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Posts tagged happy
Decisions, decisions...




Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

There will be times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.
— Judith McNaught

Do you typically make your decisions quickly, on instinct, or slowly?

I’m a big believer in balance being the key to life, including when it comes to decision-making. No matter which camp you generally identify with, this post offers insight on being an effective decider. Sexy stuff, I know, but you gotta admit - extremely useful.

As is often the case (at least with me), one of my strengths is also a complicating factor. In this case it’s my open-mindedness and ability to generate/consider multiple options. Awesome when you’re writing a report or devising a strategy, not so awesome when you’re just needing to buy some friggin’ shampoo.

I’m an analyst by profession and nature, so it’s my inclination to gather as much info as possible. I know all too well the feeling of paralysis by analysis. (But not with certain decisions like, you know… TATTOOS. I’ll walk into a tattoo joint and switfly decide on the spot what I’ll get permanently marked on my skin, whereas I’ve spent hours/days determining the best facial cleanser. Gotta love me.)

When I say hours/days spent researching, I’m not kidding. Down the rabbit hole I’d go. I’d look at different brand, study different types, compare various prices, weigh relevant factors. I’d scour reviews - only to emerge with my head spinning and my decision more elusive than when I started.

For the sake of time and sanity (mine and those around me!), I committed to becoming more decisive. I learned decisiveness is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. And what makes it even easier and more effective is relaxing and learning to identify, access, and trust my intuition. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is an insightful book on this. Highly recommend.

I noticed - and later substantiated through reading works such as Blink - the more possibilities I had to consider, the more overwhelmed I became and the harder it was to decide. Sure, you want to have options, but at some point it becomes detrimental. As it often goes, moderation is key: not too few, not too many.

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Blink shares the story of a life-altering lesson learned at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, where emergency room physicians suffered analysis paralysis when trying to diagnose patients with heart attack symptoms. Gladwell notes they discovered an algorithm containing a simple set of criteria had a higher success rate than the traditional treatment protocol Gladwell describes as “long and elaborate and -– worst of all –- maddeningly inconclusive.”

Sound familiar? Beyond a certain point, additional information, no matter how accurate or seemingly relevant it might be, can actually impede decision-making. Do less, succeed more. Or something like that. :)

We have come to confuse information with understanding. We are inundated with information, which can actually cloud our instincts and judgment. It’s good to be informed, but detrimental to be too informed. Paralysis by analysis. The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.


This Freud quote echoes Gladwell’s advice:

When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.
— Sigmund Freud

Powerful, right? Score another one for the importance of self reflection and awareness.

When faced with decisions in life, ask:  What’s your biggest goal/desire in life right now? Ask yourself which of the options (if any) align with that.

And it might take digging to distill it down into one main goal/desire.  It’s a matter of sitting with yourself, letting your distracting thoughts come and go, and leveling with yourself on a spiritual level - NOT an intellectual level - and facing your inner being and letting that guide you. I think one of the biggest points to remember is to identify your fears - and not let them drive your decision(s). So maybe that’d be a helpful place to start: identifying your fear(s) and seeing if/how they’re affecting your thoughts/decisions.

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Here are some concrete tips for optimal decision-making:

  • Know your unknowns + intelligence gaps

    • Know what you don’t know!

  • Consider varying perspectives/interpretations/options

    • To a point - set limits to avoid getting sucked into the abyss

  • Challenge assumptions

    • Your own and others’!

  • Rate your confidence level with each option

    • This can help you think about what you might be missing and choose the option you feel best about

  • Assess your immediate reaction to each option

    • Do you feel a sense of peace? Unease?

      • If you pick a difficult choice yet your heart feels at peace…that’s a good sign

  • Load up on the relevant info and then move on!

    • Distract yourself with other things. Let your subconscious handle it. Science shows this leads to superior decisions. Per Unconscious Thought Theory, your conscious mind is needed for decisions with strict rules, eg math calculations; but for decisions with large amounts of info that can be vague/conflicting,  your unconscious mind is the MVP.

  • Remove unnecessary pressure from yourself!

