In part two of “Encouragement Changes Everything,” John shares five key things that every person desires in their life, and how this can help us identify ways that we can encourage our people.
During the application portion of the episode, Mark Cole and Jason Brooks discuss how encouragement can empower others to accomplish greater things they ever thought possible.
Our BONUS resource for this series is the Encouragement Changes Everything Worksheet, which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.
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Mark Cole: Hey, welcome to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Mark Cole here, and I am excited to be in studio with my co-host today, Jason Brooks. Jason, it's good to have you in the studio today. Now, for those of you that did not listen to last week's podcast, it was Encouragement Changes Everything, Part 1. Today is Part 2, and for you to know the significance of being able to be in studio with Jason and to really know what encouragement looks like, you want to go listen to Part 1 of Encouragement Changes Everything. So we'll let you go do that. For those of you that's already listened, let's carry on, because today John Maxwell comes back with a great closing to how encouragement really makes a difference.
Now, we at the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast, we not only talk leadership, we do leadership, and the very fact that my co-host Jason is in the studio with us today is doing leadership or in this case, doing encouragement. So I'm going to release you now and let you go hear John Maxwell's final closing three points of Encouragement Changes Everything, and then we'll be back to give some application or some doing encouragement.
Now, if you have not downloaded the show notes, you can do that at maxwellpodcast.com/encourage. Go download now, listen to John Maxwell. We'll be back with some applications after John Maxwell.
John Maxwell: Third thought on encouragement: encouragement turns lives around. It not only makes people better, it really changes a lot of people, allows them to make U-turns in their life. Encouragement is deciding to make your problem my problem. When you think of encouragement turning a life around, Coach Herman Boone did that in Remember the Titans, and maybe you'll remember the scene. I'm going to just recount it for you for a moment.
Coach Boone led a newly racially integrated football team to victory, and Coach Boone stands talking in this movie to Louie Lastik, a big-hearted offensive lineman. When he asked if Louie is planning to go to college, Louie says, "Oh no, not me, coach, I ain't a brain." A little later in the conversation, Coach Boone lowers his voice and says, "If you don't go to college, it's not going to be because you're not qualified. So I want you to bring me your test scores at the end of every week and we'll go over them together, okay?" And near the end of the movie, we see Louie tearfully approaching Coach Boone: "I got a C+ average, coach. I'm going to college." And it's a classic example of encouragement deciding to make your problem my problem.
Years ago, I went to Spokane to the convention center, and on the way up... I was going to speak to a couple thousand business people... I got out my card and I developed a lesson for them. In fact, when I landed, I gave that lesson that day. It was called five things I know about people, and I've used the lesson other places. Jim Dobson on Focus on the Family every year played it for 15 straight years, and it still is he said one of the top five requested lessons that he ever plays.
But the five things I know about people, here they are. Number one, everybody wants to be somebody. Isn't that true? Everybody wants to be somebody. And the second thing I know about people is that nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The third thing I know about people is everybody needs somebody. None of us can do it alone, none of us can make it alone. Number four, anybody who helps somebody influences a lot of bodies. Anybody who helps somebody influences a lot of bodies. And then number five, today somebody will rise up and become somebody. Five things that I know about people.
And I here's what I know about all those five things. Again, encouragement is the absolute core of everything I just said. In fact, in your notes, encouraging others will turn your life around. We think about what we do for others when we encourage them, but you know what it's like when you encourage somebody. You walk away and say, "I'm not sure whether I was the encourager or the encouragee." You know what I'm saying? I'm not sure which did the most for which in that stage.
Number four, encouragement gives hope. Our good friend, Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A: "How do you identify someone who needs encouragement? That person is breathing." Isn't that great? Oh, you're breathing. Oh, okay, well, you must need encouragement. Oh, my goodness. You know, when they stop breathing, you don't need to encourage them anymore. In fact, if you are, there other issues we need to deal with.
