Pathways and Passages to Leadership

Pathways and Passages to Leadership

by David J. Smith

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A collection of lessons dedicated to those willing to dream the impossible while seeking the improbable, to those willing to reach for the stars when establishing their reality, to those who would accept what could be as a destination rather than being content to live life within what is, to those willing to innovate as they fulfill their dreams, to those accepting the responsibility for individual accomplishment within a world that too often rewards the accomplishments of society, to those accepting the responsibility of initiating change within a world that too often rewards stability and the status quo, to those accepting the responsibilities of leadership within a world that too often shifts blame and seeks credit, to those accepting the responsibilities of life within a world that too often rewards the way things are (or have been) rather than what they could be if only. A book of thoughts to help identify the passages that lead from here to there that give hope to those having lost their way during the journey, and a book that provides support to those in need.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524601737
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 04/30/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 110
File size: 14 MB
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About the Author

David J. Smith, CAE, president and CEO of the Employers’ Association I have provided practical HR solutions promoting operational excellence to members of the Employers’ Association since 1989. During this time, I have developed more than five hundred compensation administration plans throughout the United States, focusing on total compensation, including benefits, stock ownership, and bonus program design, so organizations can attract and retain talent. Additionally, I conduct seminars on wage/salary administration, performance management, and recognizing (and rewarding) generational differences in the workplace. Having previously worked in labor relations, safety, recruitment, and operations management, my travels into the world of leadership and human resources have been upon winding and twisting paths. I look at business through a poet’s eyes. Though writing is not my livelihood, it makes up a large part of my life. Having grown up in a small community in the Midwest, I spent hours in the woods, by lakes, near streams, sharing creation with a handful of close friends through the eyes of an innocent child. When others saw danger in storms, I saw awesome power. Where others sensed fear in being alone, I focused on the subtleties of life that present themselves only in the silence of solitude, on the motion of the wind, on the power of the sea as it pounded upon a seemingly secure shoreline, on the current of a stream as it swept away a child’s dreams, on the depths of emotions, on living within a dream while reaching out toward an undetermined destiny. A product of parents that nurtured my creativity, encouraging me to pursue my love of the arts and the sciences, many of my early writings were about feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. I graduated from Hope College with majors in chemistry and psychology then took further studies in pharmaceutical chemistry (Purdue University) and attended the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. I have achieved the designation certified association executive, been accepted into both the national and international Who’s Who Registry of Business Professionals, and been recognized as one of America’s best poets. I contribute to and edit the Employers’ Association newsletter (Executive Update), publish a blog (Dave’s Deliberations), and have written for both the Grand Rapids Business Journal (People Matters) and MiBiz (the Human Factor). Over time, my fascination with nature and passion for life prompted me to write poems, thoughts, and perceptions about the simplicity—and complexity—of life, leadership, and change. While my poems have been published in several national anthologies, Pathways and Passages to Leadership is my first published collection. Should those who share my feelings on life, leadership, achievement, change, and the realization of dreams embrace these writings, it will not be my last. Sit back and ponder life as you read this volume, a collection of thoughts from the soul of a dreamer living within a business-oriented world. Study the passages in both word and picture as you make the transition from “does” to “leader,” or simply seek affirmation or confirmation of the position to which you have arrived.

Read an Excerpt

Pathways and Passages to Leadership

By David J. Smith


Copyright © 2016 David J. Smith
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5246-0172-0



A collection of lessons dedicated to those willing to dream the impossible while seeking the improbable ...

To those willing to reach for the stars when establishing their reality ...

To those who would accept what could be as a destination rather than being content with what is ...

To those willing to innovate as they fulfill their dreams ...

To those accepting the responsibility of INDIVIDUAL ACCOMPLISHMENT within a world that too often rewards the accomplishments of society.


We often receive an unexpected boost from motivational quotes. Many originate within the world of sports BUT life is more than playing games – it is about dreaming what might be our reality if only that which is could become what we hope, wish and dream it to be. It is about reaching beyond our wildest expectations to grasp a slice of reality from a pie not yet baked. It is about setting goals beyond what is achievable so that we force ourselves outside of the box in which we are comfortable and move towards things yet to be considered by standing upon the cardboard to search for those things that have not yet been imagined. We all stumble and fall while travelling through life – the difference between success and failure being whether we stay down or we get back up – and what we learn from the experience.

People react to challenges differently. Some seek comfort from every storm – preferring to remain within the safe harbors of life, never venturing outside the protected coastal waters as they accept the remnants and wreckage that wash up to shore. They allow others to seek new adventures – to conquer unknown territories and discover treasures far beyond their ability to imagine. They are gulls finding sustenance in things discovered and discarded by others. To them, a gentle breeze may appear to be a raging storm – the tranquility of their calm disrupted by even the smallest pebble tossed into the sea. If one were to equate such an existence to the hyena it would be apparent that scavengers ARE able to exist. Rarely, however, does an individual reach greatness when they rely upon "pack mentality" to survive NOR does one receive the "first fruits" when they gratefully accept what comes to them rather than seeking to discover how much more might be available if only they were to stretch beyond their accepted paradigm.

