Leadership, business and general lifestyle

Leadership in general

The first thing to know about leadership, is that leadership is simply the act of taking responsibility. Most people walk around reactive, taking cues from their surroundings, and when you actually dare to lead and take responsibility for an outcome, you will find that they are usually quite eager to follow your lead. Following is simply the easier (and thus default) path for most. Even as you learn to take charge, be aware not to make it a necessity: It is important to live your life deliberately and aware of your ability to always take initiative of a situation, but its a poor use of resources to have to lead everything all the time - particularly when you are able to find wise and trusted people that you can let go of control to for specific circumstances.

In this day and age, most people have not been taught to break social conditioning and form a strong enough identity to act congruently from within, but instead just go with the flow, always trying to satisfy the outside expectation that seems most pressing at the time ("nice guy" behavior). This tends to be the case for anyone who preaches adherence to an ideal, yet only follows it when others are looking. As you develop your identity and allow yourself to break free from social conditioning to instead become aware of what you truly want, you will discover that a human being always needs principles to follow, and that when you are forced to instead develop and hone those principles within yourself, you can adhere to them with far greater congruence and devotion than anyone attempting to always follow the countless conflicting inputs that society tries to teach you is the "right" or "good" thing to do. Paraphrasing Lena Voyles, who coaches Masterful Lovers through this identity development: "When you allow the nice guy to die, the bad boy may be a transition, but the end result is a great man."

When you do take the lead, by all means respect the brilliant individuals in the group - coolness is largely the skill of enabling others to grow and get credit - but always be aware that individuals are bright and crowds typically clueless, because the great majority of individuals wait for permission. If you ever find yourself in a crowd during an emergency or cause for action, be aware that most people present already see the need for action and would already be doing the right thing if they were alone - but in a group setting (particularly if it's intimidating in any way), many will freeze and become idle bystanders, while waiting for social cues that rarely come. Train yourself to act in all the little ways that anyone can see is the right thing to do but everyone has somehow skipped taking initiative for, because no one else has done it yet. Not only will you build confidence and an eye for opportunity, but you will also gain the awareness that when it truly counts and you act with conviction, everyone around you will already be eager for action and will be grateful that you're giving them an opportunity to help - even if that takes the form of an order.

Wise leadership

While the simple act of taking responsibility is the most essential part of leadership, you will find that authority comes more and more easily as others come to trust in your wisdom, your communication and your ability to genuinely act in their best interest and empower them by your decisions. While I will always encourage you to respect your own wants and needs first, because that enables you to be even more for others, both your social standing and your abilities as a leader are often defined by your ability to empower others. Realize that, as a leader, this ability is respected above all else: Clinging to every little success and fleeing responsibility when the shit hits the fan is the mark of a fearful and useless leader - often one who leads by virtue of title alone (e.g. most politicians) - when in fact the far wiser choice is to grant credit for your successes to those who follow you, and take all responsibility for mistakes upon your own mantle.

In teaching, guiding and communicating with others, the first resource I'm going to recommend is actually a book on training animals - including humans. Don't Shoot the Dog (.uk / .ca), by Karen Pryor, is a cheap purchase and one of the most valuable books you will ever read, because it makes you aware of the signals you are sending and the behaviors you are reinforcing in others and yourself. Many will be surprised to hear me recommend a book on dog training for interactions with children, spouses and co-workers, but the truth is that we humans already try to impose agendas on one another, even if it is with the best intentions. When you learn how to not accidentally reinforce the wrong behavior in yourself and others and how to instead purposefully communicate your appreciation of desired behaviors, it is both a far kinder intervention than any sort of punishment, and an extremely effective one that unlocks far greater potential, because you help shape their subconscious passion and drives rather than working through pure logical discourse. Reading it will give you a far better sense of effective interaction, and as you let the lessons sink in and get internalized in your interactions over the following months, you will notice a profound effect on others - and even more so if you make the choice to act with their own best interests genuinely at heart. A simple example would be my main woman being able to take joy and feel rewarded in doing the dishes for me because I express my genuine appreciation and gratitude for her doing so - rather than both of us seeing it as just another boring chore. For more profound results, consider the effect when everyone in your presence starts feeling rewarded whenever they allow themselves to relax their limitations, let go of negativity, spot positive opportunities or the like - and when you can thank yourself for each such opportunity you spot and react to. When you empower yourself and take on the habit of seizing responsibility for the empowerment of others at every opportunity, you're only restricted by human potential itself and you'll find that there truly is no limit.

