Sports teams at the University of Oklahoma are known as the Sooners, one of strangest nicknames in collegiate athletics. The story of how their peculiar nickname originated highlights a key ingredient to success in leadership: initiative.
In 1889, the U.S. government agreed to open up public lands in Oklahoma to aspiring homesteaders. Anyone who agreed to cultivate a parcel of land for at least five years could gain title to 160 acres. Congress set a time and date—April 22, 1889 at noon—as the legal starting point at which settlers could enter Oklahoma Territory and lay claim to a plot of land. Fortune-seekers, entrepreneurs, and those looking for a fresh start flocked to Oklahoma in anticipation of the event. When the day arrived, at exactly noon, public officials signaled the opening of the lands by firing pistols into the area. People on wagons and horseback raced across the countryside in hope of securing free land for themselves.
The event, which came to be known as the Oklahoma Land Run, had few rules. One of them, however, was that no one was permitted to stake out their plot of ground prior to the official start date. Even so, lots of people—deputy marshals, land surveyors, railroad employees—took advantage of their positions to get a head start. By going sooner than they were supposed to, they ended up with the best pieces of land. Collectively, this group became known as the “Sooners”, and the word came to signify anyone with a go-getting, initiative-taking spirit.
As the Sooners demonstrate, it’s often not the fastest person that wins the race, but the person who started first.
The Benefits of Initiative:
(1) Taking Action Reduces Your Fear.
Unwillingness to act flames our fears and causes us to dread something we really ought to do. How many times have we magnified a fear in our minds to terrifying proportions, only to take action and then realize: “That wasn’t so bad! Why did I put it off so long?” Most fears and worries are unfounded, and more people abandon their dreams out of fear than perhaps anything else.
Influential people don’t wait for everything to be guaranteed before moving forward; they press ahead in spite of risks. They know a secret that all good leaders understand: momentum is your friend. Once you take the first step and start moving forward, you generate confidence to tackle the problems and difficulties in your path.
(2) Taking Action Puts You Ahead of the Pack
Initiative means doing the right thing without being told, or immediately upon realizing the best course of action. Most people hesitate and procrastinate, either until circumstances force them to move forward or until someone kicks them in the rear. By proactively taking care of what needs to be accomplished, you gain an edge on the competition.
(3) Taking Action Brings Rewards
As the great industrialist Andrew Carnegie once said, “The first man gets the oyster, and the second man gets the shell.” Everyone has areas of strength in which they intuitively sense what needs to be done before almost everyone else around them. However, not everybody marries intuition with action. For those who do, success awaits.
Thought to Ponder
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is God’s gift; that’s why we call it the present” (anonymous). The only way to reach the top is to start climbing. Where do you need to initiate action today in order to move toward your dream?