There's an exhibit in the Smithsonian of the personal articles that Abraham Lincoln had with him the night he was assassinated at Ford Theater, and they have those personal articles spread out so that you can see them. There's a Confederate $5 bill and a worn-out newspaper article that extolled the accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln as president. It starts out, "Abe Lincoln is one of the greatest statesman of all time." Now, I just stop here for a moment because we know all the pressures he went through as a leader and it was a very difficult time in our country's history. Isn't it interesting that the president of the United States, who had everyone to basically serve him or meet any need that he possibly would have, would have a worn-out clipping from somebody that was giving him praise, because we know how much in his career... I mean, he really was never greatly appreciated until he was dead. But here he is, he's hanging on... He's got this worn-out newspaper clipping in his pocket that basically says that he was doing a good job.
When you need to encourage people... Let me stop here before I do this. My father, who's very good in relationships and is very good at encouragement, when I entered the ministry, he told me, he said, "John, if you'll know how to encourage people, you'll always have a crowd," because he said 80% of the people who come into your church door are insecure and they don't feel worth. "And if you'll put value and worth to them," he said, "Even if you're a lousy preacher, you'll still have a crowd."
And he was the first person to show this to me. With this piece I'm going to give you, he said, "You just remember this piece here. People are insecure. Give them confidence. People like to feel special. Sincerely compliment them. People are looking for a better tomorrow. Show them hope. People need to be understood. Listen to them. People lack direction. Navigate for them. People are selfish. Speak to their needs first. People get down-hearted. Encourage them. People want to be associated with success. Help them win. People desire meaningful relationships. Provide community. People seek models to follow. Be an example. The secret of encouragement is hope."
Let's do one more thing on encouragement. Because so many of us are in leadership positions, I wanted to put this statement in of encouragement, and that is I think encouragement empowers groups. In other words, I think encouragement is a great empowering team tool to use. I have two great football coaches, Knute Rockne and Bear Bryant, that are known for their great college football teaching. And here's what Knute Rockne said: "An automobile goes nowhere efficiently unless it has a quick hot spark to ignite things to set the cogs of the machine in motion, so I tried to make every player on my team feel that he's the spark keeping our machine in motion." Bear Bryant said, "I'm just a plow hand from Arkansas, but I've learned how to hold a team together, how to lift some men up, how to calm down others, until finally they got one heartbeat, together, a team. There's just three things I ever say. If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it. That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you."
Stay right with me in your notes. People who build successful teams never forget that every person's role is contributing to a bigger picture. This increases high morale. Team morale has everything to do with how your team functions as a unit, what kind of things you achieve. I believe that high morale leads teams to success because it magnifies everything positive that is happening for a team. High morale is the great exaggerator. When an entire team is positive and all the players feel good about themselves, everything seems good. High morale is a great elevator. When a team possesses high morale, the performance of its people goes to a whole new level. The team focuses on its potential, not its problems. Team members are confident, and that confidence helps them to perform at a higher level. And high morale is a great energizer. High morale gives a team energy. No project seems too difficult. The team's enthusiasm builds along with their energy and they develop a momentum that is almost unstoppable.
Let me close with reading one more paragraph and then one final thought. Everybody needs somebody. None of us achieve anything without the help of somebody else, and some of the greatest achievements in history became all that they did because of the people in their lives. Author CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, maintained a close friendship throughout their careers, sharing their love of mythical stories and desire to create those stories for the public. It was Tolkien who led Lewis to Christianity, and it was Lewis who encouraged Tolkien to keep writing fiction. It is said that the literary world would have neither the Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings if not for the friendship between these two men.
You know what I've discovered? I've discovered that in encouragement in relationships, what really does happen is both people go to a level that they couldn't be without someone else. Isn't that true? Samuel Goldwyn said it good: "When someone does something good, applaud. You will make two people happy." I think that works.
Many years ago, I did leadership conferences every year in the Midwest. And one year I got a letter. I close with this illustration on encouragement. And the letter was from a teenager, a kid, named Kyle Beard. And I'm going to read you the letter, the little letter he wrote, and then we'll tell you the rest of the story. "Dear Dr. Maxwell. Hello, how are you? Is the bookmark helping?" What he had put with his note was a bookmark that said, "You make a difference." So he sent me a "You make a difference" bookmark here with his note.
