The only problem with pioneers, is the first guy through the gate is going to get bloody. I got the inspiration to write about this from the movie Money Ball, but it is applicable to every endeavor in life where and when you are breaking new ground.
This applied to the true story of Billy Beane who led the Oakland A's to a historic 20-game winning streak, and then on to a World Series win using a model that everyone said rewrote the rules of baseball. They also said it could not be done, and fought him tooth and nail. And right after his 20-game winning streak, all the "experts" in baseball called him and his approach a mere aberration. One point of their reasoning here is simple — everyone else had a vested interest in keeping things just the way they were. My guess is that the future lies somewhere between the two approaches; with a respect for the analytics and the instinctive.
I am reminded of a great quote by my friend former President Bill Clinton; "it is hard to get someone to agree with the truth, when the lie is paying their paycheck."
I am also reminded of my personal hero, mentor and global spokesman Ambassador Andrew Young, who amongst a long list of accomplishments, was the first United Nations ambassador for the U.S. who happens to also be African-American. While in this post he dared to have something as simple as a conversation with the Palestinians. For this he was ostracized and later "encouraged" to leave his UN post. The President regretfully accepted Young's resignation, and Young of course later went on to an absolutely stellar record of global public service; from groundbreaking mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, turning it into a true international city, to ambassador-at-large for Africa. And I should add that the very thing Young was criticized for — talking with the Palestinians — is the very thing it is clear one cannot achieve any peace in the middle east without today.
For my part, I can relate to this statement on many levels, but the one embodied in the accompanying photo is this — I dared to not pick sides. I dare to engage in public service without becoming a partisan along the way. I dared to be for solving poverty, without giving into political demands that suggested one side had 100% of the answer, and the other side were pure idiots. Today I can say that I have had a relationship with the last five sitting U.S. presidents, and have proudly served as an advisor in some capacity to the last three. I very proudly serve President Barack Obama today, a president whom I admire and respect.
My mission was and remains poor people. They are my client. People who are real know and respect that. That said, over the years I was beat up on pretty badly by a range of leaders, politicians, and occassionally my partisan friends, who didn't understand me or what I was up to. And yes, I have my personal political preferences, but I have never wanted my personal beliefs to stand in the way of the good work of Operation HOPE, nor all those we were chartered and commissioned to serve (who could care less about my personal political beliefs). And so, today more and more people — and leaders — see me as an honest broker that wants to move an agenda called silver rights, and they embrace "that." But the first guy through the gate, is going to get bloody (smile).
John Hope Bryant is an entrepreneur, thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the sole African-American bestselling business author in America, and a Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama.