John Maxwell, in his book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, talks about the Law of the Lid. In short, the ceiling for your leadership ability will depend on the level of your personal development. All of the 21 Laws are interrelated. So a leadership experience may seem to lean more on one law than another but in truth, there are several laws at work at any one time.
In reflecting of the Law of the Lid and its relevance in my life I found my thoughts going back to when I was in Cub Scouts. I was eight or nine years old at the time. In my small town, we did not have a movie theater. The fund raiser for our Cub Scout pack was to sponsor a movie show in the high school gym. My hometown of Chappaqua, New York, which at the time had about 2,000 residents is quite hilly and the school district encompassed approximately nine square miles.
To sell tickets to the show, you had to go door to door between houses that could be up to a tenth of a mile or more apart from each other. Also, there were some elevation changes of up to 150 feet making the process of going door to door, even for a young boy, a rigorous physical challenge.
My mother and father were very supportive. That was good! I was excited about selling tickets but I had one problem. All my competition had bicycles. That was something that we could not afford. The good news was that if you sold the most tickets you won a brand new Schwinn 3 speed bike which at the time was the bike to have. Also, just for a historical context, this was not an era where parents drove their little Cub Scouts around to homes. As a kid you either walked or rode a bicycle.
Since I did not have a bike, I would have to walk door to door and it would take me much longer to reach people who, hopefully, had not already purchased tickets to the movie show. Also, my motivation to have a bike, and the Schwinn in particular, drove me to walk and walk and walk some more. On the weekends, I would start in the morning with a peanut butter sandwich my mother had packed and set off to see who I could sell tickets to.
This went on for several weekends. I walked as much as I could. I met many very nice people and in the process I got to know my hometown.
Then the big moment arrived. The movie was going to be shown at the high school gym and they would announce the top three finishers in ticket sales. When they called my name as the top ticket seller and the winner of the Schwinn bicycle I was stunned and elated. Also, I had doubled the ticket sales of the second and third place finishers, both of whom had bikes.
If I had put a lid on what I could accomplish because I did not have a bicycle, or thought that it wasn’t worth trying because it wasn’t fair that I had to walk, I never would have won the contest. Fortunately, at nine years old, I did not have the context to see that there could be a very real lid, no bicycle, on what I could accomplish. At nine, I did not understand the Law of the Lid. Yet, as I have gone through business and life, I am reminded that when I raise my lid more opportunity flows into my business and life. For greater success, raise your lid.