He said, "Is the bookmark helping? I hope so. I know you're busy planning the annual conference in Toledo, Ohio. I listen to your tapes and I know that they help and interest my mom, and the conference has helped my family," and it goes on and on. "Please read the attached story." And he put in there the attached story of how a school teacher handed to her kids a "You make a difference" ribbon, and then gave them two extra ones and said go to somebody else that makes a difference and pass it on, and how it started goodwill in the community. Okay, that's the story.
So he sends me this ribbon "You make a difference." And it closes out, it goes out by saying, "I think that you're an Eagle." He calls me an Eagle. That's okay. And he said, "I know you're very busy, but if you could find five minutes of your spare time to write back and tell me who you gave your ribbon to." Because in other words, he gave me a "You make a difference" ribbon, and then he says... Of course, I think he was a 13-year-old kid. He said, "Because in order to finish the project, you have to report back." And then he closes with, "I pray for you every night. Kyle Beard." And then he said, "P.S." Probably his mother made him put the P.S. in it. "I understand if you don't have time to report back, but it's an honor for you to wear my ribbon."
And so anyway, the conference that he referred to in Ohio, we'd have, oh, about 3000 people attend it, register. So I decided to invite him and his mother as special guests that year to the conference, and I had them make up ribbons for all the attendees, "You make a difference." Of which not only did I have him make up ribbons, but then two extra ones, so we did, I don't know, maybe 10,000 ribbons, whatever it was. And so when people registered, they got these ribbons.
And I brought Kyle up on the platform that night. I said, "Kyle, here's my ribbon. You want to know what I did? I wanted to report back to you." Then I had all these people stand and they all put their ribbons on, you know what I mean? Then I had a photographer come up on stage behind us and Kyle, and I turned around with 3000 people behind us, and he took a picture of that and we gave it to him. We said, "Now take that home to your teacher." You talk about show and tell. This will really work.
I saw that kid just a couple of years ago. I was in Kentucky. About every year I go to Lexington and I do a leadership conference for the superintendents of the school system of Kentucky, and they'll have, I don't know, 1200, 1500 superintendents, and they've just really have done a good job in teaching leadership curriculum. Well, this kid, Kyle, who's no longer a kid... In fact, he's married now... Was at this conference and I came up to see him. And he said, "You know, my life was changed the day that you passed my ribbon out to 3000 people, and I still got the picture." And he brought it with him, had it all framed, that whole process. And I remember looking at him and saying, "Well, Kyle, no, you have to understand. You're the one that initiated."
And the point that I'm giving is here's a 13-year-old kid who writes a note four or five lines long and puts a "You make a difference" ribbon in it, wraps it up, sends it to me. And of course, then it's something that... It's life-changing. And I thought to myself, "Encouragement." One of the great things about encouragement is you don't have to be brilliant to encourage people. You don't have to be a person of position. You just really have to have a heart for other people. And when you really think about it, people who encourage people, what they really do is they really care about people.
And I just want to encourage you as I close this lesson. It may be corny, but encourage somebody. You just never know. When you come into the path of somebody and put your arm around them and tell them how much you appreciate them, sometimes you just never know that that was exactly what they needed. And as you encourage others, what happens is you become encouraged yourself.
Mark Cole: Oh, I love that story of the 13-year-old boy, Jason. I'm sitting here going, "Oh, my. Everybody at the office better look out because every 13-year-old kid in America, listening around the world, is going to be sending a project to John Maxwell." Hey, what you want to do for all, you do for one sometimes, so just keep that in mind if you had this brilliant idea of making ribbons for John or myself or Jason. Jason, it is great to have you back in the studio today. Glad you're vaccinated, glad you're back in here and feeling well. Good to have you in today.
Jason Brooks: Man, I am excited to be here with you and excited to be talking about this particular topic, because as we covered in Part 1... And I really do encourage you to go back and listen to it. The encouragement that I've gotten from you and from this company and from my coworkers and my teammates, from Jake, has made such a tremendous difference in my life over the last 17 months. So I'm just tickled to death to be here. And I love that John's third point is encouragement turns lives around, because the encouragement that I've received from this company has literally helped turn my life around.