Others seek adventure – preferring to march into the storms of life head on and face forward. They hear the howling in the wind and seek to identify its source – wish to find where it came from before watching it go away. They recognize that the wind cannot be contained nor captured but often dream of riding upon it – of soaring above the earth that holds them as they seek new horizons not yet discovered. They prefer to identify opportunities as they move boldly forward in life rather than seeking comfort in what they (or someone else) already accomplished. Where some could not fathom being a hawk hurtling down towards an unknowing prey, these individualists could not tolerate being a scavenger relying upon the efforts of another for sustenance. Their need for autonomy – for independence – is far too great to accept the path forged by others. They capture the wind within billowing sails – riding it as far as it may take them without allowing their concern for a safe return to detract from the journey. They accept potential peril as the inevitable return on their unrestrained investments towards the accomplishment of their dreams.

As we move through life we must leave our yesterdays behind as we pass through our today in anticipation of all that tomorrow might bring. Unless we fill our emotional pantries with thoughts and visions of grandeur with hopes and promises of a yet to be defined future reality rather than doing as we have always done while expecting different things to happen to us – we MAY find momentary happiness but will never find the peace to accept that "what is" is all that "could be." Whenever you begin to feel that "where you are" is better (rather than just safer or more secure) than "where you could be," consider the following:

• As you begin (or refresh) your journey through life, take time for the little things to become big. Do not move so fast that you fail to enjoy the journey as you seek a destination BUT do not become so enamored with the journey that you never rest or recharge along the way. Find time to help others along the way – to share your strengths and experiences so they might be built up rather than run over. When the going gets tough others may be the only lifeline available to keep us going.

• Live life to its fullest – focusing as much on the joy in the journey as you do the gold at the end of the rainbow. More than anything, find peace and joy in all that you say and do – seeking comfort from your discoveries rather than being satisfied to discover comfort within the status quo. Seek moments of rest as you seek to fulfill your dreams rather than sanctuaries and safe havens that might keep you from reaching beyond the shelter of today to experience the potential of tomorrow.

Some find that motivating thoughts or inspirational phrases keep them moving forward rather than looking back. In order to experience gain within our lives, we must realize change – and must keep our eyes on the prize as we move relentlessly towards it if we expect to grow. Thankfully, all thoughts ARE NOT sports metaphors – some of the thoughts I find most helpful including:

Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, and a willingness to fail if they are ever to become anything more than dreams — Brian Linkoski

• The greater danger for most is NOT that our aim is too high and we miss, but that it is too low and we reach it – Michelangelo

• We know what we are, but know not what we may be – Shakespeare

• When the winds of change blow, some people build walls while others build windmills – Chinese proverb

• If all you seek to become can be defined by what you have accomplished, accept comfort in who you are but allow those who know you mourn the death of what you may have become.

There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we seek results and conclusions rather than recognition and credit. We can find ongoing satisfaction when we claim success during the journey – acknowledging each step taken as we run the race rather than waiting until our quest has ended to find satisfaction in the efforts we exhibited. We gain much from life when each step is celebrated as an accomplishment rather than looking only to the goal at the end of our journey as a win/lose, make it or break it destination.

We cannot allow our eyes to drift from the prize if we seek to move from "good" to "great" in our lives. Though it may not "take a village" to raise our self-awareness, it DOES take commitment, determination and intentional action to move beyond the storms that often darken our lives to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Accept nothing but your best as you seek new destinations – learning from your failings as you turn adversity into opportunity while reaching new heights with each passing day. Capture the wind to move forward after each accomplishment rather than finding comfort and accepting as final the rest stops along the way and each never ending beginning will lead towards the better life you wish for.


Change, like life, happens with or without any help from us. Growth, however, comes only through our intentional actions. People love and hate change at the same time. While wishing for things to remain the same in our lives (comfort, security, job, environment, friends, relationships), we really want them to get better (rarely wanting discomfort, negative change or inconvenience in our lives). Wanting it "both ways," we often refuse to invest the necessary "sweat equity" to make change happen. When handed to us, we are more than happy to take it. We are less likely to actively identify areas needing change then intentionally acting to put them behind us while moving forward in a different direction – leaving behind what is comfortable (and holding us back) while hoisting our sails to capture the winds of a new tomorrow (venturing into unknown territory holding not yet realized opportunity). Though we may not always know where the winds will lead us, simply catching hold of their endless power will help us to move from our current reality to a future possibility without becoming caught in the calm between what was and what could be.

