Go Out, Serve and Sing Your Song

March 21, 2011

Dean Rohrs, Zone 24, Coordinator Western Area

Rotary is an amazing organization. It gives ordinary people the opportunity to do extraordinary things. It gives you a change to “sing your song”.

As President-Elects you are here for a reason. The reason is not because you are bright or because you have scientific, literary, mathematical, or artistic skills and not because you have leadership abilities.

The reason you are here is not because of any talent or potential of yours but because you did something with what you had. You used it, applied it, invested it, accomplished something with it. And now you are learning how to give it to others.

If we were to gather all the Rotarians in the world with merely the greatest intellectual ability, talent or potential, it would not be you but a different group of Rotarians. It’s the difference between what a Rotarian can do and what a Rotarian actually does.

Leaders get nothing more than results. But you can’t get results by yourself; you need others to help you do it. The best way to get results is not by ordering people but by motivating them.

To understand motivation and to apply it daily, one needs to appreciate and apply its three critical components.

First, motivation is physical action. It isn’t about what people think or feel but what they physically do.

Second, motivation is driven by emotion. Emotion and motion have the same Latin root “to move”. In any strategic endeavor you must make sure that people have a strong emotional commitment to realizing it.

Third, motivation is not what we do to others. It is what others do to themselves. The truth is we cannot motivate anybody to do anything. As leaders we communicate; listeners motivate themselves. Leaders create an environment in which others motivate themselves.

The greatest crisis in the world today is the gap between what we “can do” and what we “will do”. It is greater than the generational gap, the digital divide, or even the gap between the rich and the poor.

The most important gap in our world, whether it be in the the medical, technological, scientific or  financial sphere, is the gap between what we now have  means to do and what we actually accomplish, It is what we will do.

I am haunted more by one line by Henry David Thoreau than by any other line in anything I’ve ever read. Thoreau writes: “The mass of humanity goes to the grave with their song still in them.”

Each of us has a song that no one else has. Our one vocation, regardless of our creed or calling, is to sing our song. The greatest of all tragedies can only be that the mass of humanity goes to the grave with their song still in them. I hope you will also be haunted by this line, but also be bolstered by it, to sing your song. Singing your song is what makes you an effective Rotarian and the effective leader of your club.

Dean Rohrs, Zone 24, Coordinator – this is an edited version of an address given at the District 5550 PETS training session March 18, 2011 in Russell, Manitoba.