Mark Cole: You know what's funny, Jason? As I was thinking back this week to what you and I talked about last week, and then listening to John saying, "Hey, encouragement turns lives around," isn't it something that sometimes it takes trauma or a traumatic situation to remind us that we should be encouraging? And then there's others, that trauma or traumatic situations causes people to be negative. So I'm glad at least something causes us to be encouraging. That's a good thing, but yet we shouldn't wait until something significant to find ourselves encouraging. In fact, my hope, John Maxwell's hope, Jason, Jake, our hope is that this lesson will prompt you not to wait for trauma or not to wait for something to happen, but that you put encouragement into your repertoire right now as a leader.
Jason Brooks: Yeah, I think it's really important for leaders, especially. Offer encouragement based on potential, not on problems. I mean, encouragement is great when problems come around, but if you only wait until bad things happen to try and be an encourager, then you're missing out on a amazing tool that can help, as we're talking about, literally turn around lives, turn around cultures. And so when you're looking at people and you see them doing something good or you see them contributing in a meaningful way, or you just see them, you know, you just walk in and you see them, and because they work with you and alongside of you, you value them, take that opportunity. Just let them know how much they mean to you, how much you appreciate them, because it really does make a difference.
And I wanted to ask, one of the things that John talked about right out of the gate was he defined encouragement in one way as deciding to make someone else's problem my problem. And as leaders, we're always going to have problems. There's lots and lots of problems. I know you at the senior level deal with so many different challenges, but as a leader, how do you know when someone needs your specific brand of encouragement? How do you know when it's the right time for you to step outside some of the bigger problems and help out an individual that you feel like needs your encouragement? How do you know?
Mark Cole: Well, I see encouragement like my dad, Melvin Maxwell, John Maxwell's dad, Truett Cathy, Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A's dad. They all tell us, "Hey, how do you know when someone needs encouragement? They're breathing. How do you know that somebody really wants you to say something nice to them or wants to matter or wants to be important? They're breathing." I really do subscribe to that kind of thinking, that everyone really wants to be encouraged.
Now, I know in certain times, in certain situations, I want empathy more than I want encouragement. I want somebody to understand what it's like walking in my shoes. And I don't know how many leaders are out there like that. This is probably, in our world, Jason, more prominent now than at any time in my 50 years, specifically around the ideas of race reconciliation, our gender reconciliation. We have a lot of our female leaders that are still under-appreciated in the workplace.
And so we're dealing with a lot of things as leaders right now, a lot of things. And I'll tell you, it's harder for me to know how to encourage somebody today in certain situations than it was earlier in my career, because some people don't want encouragement right now. They want empathy. Well, I've never been a different gender than I am right now. I've never been a different race than I am right now. So the idea of empathy in leadership, dealing with some of the complexities of issues that we're dealing with now, is very, very challenging. And I'm telling you, I have employed leaders... Excuse me, encouragement into my leadership in certain situations when that wasn't wanted. So when you ask me, "Mark, how do you know how to be encouraging?" I've always subscribed if they're breathing, they want encouragement.
Sometimes these days in my leadership, people want empathy more than encouragement. And I'm working to be really candid with you, Jason, like I try to be in these podcasts. I'm really working with that. Let's take your situation, your fight with cancer. I've never fought with that. I don't even have anybody super close to me that has went through that fight. I remember, Jason, I remember the Kroger parking spot. Not parking lot, parking spot I was pulling into when you called me that day back in January of 2020. I remember it. Every time I pull into it now, I'll tell you what I do. I put my vehicle in park... Because I park there a lot because it's on the end and I like to park my vehicles way away. I'm one of those anal people, don't want anybody dinging my car. I park way away.
I remember where I was when I lost it with my then 13-year-old daughter and my wife, when you called me on your daughter's birthday with the news of your stage four cancer fight. I will tell you this. I can't empathize with your chemo and all of that, but I will tell you what I can do. I can go back to that moment when I felt what you felt, and I can go back in empathy and remember that moment. And every time I pull into that parking spot, and it's been multiple times since then, I put the car in park. I'm a person of faith, I pray for you. A lot of times you might be getting a text from me, an arbitrary, "Where did Mark fall out of the sky from?" Might be because I just pulled into that parking lot, because when I can feel an emotion that to you feels authentic, then I can encourage many times.