Some random thoughts to help maintain focus along the journey from what we know to what we might only imagine – from what is to what could be – would include:

The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible (Arthur C. Clarke). When we restrict our actions, reactions and responses to the ways and methods we have always used, nothing will change. Only when we dare to act in ways we have never before acted – to think in ways we have never before thought – will those things that were once beyond our reach become possible. In order to maximize the likelihood we will succeed, however, we must acknowledge the resistance we will face, respond to the concerns our detractors will present, and present a plausible, acceptable alternative (which is more desirable, beneficial or providing of more opportunity) than the status quo. To move from where you are to where you wish to be, and perhaps even beyond to where you have not yet imagined, tear down the walls that limit you to what you have always known or you will end up doing what you have always done and being what you have always been.

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome. (Samuel Johnson). Allowing an individual to learn from failure is possibly one of the best learning techniques we can use. When a person must turn back due to unexpected rapids after charting a course and setting sail, two things happen. First, the individual will (hopefully) learn from his or her mistake by recognizing the signs of turmoil and acting to avoid them before venturing into the unknown again (recognizing the need to continue as being the critical component of learning). Secondly, though, and perhaps more important, we must identify the reason success was delayed and correct the error, mistake or poor judgment in a way that allows us to overcome the obstacles that kept us from progressing towards the accomplishment of our goal. Learning by experience is much more beneficial than listening to someone else say which way to go or what road to take. We should plan, anticipate and think of reasonable alternative approaches prior to starting any task BUT avoid "analysis paralysis" (refusing to move forward if there is ANY chance that something might go wrong allowing our fear of failure to diminish our chances of success). When we never leave the blocks we cannot compete and it becomes impossible to finish the race.

The only person who never makes mistakes is the person who never does anything (Denis Waitley). Life is not a carefree path we take while moving towards an idyllic destination. Life is fraught with pitfalls, traps, snares and impossibly steep embankments. It would be nearly impossible to go through life without making a mistake so quit trying to be perfect! Some of the world's greatest inventions have been the unexpected outcomes from failed experiments. Our greatest presidents frequently tasted defeat before they were elected. Many business owners have failed in an endeavor before experiencing success. Once a path has been taken that leads to a dead end – a process selected that results in set-back – learn from it so your next steps can be successful.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). Value is established not by what we know but rather by how we can apply it. Wisdom is the result of applied knowledge. Knowing that a car needs an engine, a transmission, an electrical system and a variety of other mechanical parts does not make you a mechanic. You must apply what you know to be of any use to anyone. I could THINK about fixing a car all day long but nothing would happen until I pick up a wrench (then without proper education, training and knowledge my efforts might cause more harm than good). Any action creates an opposite and equal reaction, both in physics and in life. Intentional action is a prerequisite to change. Plausible and acceptable actions often outside the normal realm of reasonable and expected responses – are the precursor of success.

Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practica. Expect more than others think is possible (Cadet Maxim). As you dive headlong into life, remember that you will get from life only what you put into it. I have seen individuals slide through life expecting (and receiving) very little. Some say they set low goals so they will not fail that when the "bar is low," nothing will keep them from crossing it. I choose a different path – and so should you. Take calculated risks in order to increase your chances of success. Choose to care more about others than you care about yourself. You might be surprised how rich and free your life will be in return. Choose to dream enough so that you can experience new horizons when bringing dreams to fruition. You cannot fulfill another's dream (no matter how hard you might try), only your own. As for expectations – you will never rise higher than you expect yourself to rise, nor fall lower than you allow yourself to fall.

Focus more upon "what has yet to be done" than "what has been completed" when seeking change. Acknowledging and recognizing your weaknesses helps identify the causes of problems – developing and leveraging your strengths produces long-term solutions (Dave Smith). Do not focus upon what cannot be done – continually stretch to achieve those things that have not yet been attempted, reach outcomes that have not been previously accomplished, or choose paths that nobody has yet dared to travel. Do not seek an escape from reality – embrace the potential around you. Do not dwell upon what has been done – seek what has yet to be realized. Always expect more than may seem possible – refusing to accept anything previously accomplished as anything more than a resting point as you seek yet to be discovered destinations – and you will surely taste success!


Every organization must have a mission – a vision – a reason for "being." Unless an organization exists to fulfill a specific (and necessary) purpose – to produce a product or provide a service – it will not survive. Unless consumers or a market segment needs a product or service (it has, creates or enhances value), the best or largest "supply" in the world will not be "in demand" enough to justify its ongoing presence. Though a business can (and does) impact society by providing jobs, work is a necessary part of the process of producing results NOT the result of an organization's efforts to create meaningful activity. Work without purpose may keep an organization busy (for a time) but will not produce the income needed to sustain its activities. An organization will not be able to attract and retain employees unless it can clearly and definitively communicate what kind of work is expected to be done, how "success" will be measured and how results will be rewarded. Without a mission, an organization cannot focus its resources towards the accomplishment of an identified purpose, choose the direction it should go or qualify the decisions it must make as it establishes itself as being a vital and contributing part of the business community.


Excerpted from Pathways and Passages to Leadership by David J. Smith. Copyright © 2016 David J. Smith. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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