    • Make a decision and if it didn’t yield the desired results, go from there and make another decision

    • Consider the worst case scenario(s) and ask yourself: Why would that be so bad?

      • Things are often not as dire as they seem. Asking yourself this question (repeatedly, if necessary) will guide you to your driving fear - so you can recognize and override it.

      • Especially when contemplating a minor decision such as an entrée or a new pair of shoes. If you end up regretting your purchase, you may be out some money and life may temporarily be sub ideal, but life will definitely go on.

  • Stay open and embrace uncertainty

    • Sometimes the easiest way to be wrong is to be certain you are right. Studies have found a strong correlation between astute decision-making and a willingness to recognize - even embrace - uncertainty. Low-ability individuals tend to overestimate their skills.

  • Try getting creative and innovative

    • Consider unconventional methods/solutions

      • Just because something is done a certain way doesn’t mean it always needs to be done a certain way. Progress is made through trailblazing and daring to differ

  • Practice on micro decisions. If you’re prone to soliciting advice on everything, practice deciding solo. If you tend to make rash judgments, try slowing down to weigh options and ask others’ perspectives.

Remember: You don’t need an answer to everything. That’s not how life works. We figure it all out by living and experiencing. By screwing up, by missing an opportunity, by seeking advice and not taking it, by taking advice wrong for us. We learn what’s important and what isn’t. Sometimes we have no clue what to do, and that’s okay. Always trust your gut and know everything will work out as it should. It always does. Relax. And love.

-w-


In the end...we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to pursue, and the decisions we waited too long to make.




D E T O X
Photos by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Color edited by me

Photos by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Color edited by me

The other day I was talking with a friend about dealing with toxic people in our lives.

We’ve all experienced negativity in our lives. That’s showbiz. And by showbiz, I mean LIFE. It’s part of the gig! And sometimes, that negativity is more chronic/severe, bumping it to the toxic zone.


You cannot heal in the same environment where you got sick.

Sporadic negativity is to be expected. Navigating life can be tough, man, and there are so many contributing factors to negativity: change/loss/curveballs/hormones. Ideally we’ll get to a place where we live what the Stoics preach: being solidly at peace no matter what happens. That’s a journey and a whole other conversation, so let’s table that for this post’s purpose.

Back to handling toxicity, particularly when it comes to toxic people in our lives. I’m a firm believer in empathizing with unacceptable behavior but not condoning it.

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Let’s unpack the first part of that: empathy. Everyone has bumps and bruises they’ve accumulated from being, you know…HUMAN. And let’s face it, some people get dealt realllly shitty hands. It doesn’t seem fair, right? And comparison is futile. Not everyone’s challenges are equal and they don’t have the same effect on everybody. Again, there are multiple contributing factors (history, current emotional/physical/mental state, etc). What’s tough for me may be easy for you, and vice versa. And what may have been a breeze for you in the past may knock you down now. Life isn’t necessarily linear.


Empathy lies in our ability to be present without opinion.
— Marshall B. Rosenberg

And some people are carrying some heavy burdens we know nothing about, driving them to act in certain ways, like lashing out/getting irritable/becoming erratic, etc. Our exterior (including our behavior) is a reflection of our interior. Our fears/insecurities have a way of hijacking us and driving our behavior. So let’s recognize this in one another and try not to judge/condemn/dismiss/etc. We’re all human and we’re all in this together, doing the best we can. Truly! We don’t get to decide what qualifies as someone else’s best; it’s different for everyone and is affected by what load the person is currently carrying. If that load is heavy from fears and insecurities, it’ll weigh the person down to the point where they’re exhausting all effort and energy to merely stay afloat. We’re not privy to all that adds to the load; therefore, we’re not fit to rule on it. And sometimes, a mental health matter is causing the issue.

Once we’ve empathized, now we can address how to handle the toxicity. It’s entirely possible to empathize with behavior, but not condone it. Understanding where people are coming from and why they do what they do, is not the same as rubber stamping their actions and saying it’s okay. For example, let’s say you have a friend who constantly competes with you. Rather than celebrating your wins, they minimize your accomplishment, or try to one up you. Digging into it, you discover this is because of your friend’s insecurity and need for validation, having been raised to believe one’s worth is conditional. This leads to your friend constantly seeking validation to “earn” their worth, and to prove to themself and others they are worthy of love and acceptance. This also results in a scarcity mindset, believing the more success you have, the less they will have.

