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Leadership as a Foot Soldier: The Story of an American Treasure

Jan 16, 2022

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

                                                                                             - Mahatma Gandhi


In January of 2018, while conducting my Discover Your Breakthrough You board breaking experience workshop here in Denver, I had the honor of meeting an American treasure, the Reverend Harold Middlebrook of Memphis, TN. 


Rev. Middlebrook was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the organizers of the March on Washington in 1963 where Dr. King delivered his I Have a Dream speech, organized voter registration in Selma, AL following the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and was with Dr. King when he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.


And yes, at 75 years young, he broke his first board with me 😊!


However, Rev. Middlebrook’s board break almost never happened.  When I initially invited him to join us in our breakthrough exercise, he declined saying he would leave it up to the younger people in the room.


However, as we got moving and were progressing through the program, I began to see him up on his feet doing the preparatory exercises with us; he was learning to stabilize his base in a proper martial arts stance, he was performing his Ki Hap (Spirit Yell) to find the power of his voice, and practicing his “heel palm” strike on the pad so he could eventually break through a board. 


Moments later, he came up in front of the room, with his “breakthrough” prominently written on his board, and after confidently introducing himself, he proudly shared his breakthrough with those in the room when he said,


“My breakthrough is I’m finally going to listen to my wife and begin training and mentoring younger people so my message can continue in the world.”


After his sharing, you could hear a pin drop in the room. 


He then went to his board, and after a couple of steady measuring strikes, he let out a visceral yell as his hand exploded through the board with a resounding “CRACK”! 


The room erupted in applause, as we witnessed an American hero have yet another breakthrough in his storied life.

Throughout the event, fellow attendees and I had been held in rapt attention while Rev. Middlebrook told stories of his participation in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's and his continued quest for equality for ALL to this day. 


One of the things that struck me was when he said,


"I always saw myself as a foot soldier, just doing what needed to be done for the cause."


There was no fanfare in his message, just a deep desire to serve at the greatest level possible.


In hearing his humble yet powerful words, it made me think of one of my favorite quotes from William Arthur Ward.


We must be silent before we can listen.

We must listen before we can learn.

We must learn before we can prepare.

We must prepare before we can serve and ........

We must serve before we can lead.


Thank you, Rev. Middlebrook for being such an inspiration and champion for the rights of all to grow, expand and experience the most powerful versions of ourselves. 


As we move through the rest of the week, I ask each of us how we can be the foot soldier for the cause, to lead through service and make this world a better place, one act of courage and kindness at a time.  


Chris Natzke

Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching


PS:  If you have visions of serving at a greater level and you would like to bring that into reality in 2022, click here to learn more about my 2022 Strategic Planning Power Package.


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