Now that I've covered acting with clear intent and purpose, let's move on to a more conventional source of leadership guidance: Napoleon Hill, who is best known for Think and Grow Rich (.uk / .ca), has written a great many books on leadership, identity and business, with many world leaders spreading his praise. I'm going to recommend The Laws of Success (.uk / .ca) in particular and have personally enjoyed the audiobook edition (.uk / .ca) . It's written in 1928 and there are occasional details or examples that I find a bit obsolete, but like most great teaching on human nature, much of it has proven to be timeless lessons, as valuable today as the day it was written. I actually went with the 75-year anniversary edition which follows all of Napoleon Hill's examples up with additional examples of how companies like Amazon or IBM have grown from the use of similar principles.

Building the lifestyle you want

Tim Ferriss is a recent name in lifestyle and business, whom many of you will already be familiar with. Like me, he covers a wide variety of topics in quick and useful ways, but the most important perspectives he brings to the table are awareness of how to most efficiently devote your resources (how most of the benefit can often be reaped with a small fraction of the effort) as well as the idea that the purpose of business and career shouldn't have to be saving up for retirement, but rather freeing you up and continually facilitating whichever lifestyle you find most enjoyable in the here and now. The 4-Hour Work Week(.uk / .ca) is filled with examples of how to spot and utilize the easy gains as well as how to set yourself up with far greater freedom in your life. The-4 Hour Body (.uk / .ca) and The 4-Hour Chef(.uk / .ca) may also both prove of interest, as his works aren't nearly as focused on one topic as his titles would have you believe.

If you are responsible for it, you can control it

This above all else should be your motivation for becoming fully responsible. There may be areas in your life that have been troublesome, working worse than desired or otherwise seemed to pose an insurmountable obstacle. As you progress and become more adept at taking responsibility, you will also be able to confront yourself more fully, dispense with the bullshit and get to the real point.

In my own case, I've had an issue with often being a few minutes late for everyday matters since I was young. Now, a well-intentioned and otherwise excellent school teacher accidentally conditioned me into both strengthening this habit and always needing to have an excuse ready. As I developed into an adult with freedom of my own priorities, no one giving a damn about excuses, and a powerful identity that I was designing the way I wanted it, I re-examined why I kept being slightly late. I of course had a lifetime of practice making up bullshit excuses and rationalisations - sometimes there might even have been very good reasons why I was delayed, but when I was late I started throwing away the layers of rationalisation and asking myself two simple questions: "What could I have done to prevent this?" and "Why did I not do so?". I quickly found myself becoming far more aware of the true issues. Sometimes they were as simple as me having to revise my time estimates by a few minutes, or account for a few extra minutes to get dressed on the way out in winter, which I had been refusing to see when I could write it off on bad traffic, weather or luck with the lights, even if those events didn't truly account for more than one minute in a five-minute delay. Estimates improving, it became apparent that I fully had the power to leave with a solid buffer every day, just like I was doing for the more rigid deadlines. With a strong drive to find ways of utilizing every moment of my time fully, and a strong disregard for maintaining a nice and proper facade, I realized that I had been doing some very deliberate prioritizing, even if I had been hiding it from myself. Accepting the full responsibility hasn't changed my habits entirely - I will still often chosen a solid breakfast, a full night's sleep or even finishing a passionate work session or an enlightening conversation over being somewhere exactly on time, when I deem that the consequences of this decision lie solely on myself. The difference is that I am now aware of those choices and can take power over them. And by accepting ownership and responsibility for that social disregard, I am able to be more honest with myself in my planning and continually improve my estimates as well as my ability to prioritize.

