Read Ralph's Book The Leadership Maker
Follow Us:
Phone: 207-653-2552


Where Do You Want to Be?

Home > Articles > Business and Life

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.—George Bernard Shaw

I had the pleasure of spending time with all three of my children over the recent weekend. No longer children, they are young adults making their way in the world in their own very different ways. The joy that I have is in knowing their struggles (because I have had plenty of my own over the years), hearing their plans, and asking the questions that may encourage them along their paths. Sometimes they seem to appreciate my wisdom, and other times they are convinced that I know nothing of challenges that they face. They do know that I will listen, mostly without judgment, and at the very least, help provide funding for a good cause.

where do you want to be

One of the reminders that I share with them, which is straight from the work of author and speaker Brene Brown, is that we are all “hardwired for struggle.” For leaders, this is an important concept to understand in the workplace as well at home. Sometimes it is our questions and mistakes that lead to the greatest growth. After all, if we don’t know struggle and loss, how can we ever experience gratitude for what we have? 

My oldest son just celebrated his 25th birthday. He is not quite where he wants to be. Our discussions around the future are rich as he has a vision for his life and has taken many divergent roads to build what he wants. I think he’s doing fine, but he has an underlying worry that he is disappointing me. One of the greatest gifts that he has given to me is reminding me that the journey is different for all of us. He is charming, outgoing, and has a talented mechanical brain. His passion is fishing and the outdoors, and has been since he was small. Once I got over the ‘snakes in the house’ thing, I was able to see that he and I are wired very differently. What he doesn’t see is that he has all of the tools that he needs, and if he continues to be persistent, he will get to where he wants to be.

His younger brother graduated from college a year ago and is beginning a career in commercial banking. He is not quite where he wants to be, either. He is a focused and determined young man with a fabulously dry sense of humor. He is earning his own way in a great organization that is providing an outstanding opportunity to learn and grow, but he is beginning to understand that work can be a grind. The best questions he can ask himself are “what do I want this to look like for me,” and “what do I need to learn and do to fulfill my goals?” My reminder to him is that we are all blessed with the freedom to choose where we are, and that small steps each day with an eye toward the future will lead to success. He is a finance and fitness guy, so he has learned the value of building both a base of savings and healthy eating and exercise habits.

My youngest child, my daughter, is in her second year of college. She is not quite where she wants to be. She is just finishing her second season as a college rower. She is talented, smart, and strong. She worries that she is not doing everything well enough, when the truth is that she is managing an amazing load of school, her sport, and growing into young adulthood. After the first year excitement of success at the novice level as a rower, this season was more difficult. She has been learning to row from the stroke seat, where it is her responsibility to set the stroke pace for her boat. It is a position for which she is well suited and from which she will learn, grow, and lead. She has always been results focused, academically and athletically, so it can be frustrating for her to look beyond the immediate, less than satisfying results to see the possibilities of where her determined efforts can take her and her teammates.

My conversations with these young people, over the wide span of their growing up years, have often been as instructive for me as they may have been for them. I have asked the “where do you want to be?” question repeatedly as we have talked through academic, athletic, or social obstacles. The discussions as they have all matured are much more free ranging and often hilarious. What they don’t realize is that I have often been learning and adapting to change along with them.

I’m not such a wise counselor as some may think, as “where do you want to be?” is as much a question for me and my organization as it is for young adults trying to figure out their lives. It is truly a powerful leadership question, especially when followed by a genuine offer to provide whatever support that you can.

Knowing where you want to be starts with understanding where you are and why change is needed or desired. Perhaps you have a good job but what you are doing is not what you want to be doing in five years. If you write down where you are and then do the same for where you want to be, or draw it, the gap becomes clear. Then you can also write down, or draw, or talk out with a trusted advisor, what it will take to get to where you want to be.

Is it more education, perhaps a college degree, or is it behavioral changes, such as a more positive outlook or understanding your values? It may be that you want to be in a leadership position, and need to pursue learning to help you move in that direction. As I have explained to my kids at various times, the “where do you want to be” question doesn’t have to be career based. Figuring out how to make money is top of mind to emerging young adults because we all need a financial base, but connections and relationships are just as important. There is a balance needed between heart and head that needs attention throughout our lives.

As you think about it, where do you want to be? Chances are you are settled in a career, and within a family or relationships, but as we know, and as our children are beginning to learn, these things can also be in various states of change throughout our lives.

Maybe what you want on a day like today, with gray skies and drizzling rain, is as simple as a beach vacation where it’s sunny and 80 degrees. Maybe it’s a new car or a new pool. Maybe on your drive into work, you thought about what you had to do for the day and wished you were doing something else. I was thinking about writing a book. Perhaps it’s time.

Thank you for reading. I’m always curious about where other people want to be, and I welcome your feedback.  

5 (4)


Deb Sparrow

Deb Sparrow worked in financial services senior leadership for over 25 years. She is a firm believer that "the universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart" as she explores the fork in the road and writes about it from time to time. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Priority Learning's inaugural Executive Leadership series. Follow her on LinkedIn at Deb Sparrow worked in financial services senior leadership for over 25 years. She is a firm believer that "the universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart" as she explores the fork in the road and writes about it from time to time. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Priority Learning's inaugural Executive Leadership series. Follow her on LinkedIn at



Submit A Comment:


Great insightful work. Mother's day present for all moms and dads.


Preparation for Building a Culture

Every Year Tells a Story

The Pillars of Organizational Culture

Magic - What is in this book?

Dunning Kruger Effect

The language of leading through caring (part II)

Why does a flourishing organization matter?

Peer Communication and Care

Communications That Can Enhance your Relationships

Persistence: A Vital Leadership Quality

Increasing Meeting Participation


Time for a Paradigm Shift