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And/or let’s say you have a partner who regularly criticizes you and puts you down. You realize this is because of your partner’s own feelings of inadequacy and shame, and because your partner is mimicking the dynamic they saw with their own parents.


Empathy without boundaries is self destruction.
— Silvy Khoucasian

Okay, so we get it: There are reasons why people act the way we do, and it’s key to invite humanity into the situation and view it with love. BUT this is also where boundaries are crucial. To fully love ourselves AND others, it is vital we set and maintain boundaries. If someone crosses a line, we respond accordingly. This can be hard, I know - but it’s like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it will be. And boundaries help us eliminate anger/frustration/shame/resentment to make room for more love/joy/compassion. Like Brené Brown says, boundaries are essential for true compassion.

If someone resists and challenges boundaries you set, it’s more evidence the boundaries are necessary.

So stand up for yourself. Accommodating toxicity is a disservice to all involved. It’s unfair to you, because you shouldn’t have to put up with that, and it’s unfair to them because it perpetuates the cycle, shows them it’s okay to treat people like garbage, and prevents them from healing and evolving. It’s unfair to you to not honor the negativity’s impact on you.

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Stop holding onto toxic people just because you have history together. Stop holding onto toxic habits because you find comfort and security in routine.
— Kylie Francis

Addressing it can be complicated, and I think should be on a case-by-case basis. It’s key to consider where people are mentally and emotionally. Sometimes the person acknowledges and stops their toxicity and remains in your life. And sometimes, unfortunately, for your wellbeing, it requires removing them from your life. Sometimes this communicates to them the severity of the situation and the strength of your boundaries and is enough to motivate them to change their ways. And sometimes…it’s a permanent farewell.


Sometimes you must forget how you feel and think of what you deserve.

Maybe it comes down to their role/significance in your life, and/or the degree of toxicity. If it’s an acquaintance, it’s easier to minimize contact and love from afar. If it’s a coworker/close friend/partner/someone more fully integrated into your life, minimizing contact isn’t always a viable option. If the toxicity is serious enough, this may require a significant shift in your life. Prioritize your wellbeing over your connection. Just because someone is blood/best friend/spouse doesn’t mean they deserve to be in your life. YOU design your life and what/who goes in it. Sometimes, the greatest act of love is cutting contact and loving from afar.

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Sometimes you have to realize some people can stay in your heart but not your life.

Or maybe simply a gentle but frank convo is warranted. Ideally they’ll take it well, but if they don’t, you can rest assured you handled it maturely and gracefully, and honored the highest good.

And please - do what feels right to you. People will likely offer advice on what you should do, but you are the boss here. You get to decide. Sure, possibly seek insight from those you trust, but ultimately, it’s up to you.


Sometimes you have to be done. Not mad, not upset, just done.

And guess what? An unfortunate truth is sometimes…we’re the toxic one. We’re the one who needs to change our ways. This is why shadow work and self reflection are so dang important: to prevent our “stuff” from infecting our environment. If you’re not right with yourself, this impacts those around you. Your toxicity pollutes not only your inner being and those around you, but also the collective human psyche of which you are an inseparable part. Eckhart Tolle discusses this is in his powerful book, The Power of Now. So sometimes that hard convo and tough love need to be directed at ourselves. Or sometimes others let us know we’ve violated their boundaries. Not fun to hear, but it’s a chance to heal, to grow, and to lean into love.

So let’s show up for ourselves and others and commit to toxic-free life.

xx,

-w-

P U R P O S E
Model Nicole Spinnler  Images + styling by Whitney Richardson Photography  Assisted by Cari Spinnler  MUA Hyun-Joo Rina Shin

Model Nicole Spinnler

Images + styling by Whitney Richardson Photography

Assisted by Cari Spinnler

MUA Hyun-Joo Rina Shin



So Whit, do you think our goal is comfort and happiness or to do epic shit? ‘Cause I don’t think you can do both.
— My badass amigo

Personally, I feel our collective purpose is to live and to grow, to be present and enjoy life.