Now this is a pretty harmless example, but taking full responsibility and control is a skill that will serve you in all aspects of life. If you go with the resources on mastering your sex life, you can be sure that the most essential step of progress is in learning to take full responsibility and control of your situation, even in the extreme situations where that means taking responsibility for having chosen and stayed with the wrong woman. Realizing that you are fully responsible for your own long-term happiness and satisfaction, and thus fully in control of them, is one of the most liberating revelations most people will ever make.

Mastering yourself

As a leader, I will recommend that you train yourself to be in control of your own emotions. I do not speak of the emotional blockage or numbness that is common in Western societies, but rather just enabling yourself to always act from a resource-rich state and not be a victim of circumstance.

The easiest way to achieve this emotional control is by continually conditioning yourself towards the mindset and abilities you desire. Just as Don't Shoot the Dog (.uk / .ca) describes how positive reinforcement is infinitely more potent than punishment, any competent hypnotist will tell you that your subconscious processes want to help and protect you, but that they take their cues on what to reinforce by the amount of emotion poured into it, rather than the intention of that emotion. What this means is that your positive reinforcement of all the abilities and thought patterns you desire is indeed extremely effective, but also that you need to develop the ability to let go and not dwell on missteps and occasional failures. Your fastest progress will occur when you become the person who can laugh at a negative thought pattern or situation and go "Oh well, I'll handle this better next time" and instead focus your efforts on noticing and seizing all the opportunities to thank yourself for positive outcomes.

Having built such an awareness of your own state, you probably notice that even the people who somehow get in your way tend to genuinely want the best for you, but that they are often victims who simply lack the mental resources to either be positive or aware of their surroundings. I expect you will find that the world makes a lot more sense when viewed from this perspective: Very few desire the inconvenience or harm of others, but far too many act from stress, poverty mentality or desperate need of approval from a community of equally limited peers. By all means, I'm not saying you want to associate with people who are prone to asshole-behavior, but knowing that it's most of all an expression of pitiable personal limitations makes it pretty hard to hold a grudge.

There will of course be the occasional situation that doesn't work out as planned or is just plain unfortunate. Rather handing over control of your emotions and letting obsolete fear or poverty mentality dominate the situation, allow yourself a moment to size up what the realistic consequences and opportunities are. I know that I rarely make a mistake without coming away with useful knowledge of a topic, experiences of how to do better next time or simply just a fun story. As humans we tend to let items around us become symbols and invest emotions in them, which can make us prone to overreaction - allow yourself to take the moment to notice that, even when things seem messy or shocking, the worst case scenario often comes down to simply spending a bit of money. Having determined how to fix the solution, worst case, you can often find new opportunities or possibilities, even if you didn't originally desire the situation.

Other resources

If you sense that you still have any resistance or fear of changing and seizing new possibilities, I can recommend Who Moved My Cheese (.uk / .ca), a quick and cheap read by Spencer Johnson.

You may also find this TED-talk quite inspiring. I quite agree with him that most people around you are willing to quickly hand you positions of great responsibility if you're willing to just show up, raise your hand (or even proposing new initiatives) and being committed about seeing it through. Jason Roberts made the same realization and quickly used it to spot opportunities for changing his local community for the better.

Breaking the Time-Barrier is an excellent book, that shows how to set you and your business apart from the competition, while better serving your customers and breaking free of the income. It is read in one hour and it offers you to read first and then decide what the book was worth to you.

Getting Things Done (.uk / .ca) is a useful book on structuring your projects and actions so it takes far less effort to both move them forward and maintain an overview. You probably already have some systems for maintaining structure, but this book respects that while providing inspiration for further improvement. The whole book is also with a healthy dose of respect and understanding for the inner workings and motivations of the human mind.

Pick your own journeys!

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