I recently enjoyed the Temple Grandin movie that chronicles the life of the film’s namesake, an autistic woman who grew up to become an international figure in autism – and cattle handling. (I wrote about the unusual pairing of careers in dot 2150).

What impressed me most was the number of barriers that Temple overcame before she achieved success. Think about it:

  • She was autistic and often had difficulty reading social cues, causing her to be called a freak and be ridiculed since childhood.
  • She was a woman attempting to forge a career in the ultra-macho male world of cattle handling.
  • She was only a graduate student when she first published her revolutionary ideas on cattle handling, challenging ideas long held by those far more experienced than she.
  • She was a trailblazer and innovator, and like others who have gone first, she was dismissed with skepticism and called crazy.

Any one of her challenges could have stopped a less hearty person from pursuing their dream, but Temple persisted in the face of all four simultaneously. She bought a pickup truck and covered it in mud to fit in and drive past security at the feed lot. She talked her way into getting a press pass to gain access to the cattle ranches. She got her idea published in a trade magazine to give it credibility to do her master’s thesis on the variations of moo-ing (technically called the “agitation of cattle”).

Temple’s mentor told her to visualize her transition from high school to college as being a door that opened up onto a whole new world. “All you have to do is decide to go through it,” he said. She used that metaphor to persevere and go through doors throughout her whole life, no matter how uncomfortable it was for her to do so. And because she kept walking through these doors, over half of the cattle in North America are now handled in humane systems that Temple Grandin designed.

What door do you need to walk through to make your impact? If an autistic, female, graduate student can revolutionize cattle handling, you can achieve your dreams, too.


About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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