For some reason, I decided only today the tell you a very personal story, hoping it will benefit as many people as possible.
I am the father of twin boys born profoundly deaf and later implanted with bilateral cochlear implants, a sort of bionic computerised ear.
At birth, the news of their hearing impairment came to us as a complete shock and we were not prepared to take it, hoping, like every parent, to welcome to this world perfectly healthy children.
It was painful. I spent entire weeks, months, wondering why that had happened to us, what had we done wrong, who was to blame and so on. I couldn’t get over it and that impacted deeply my health, our family life and my work.
Until one day, when something extraordinary happened, or at least the way I lived it was for me extraordinary.
We were spending a few days vacationing in Mexico. Walking around a resort, I noticed from far away a child sitting on a chair and wearing the typical cochlear behind the ear devices, something you can easily detect watching at people from behind. Driven by curiosity and by the custom to greet people that are implanted like my children, I got closer. I greeted the parents and told them immediately that my children were implanted too, they smiled and kindly introduced themselves.
At once I realized that the boy was sitting on a wheel chair and suffered cerebral palsy, leaving him unable to speak, hear and walk. The parents described their circumstances and I was impressed by their serenity. They seemed at peace and ease. After a lovely conversation, I left, remaining thoughtful and deeply touched.
A few hours later, walking on the edge of a pool, I bumped into the family again. This time the father was with the child into the pool, holding him in his arms protectively, while making incredible efforts to lift him up and let him dive into the water, and suddenly rescuing him to then start spinning around him playfully. No wonder the child was ecstatic. My eyes photographed their enjoyment expressions, great smiles; the father was completely focused on that moment, looking like he was experiencing a happiness difficult to describe. There was no blaming, no overthinking, no recriminating for the circumstances, nothing but pure presence, pure harmony, some sort of perfection I have rarely witnessed.
I was inspired by this man and in the following weeks I deeply questioned my mindset, my thoughts, how I had related to our circumstances all along and I made a commitment to deal with our life and my children in a very different way, with the intention to see the possibilities and opportunities that hearing impairment had brought to our life, rather than the issues and constraints.
I learned a big lesson on leadership. There is no bad luck, there is just reality that unfolds the way it unfolds, in an inscrutable yet perfect way. It is the meaning you attach to any event, no matter how difficult, and the behaviours that you enact on the back of that, that will determine if that circumstance is a big issue, a tragedy, or paradoxically an opportunity for growth and development.
Lessons of leadership learned from the school of life, things you cannot learn even in the best MBAs.