Jason Brooks: I think that is one of the most beautiful lessons on how encouragement works, because for encouragement to really be effective, it has to be authentic, and it has to come from a place of... Not sympathy, but I think empathy is the right word. And I love the fact that you may not be able to feel necessarily my emotions, but you've been able to connect your emotion with my emotion, and together that produces the empathy necessary for encouragement. And it's made just a huge difference in my life to know that somebody cares. They may not be able to fully understand, but that they go out of their way to at least try makes a huge difference.
Mark Cole: You said something right there, Jason, that I don't want to miss. And we're talking about encouragement. John has shared with us today how encouragement changes everything. We've used words right there with empathy and sympathy. People, non-leaders, people that are in very difficult times, they want sympathy. They want somebody to feel sorry for them. You've told me multiple times, "Don't feel sorry for me," because you're a leader. And I got to tell you, leaders of leaders. Listen to me, podcast listeners. Leaders of leaders. Most leaders don't want sympathy, they want empathy. They want understanding. They don't want to feel like a challenge or a burden or a charity case.
And you've got to know that, gang, because we are talking about big words here. Encouragement, it's a big word. We're talking about big words. Empathy, walking a mile in somebody else's shoes when we've never been through what they're walking through. And we're talking about sympathy and knowing that most leaders don't want sympathy. You've told me dozens of times, "Guys, don't feel sorry for me here. I've lost my hair." You look kind of good, by the way. You make me want to shave my head right now. But got a lot of stuff going on. Lost a lot of weight, got a lot of stuff going on, but, "Hey, gang, don't need you to feel sorry for me. I need you to understand, got a little bit of challenges going on in my life." And that breeds encouragement, and you've stepped up and over-performed in a time where I've seen a lot of people quit performing altogether. Forget underperforming, just quit performing altogether.
Jason Brooks: Well. I'm grateful you feel like I over-performed, because there are some days where I feel like am I doing enough? But I love what you were just saying there about empathy, sympathy, and encouragement, because it leads right into John's next point, but it's also my experience. Encouragement gives hope. You know, I don't want people feeling sorry for me, because a lot of times that deactivates people. They'll give you grief, they'll give you tears. Sometimes it's for you, sometimes it's for themselves, it just depends. But when people are capable of at least trying to understand the circumstances, trying to understand that, "Okay, that email may have been a little bit late because maybe he was having a rough day," that does make the words and the actions all the more meaningful.
I'll never forget... I wrote about this in one of my newsletters. I write a newsletter, because it's just easier than having to talk to 40 people on the phone every week. But I got a package delivered to my house just out of nowhere, didn't know what it was. Opened it up, and it was an autographed football from the University of Georgia 2020 football team. And it had been put together by Sarah and Chris and Ryland and Addie Goede. Ryland plays at UGA, so Ryland had a bunch of the team sign this ball to encourage me to keep... Literally, the words on the football are, "Keep fighting, brother. We're with you."
Mark Cole: Wow.
Jason Brooks: And I'm a University of Georgia graduate, so that just... I mean, like... I didn't even know who it was from at first. I just opened it up, saw the nice embroidered G, saw all the signatures. I kind of knew who it was coming from, but I literally just stood there and I cried for probably 15, 20 seconds. And then I opened up the card and it was a handwritten card from Chris and Sarah, just saying, "Hey, we love you and we're thinking about you and just fighting for you, with you, in prayer." And I have that football now. It sits on the bookcase in my office and I don't have to really turn my head at all to see it. But every time I see it, gives me hope, because I know there are people out there that understand and are moved by that understanding to want to be an encouragement.
You talked about senior leaders don't want sympathy, they would prefer empathy. What kind of encouragement helps a senior leader best? Is it words? Is it just being productive? For you as a senior leader and maybe some of the senior leaders that you've worked with, what are the things that typically encourage you guys?
Mark Cole: I looked through this list... And by the way, again, I don't typically do this, but I feel like I should now. If you do not and have not downloaded the a bonus resource fill-in-the-blank worksheet, you're missing out. In this particular case, I say that because there is a list of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11 things and 11 ways that people want to be encouraged.
