?

Have you ever taken a big risk?  What was it?

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Mike Stanley

Mike has a passion for leadership! He loves to read, write, discuss and teach on a variety of topics that help individuals and organizations raise their level of leadership. His experiences include being a Captain on the fire department, owning a business and being a founding member of the John Maxwell Team.

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