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In a village market south of Chiang Mai, I watched a Thai fruit vendor slicing mango and she performed the simple task with breathtaking beauty. Each slice of her knife akin to a master’s glance on a violin string. Just like her face the blade was worn with care and age, but the knife was as sharp as her wit.

Not only did I long for a taste of the tropical fruit, but I also yearned for her acceptance and grace. Her smile and gentle face mocked my impatience. Without saying a word, she taught a Western man everything about bringing your best self to each moment. Yes, the simple task can be a blessed offering to the spirits.

Later, in a moment of boredom and doubt I scrolled through Instagram and watched a short video from a mid-western American, evangelist preacher. His shiny, shaved face reflected his shiny suit and gold chains and his voice boomed in self-righteous prayer. Oh, he was a preacher man of the highest dollar, yet his lesson rang like a bell without a chime. Hollow and flat.

The next morning my wife and I walked back to the fruit stand, and we were greeted with a smile and a wai (traditional Thai greeting). She held up a mango and I nodded, and she began slicing the fruit.

Often the best lessons are those not sought after, and the most effective leaders are those who never ask to lead.

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