Would you care enough to keep working from jail?

This post is Day 2 of the Your Turn Challenge, an initiative to blog every day for a week. Question of the Day: Tell us about something that’s important to you. 

Over the weekend I had the honor of participating in a reading of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King.

The project was organized by my friend Willie Jackson. He got 40 people together to record, edit, and complete the project in less than 72 hours - talk about shipping.

This was the first time I read MLK’s powerful letter, and I should have sought it out sooner. I was struck by how relevant Dr. King’s sentiments still are today and how precise his language was. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage checking out the text or listening to the recording.

The project resonated with me on many levels, and I wanted to do justice to MLK’s powerful message as best as I could. I read it three dozen times out loud over the course of 3 hours. I tested each of the five microphone settings to see which sounded the sharpest. I tried speaking from various distances to the mic. I read sentences differently each time to explore the right speed and emphasize the right words.

After I uploaded my audio snippets, I couldn’t wait to hear the rest of the recording. When it was released yesterday, I was in awe. I’m the first to speak, so it was surreal hearing my own voice say, “My dear fellow clergymen…" 

The audio switches from one person to the next, and includes men and women. Some people had raspier voices, some spoke slower, some enunciated every syllable, others drawled - all of it was read with heart. You could tell that the people reading cared. You could obviously tell from the words that MLK cared with everything he had.

Caring is hard. It means that you’re emotionally invested. It means that something not working would disappoint you. I never thought too much about the idea of caring, but now I think it is one of the most rare and precious traits a person could have.

I used to think a lot about what I should care about. Now I lean towards being honest with myself about what I actually care about, and letting that guide how I make decisions and how I want to spend my time.

As we can see from Dr.King writing this letter from JAIL, leadership isn’t all fun and games. I mean, the man is in prison and he’s still doing his work. I’m sure all things worth pursuing take a long time and hard work before you might see results - and even then it’s not a guaranteed outcome. 

Given the blood, sweat, and tears involved, there are some things where maybe it’s not worth it to take the lead. Maybe certain things don’t matter enough for you to say, "Yeah bring on the sacrifice.”

But there are some things that are important enough. Where you go into it thinking, “The journey would be worth it even if it didn’t work in the end. I believe in this enough to overcome my own ego, perceived risk, and real risk." I’m starting to know what those causes are for me, and am inspired by leaders who chose to take a hard path that ended up benefiting us all.

Check out the SoundCloud page.