And I would tell you know yourself. Do an inventory encouragement list. Download these notes and really determine where are the areas? And then bring your inner circle into those moments. Hey, when you see me struggling here, this is what really encourages me. I was looking at one of them, and it says people desire meaningful relationships. Provide community. And that is one for me. When I'm feeling particularly loaded down and like no one understands the load that I'm on, I mean, that sense of understanding is very big for me. So I've brought my inner circle in and said, "Hey guys, when you see this, there's particular hard demands on me, the timelines, the workload is pretty significant, I just got to tell you, I need some encouragement." And I'm blessed with people like you, Jason, and others around me that really provide that.
But I think the first way that I would answer that question is download the show notes. Do an inventory on your encouragement needs, and then bring those people around you into the discussion. When you see this, this is what I need, and this will help me get where we need to go.
Jason Brooks: And I love that, because encouragement is... I mean, genuine encouragement at any time is always nice, but when you're specifically going through something and people know to be able to step in and help you in a specific way, it not only does something for you to be helped in that way, but it helps the helper, as John's talked about. It helps that person feel like they've really done something meaningful. They've really connected in a way that matters and will help you. And that just feeds the encouragement flywheel. It keeps the whole momentum of the process moving.
And that leads into John's final point, that encouragement empowers groups. What are some ways that you have seen encouragement help the company? Can you think of a moment when somebody has done something that has encouraged the culture of the Maxwell enterprise and really made a difference and help things keep going?
Mark Cole: Yeah. You know, I posted this about a month ago or so on my social media. It's a quote from Andy Stanley that says, "People really want your presence more than they want your plan during difficult times." And so your question triggered me back to 2020 and the difficulty of leading during that time when people really just wanted your voice. They wanted your voice more than they wanted your vision. They wanted your presence more than they wanted your plan. Thank you, Andy Stanley. I mean, it was just really clear that your voice and your presence was extremely important. I don't think that's any different in a year of growth and robust production like we're experiencing this year. I think people still want your presence and they still want your voice at the same rate. They do want some plan, they do want some future, they do want clarity.
I think pulling that out though, Jason... Today after our podcast, I'm going to do a video address to our entire team. We've got 150 or so teammates. We've got a huge team of coaches, speakers and trainers, but our staff is about 150, and I haven't addressed them by video in some time. We do these Tuesday updates that our chief of staff is doing and they're powerful, and it's not my voice. But this week I went, "Man, I got to get my voice back out to our team." And maybe you're like me. You were really present with your voice and maybe it was every week or every month you are addressing your team or making sure they just heard your voice, not your vision, or maybe they was just sensing your presence and not giving your plans out. And most of my communication now is on vision and plans, and I just realized they need to know what I'm excited about. They need to know what John and I are up to.
And I'll just challenge all of you listening to the podcast. If you're like me and you've gotten out of this presence and your voice discipline, maybe think about it and get your voice out there. And maybe like me, just shoot a little video and address your team with your presence and with your voice and quit talking so much about your plans and your vision.
Jason Brooks: Yeah. I love that. Man, thanks for the opportunity to be in the studio. And leaders, take this thought home with you. In addition to doing Mark's application of downloading the show notes and doing an encouragement inventory, don't forget sometimes people need empathy more than they need encouragement, or they need empathy before they need encouragement. I think that's something we can all learn from, so Mark, thank you for the opportunity.
Mark Cole: Thank you, Jason, and thanks for being in here. I just love being with you today. You know, one of the things in podcast land, you guys are so good to listen, and we're thankful for 125, 130,000 people a week that just tune in. Thank you. I got to tell you, there's a greater world out there that needs encouragement. And you say, "Well, what can I do? How can I encourage?" I'll tell you one of the things you need to do. You need to think of somebody that needs to hear from somebody like Jason, somebody like John Maxwell, and you need to share the podcast today. You need to pass it along. Yes, that helps us get our subscriptions up and all that wonderful stuff that we believe in.
But I really do want to challenge you today. You need to pass this podcast along to somebody. Go back to Part 1 last week, and subscribe yourself, so that we can just put it in your inbox that the podcast is here and you can click on that link. But those of you that really feel like you need to be encouragement for someone, today is your day. Pass the podcast along to someone else. Subscribe yourself. Give us a comment on how today and last week's helped you, and we'll read those. Maybe some of our team will respond to you, and we will continue to impact and talk leadership, but do leadership. And until next week, let's learn, let's live out leadership. Let's lead to change the world.