In nature, many things work in beautiful and somewhat invisible ways. The building blocks for all the things in nature that we call “living” or “alive” start with DNA. Tiny strands of information wrapped in a growth oriented ‘upward’ spiral are responsible for making a frog, a frog, and a human, a human. When I look at pictures of DNA, I am still in awe! I look at how perfectly the ‘twisted ladder’ builds on itself, and I begin to wonder. I wonder how we could shape a community of people and dreams into a beautiful and ‘twisted ladder’.
When I look at the rungs of the twisted ladder on a strand of DNA, I wonder if it would be possible for people to arrange themselves in this way as they pursued their dreams. My experience has shown me that everyone is both one rung above and one rung below someone else on a similar path. I have experienced this when training for the road races I run. On the day of the race, we line up at the start in the hopes of finding a set of runners who are at most one rung above or one rung below us in both speed and endurance. We naturally humble ourselves to create our own twisted ladder. We depend on the person who is one rung above to inspire us and show us that there is room to grow and friendly company when you do. We also get to inspire the person who is one rung below us at the same time. As someone once put it in their own terms, “It is always great to have one person patting you on the back and another kicking your butt as you work towards your dreams!” The other beautiful outcome of this twisted ladder, is that we all feel safer as we reach for our dreams of crossing the finish line. We know that someone always has our back. If we start to slow down, the person one rung below will ask, “Are you OK?” If we speed up, the person one rung above will likely say, “Pace yourself!” How beautiful is that? I believe that this twisted ladder structure is possible in every field, with any dream; so long as we humble ourselves enough to know that there is always someone in the rung above and the rung below us.
What would happen if you lined up to run a marathon right next to the person who was the projected winner? The starting gun would fire and you would both start running. In less than a minute, you would find yourself exhausted and eating her dust. You might then feel discouraged and consider giving up running. Many people do this as they pursue their dreams. They compare themselves to the best of the best, and when their performance does not come remotely close, they are likely going to give up on their dream. A little known secret was that I once wanted to be an amazing electric guitarist. I thought to myself, “there is only one thing keeping me from becoming an amazing electric guitarist, and that is, well, an electric guitar!” So I saved up the money I earned while working at a music retail store and I bought an Arbor electric guitar and a little Gorilla amp. Then I did what every amazing electric guitarist would do and I blasted Gun’s and Roses, Sweet Child of Mine and attempted to play along. Even after a multitude of attempts, the outcome was less than ideal to say the least, and I got discouraged. Soon thereafter, my brother asked to borrow my now, somewhat dusty Arbor electric guitar and little Gorilla Amp. Although I didn’t think he dreamt of being an amazing electric guitarist, I conceded and loaned him my guitar and amp. Little did I know, my brother Alex, had acquired a book that actually informed him how to play chords on the electric guitar. He practiced every day and sometimes learned from other friends with other guitars. At some point he actually started to play songs that sounded like songs I was trying to mimic when I first bought the guitar. Until today, I never told him how much I admired him for that. Fancy that!
What does this story that happened over twenty years ago and the twisted ladder have to do with Dream Catalyst, you ask? EVERYTHING! I want to live in a world where everyone’s dreams are given the best chance of coming true, and I want to serve as a catalyst for that. I believe that this is possible if we find a way to locate our own twisted ladder of people on a similar path. This can be achieved by creating an intentional scaffolding of twisted ladders. I believe that these ladders begin with what I am calling, “mentoring triads”. The beauty of a mentoring triad is that growth is inspired at every position on the twisted ladder. Much like lining up for a marathon, the person on the rung above wants to continue to get better so that they can get to serve as inspiration for the person on the rung below, and so on and so forth. This is Pay It Forward energy at its best! A mentoring triad allows for growth, accountability and safety along the way towards our shared dreams. Dream Catalyst wishes to create mentoring triads all over the country.
The other beautiful part of the triad philosophy is that every member of the triad gets to serve as student and teacher at the same time. I believe that one of the best ways to celebrate where we are on the way to our dreams is when we get the chance to teach others about our passions from where we are, anywhere on the twisted ladder. If we know that there is always someone one rung above and one rung below us, we will know that we can always add value from right where we are now! I have never won a marathon, and I may never even try to win. I did count at least five hundred “high-5s” with kids as I ran the New York City marathon in 2010. It took me almost 5 hours to complete, and I cherished every minute because when you get to cross something like the NYC Marathon off your bucket list, it is kind of a big deal! The only way making that dream come true was possible was that I identified someone one rung above me and one rung below me and we held each other accountable to our training schedule. There is something special about having people who inspire you to be better, and at the same time, serving as inspiration for someone else along the way.
The potential for mentoring triads exist along a multitude of pursuits. As such triads grow in number, I believe that we can start to build some amazing twisted ladders that resemble what I am calling Social DNA. This Social DNA will create a fabric that will allow people to grow on their paths while serving as both mentor and mentee at the same time. I believe that it is equally importantly to learn as it is to teach; or to inspire and be inspired. With humility and gratitude we will be able to create a world that all of our children will find a home for their dreams. Dream Catalyst will be working with mentoring organizations nation-wide so that we can create mentoring triads for the youth we serve. We will use distance technology including Skype, Google Meetings, and Video E-mail to allow for the cultivation of these relationships in instances where local triads are less available. Please leave a comment if you are interested in joining this journey with us. We would love to include your dreams as the thread in this social fabric we can weave together! Thank you for reading!
All my best, Erik