Whose Shoulders Do You Stand On?

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By: Gregg Dedrick, Co-Founder & President of David Novak Leadership

Have you ever considered whose shoulders you stand on? What did these people do to invest in your life? How did they influence you to become the leader you are today? Sometimes these life investments were for a moment, while others were long term. Yet regardless of the length of time, you are standing on the shoulders of others.

When you look down, who do you see?

These are some of the people I see when I look down:

  • David Novak, my boss at Yum! Brands
  • Mike Feiner, my boss at Pepsi
  • My High School Football Coach

I became a successful leader at Yum! Brands because these men invested in me and allowed me to rise higher by standing on the shoulders of their wisdom.

A few years ago, I was inspired to let each of these leaders know how they impacted my life. I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late to say thank you, so I took the time to personally thank each one. And when I say it’s never too late, consider that my High School Football coach was from 35 years ago!

My High School Football coach was hard, yet he challenged us to become better than we were. The odds were often stacked against our 28-player team. He pushed us and I learned to ignore the odds and focus on doing my best. He taught me to believe victory was in our power, not determined by our opponent.

It took some research to reconnect with my coach. I started the process by calling my mom and she had the contact information for my coach’s daughter. The coach’s daughter then gave me his phone number.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Gregg: Coach Cal?

Coach: Yes?

Gregg: This is Gregg Dedrick. I played for you in the 70’s.

Coach: Yes, I remember you. You went on to play in college.

Gregg: (I paused at this response. Really, I thought? He knew what I did after I graduated? This touched me. I took a moment to bring Coach Cal up to date on who I became in my business and family life. Then, I shared how he influenced me.)

You know, you were an important part of that foundation of success. You taught me to do my best and believe that victory was in my power, rather than focusing on the odds. You challenged me to live up to my potential. You believed in me.

Silence followed… and then more silence.

Coach, in a broken voice: Well, geez. That’s something. Thank you so much for telling me that.

Coach Cal’s emotional response was unexpected. The “hard-nosed” coach was choked up and touched by learning about the positive impact he had on my life.

By taking the time to thank Coach Cal, it made a part of his life a little more meaningful, as it did for me. We were both encouraged by this conversation. I also discovered that sometimes people don’t even realize how they impact the lives of others. That’s why I’m passionate about identifying whose shoulders we stand on, and then intentionally thanking each one.

I’m a firm believer in these wise words of Isaac Newton: If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. The lessons and wisdom of the giants in my life allowed me to see more clearly and become a successful leader.

What about you? Who do you need to thank today for his/her life investment in you? Are you willing to take the time to let others know how they helped you become who you are today? If you need some help, then download this guide. It provides you with an outline for appreciating those whose shoulders are the foundation for your success. May you experience the joy that comes from humbly recognizing that you, too, are standing on the shoulders of giants.

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