Get Crazy and Bring Someone Along With You


I write this on Sunday night. The wind is howling through the trees and rattling the windows in cottages all around the Mackinac Straits. In 9 hours, 50 swimmers will enter the Straits to swim the four mile distance from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula. Hopefully the wind will diminish and allow the white caps to settle and smooth, so the swimmers can enter. Even if the waters calm, the currents beneath will make the four mile swim in 60-degree waters seem much further.

Why do it? The answer, a bit like the classic answer to climbing Everest? Because it’s there! That’s what Carole McAlvey, 51 year old mother of four told me. She said every time she has driven across the massive bridge, which celebrates its 50th year this year, she has thought, “I wonder what it would be like to swim it?” I continue to believe there ought to be something similarly CRAZY and wild in all leadership. I suspect the best personal leadership is always born with “crazy” questions: Why do we have to be at war? Why can’t we end slavery? How come our office doesn’t recycle? Why does my mom have to use drugs? Who says we have to tolerate racism? Why shouldn’t I run for mayor and make things better? How come no one sells a ___ that . . . ? Why don’t our schools have . . . ?

Years ago Jim Dreyer wondered: Why can’t I swim across Lake Michigan, and Erie, and Huron, and Superior – and Superior – and Superior – as he tried multiple times and was pulled out half-dead from the unforgiving, frigid and forceful waters. He finally survived the Superior crossing, and a new question occurred to him last year. He wondered: Why is it just me swimming for Big Brother Big Sister? Why don’t I get others to join me? And so this time he recruited 50 swimmers to cross the Straits of Mackinac, all raising at least $500 for “the Bigs.” He now expects his “Dire Straits Team” will raise around $40,000.*

So, on this Labor Day, here are two questions for you: First, what wild objective are you not pursuing? Dreyer risked drowning, hypothermia, kidney failure, you name it, 100 times – to “just do it” (and to raise money for BBBS, but Jim, you know there were easier ways to do that!). So, what are you not doing cuz you think you might sink or drown? And how real is your fear? Second, what great stuff are you trying to do on your own, when others could help? I asked Jim where the fifty swimmers came from. He said, “crazy people like me usually have crazy friends, so that’s where the first of the fifty came from. And then they had other circles of “crazy” friends.” The help you need is probably similarly right around you!

As Margaret Mead wrote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

You’ve got be a little crazy and find a few friends, if you’re going to

Lead with your best self,

* (It’s not too late to contribute:

Members of Dire Straits team hearing final instructions from Captain Dreyer 

Preparing to take the plunge!