What we believe to be true to a large extent is socially constructed. Accordingly, in Western society we tacitly learn to believe that the main purpose in life is to acquire as much as we can. While there is no truth to the adage the one who dies with the most toys wins, it seems to be the guiding principle of those seeking to keep up with the Joneses.
When life becomes a game, then unavoidably we become the pawns—the victims of our own devices. That is, not only does one structure his/her life in a way that will inhibit the development of his/her humanness, it also impacts the development of others.
I am sure you know several people who tend to define him/her self by his/her role or position in an organization or in society. In so doing they associate success in life with attaining superiority within these various roles. So, with success in life being synonymous with having more—more prestige, more possessions, and more wealth—they identify with their trappings.
When we define our self by our position or possessions we not only inhibit our self from connecting with our essence, we create a precarious sense of self. It’s precarious because our identity is in question, since it can always be lost or taken away. Consequently, those attached to their trappings are adrift in a sea of fear and doubt. Seeking to avoid being overcome by waves of fear and doubt, they are driven to get and have more. Caught up in a vicious cycle where getting more unavoidably turns toward a need to have more, their life becomes an acquisitive life.
As a result there is a strong tendency to forsake the development of one’s potential as a human being for the acquisition of material things in life. I am sure you know people who are striving to gain as much as they can that they are losing so much of themselves in the process—they may have a lot of stuff, but no substance.
Each of us has a choice of how to be-in-this-world. We can choose to focus attention on enhancing the experiences in life through our very existence, or we can choose to place attention on increasing the existence of material things in life. Focusing on the former does not preclude the latter, but focused attention to the latter inhibits the former—it need not be an either/or proposition.
The realization of your leadership begins with your understanding of the very person you are and not with what you do, the position you hold, or what you have. The emergence of your leadership requires that you let go of the irrational desire for the material trappings in life and begin to value and influence the unfolding of the (human) potential we all have. However, in light of our socially constructed beliefs, this takes considerable courage.
The very last paragraph sums up the article quite profoundly. Our societal normals have all but squashed this important attribute of leadership: courage. As a leader and in general as a human being, we choose to follow norms and not rock the boat. Society has made group norms and group think the standard. When an individual comes along with the right leadership principles they are almost without a doubt singled out, oster-sized, or not allowed to participate if only on a very limited basis. Thus making a good leader a very lonely affair requiring great sacrifice and tremendous strength and fortitude to endure until such time as the actions/decisions of the leader gain acceptance and respect.
Our founding fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Lee Iaacoca, and others come to mind as good examples of courageous and selfless leaders.
Yes Jeff, stepping out of the socially conditioned way-of-being and thinking, being a free thinker, can often times place you against popularity and the resultant ostracizing of such action will incur is something many avoid.
Wonderful article. Thank you.
Echoing Jeff’s comment, I too observe the paucity of courage amongst those who have been entrusted with leadership responsibilities throughout the world. Remembering that the entire world is now run on the basis of the colonial Euro centric social structures, laws and modalities, it is indeed a civilization that deters courage. Empires were built on conformity not anarchy. Courage is like an “evil” that such civilizations attempt to destroy through every element within their power. Today we have created such an awesome arsenal for this purpose which includes the conformist media, that the courageous are stymied at every turn. As a final straw, we have resorted to the assassin’s weapon to eliminate the more powerful of those courageous leaders in our midst.
I am putting together a hard hitting documentary series called “Courage in a planet of cowards” which i hope to release sometime next year. Maybe it might stir up some others to be courageous… Anyway it promises to be a fun experience.
Thank you for speaking up, Greg and Jeff. You make the world open to itself.
Sonny, it seems quite clear that while society does provide us much needed order, on the flip-side of that order are societal norms that actually constrain the expression of our humanness. The more each of us gets in touch with his/her humanness and acts from that, the more we will likely experience leadership.
I look forward to the documentary—please let me know when it is available.
It is necessary for that kind of courage you speak of to understand that the spiritual aspects feed on attention and awareness just as much as the material aspects feed on resources, time and money. We can only excercise our choice to live closer to our potential when we make it our lifelong business to know our hearts. The more I am aware of myself, the more I can define the impact I wish to have on others and how I want to affect the world around me. This is not to say that money and material matters need to be shunned. I recently talked to a friend who told me how she was doing presentations for free, to promote better living for the people who listened to her. Her associates wanted to charge for the presentations and she opposed that, claiming the important thing was how it made a difference in people’s lives. My take is that if the message is good, you can charge for it as you want and still it will make a difference. They are two separate issues. I remember the great Anita Roddick of Body Shop saying they needed to sell their products in order to continue promoting fair trade and effecting social change. She was a great leader, that understood the role of the material and its connection with the ability to take that difference you are making even further.
Your comments resonate. Being aware that this self, this ‘I’ that I am, and that self, that ‘I’ that you are, are not separate selfs–different but not separate–and as such we have a responsibility to ‘our’ self. As I interpret you saying it takes courage to act on that responsibility.
You conclude that business people earn ‘leadership’ by having the ‘courage’ to abandon a materialistic lifestyle. HA! Thats hysterical!
Demonstrating leadership comes by representing the interests and benefits your ‘society’ needs in the workplace or at home. Courage is demonstrated by being responsible to your society for your actions, such as ignoring critics who act irresponsibly or act to promote their own self-interests.
very interesting article
Wow! You have expressed my sentiments to a “T.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think is drawing near when your thoughts will no longer be the canary in the coal mine.
The decadent people will have to change or go by the wayside, because circumstances will dictate this is necessary and a leader will emerge who will act in accordance with what you are looking for in a leader. Unfortunately in America we choose to be reactive to change and not embracing of it.
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