That doesn’t mean life will be easy, and that we should avoid the hard stuff and resist the trials. It means we should find beauty and meaning and purpose in it all. We should celebrate. I think it’s about identifying and aligning with your purpose, and identifying what you personally need to grow, and to contribute the most value to the world. Not to your accomplishment record, but to the world.


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When we match compassion with purpose, we begin to change the world.
— Zachariah Thompson

Some people’s purposes require high-profile roles; some slower paced and more low key. I think aligning with your true purpose and talents and potential allows you to work smarter. It allows you to focus and leverage your talents and skills for maximum impact, which helps you feel fulfilled, motivated, engaged, and progressive.


Find the WHY in what you do and you will always be on the right path.

Everybody is different. We’re all on different places on the balance spectrum, and require different lifestyles to balance us. That’s why self awareness is key: We need to reflect and do our shadow work and level with ourselves, to know where to step it up + venture out (literally/figuratively) and where to pump the brakes and ease up.

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The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Ask yourself: What are my motivations (in life in general, and for denying/accepting individual opportunities)? Am I copping out and staying in my comfort zone because I’m scared? Am I staying busy to avoid facing something? Am I taking this opportunity because I feel pressured (by family/friends/society/others)? Am I chasing a certain lifestyle/income/status because society exalts it? Does this resonate with me?

I think that last question is key: opting only for what truly resonates with you. And a good gauge is choosing opportunities that scare you, or opportunities that light you on fire.

I’ve had multiple opportunities to move to DC to work. It’d be catalytic for my career, but I know it’s not ultimately where I belong. I wouldn’t be happy there. My money/time/energy would be better spent invested in a place and position aligned with my purpose and desires. At the end of the day, my career might be popping but my personal life and fulfillment would suffer. And isn’t that what matters most in the end? To what everyone seems to circle back, and ultimately discover? Isn’t that what people seem to realize after living certain lifestyles? And that’s not to say that specific lifestyle is sans value. For some, that fits their purpose/personal preference, and would leave them the happiest. It can be tough distinguishing between what you’re resisting because of fear, or because of intuition (ie sending it’s wrong for you).

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This is why it’s important to learn to tune into yourself. Get to know yourself. Identify your thought patterns, particularly those based in fear. Understand why you do what you do and think what you think, to help you recognize when you’re being led by fear/trauma, and when you’re being led by intuition/wisdom. Practice separating from your thoughts, your mental narrative. Get comfortable dialing into your core, your true self, your inner wisdom. You know what you need. You always have, and you always will. It’s simply a matter of you holding space for yourself to acknowledge and honor your inner guidance.


The real joy in life comes from finding your true purpose and aligning it with what you do every single day.
— Tony Robbins

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This I know for sure: You can live a meaningful and fulfilling life wherever you are. It’s not the outer climate that matters, it’s your inner climate. You can have a profound impact on people whether you’re living in a small town or a booming metropolis, whether you’re a globe-trotting activist or stay-at-home parent, whether you’re a high-powered broker or a hometown hero. This is ever more true, with technology shrinking our world and allowing more connections than ever.

The goal: do you, and be happy doing it.

xx,

-w-


Every human being has a gift of genius and a personal calling encoded in them from birth. It is up to you to discover it, to develop it, to own it, and to share this gift with the world. This is your life’s purpose.
— Oprah Winfrey






Helping the H U R T
Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Color edited by me

Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Color edited by me

Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unrestrained. All work stops, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around this individual.

Next, each person in the tribe speaks to the individual, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his/her lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted.  All his/her positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and fully.  This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days.

At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration occurs, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.

HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THAT.

I’ll go ahead and answer my own question: phenomenally beautiful

We all know hurt people hurt people, right? If you didn’t realize that then, well, now you know. It’ll explain A LOT on why people do what they do.

If people are acting a fool and are being rude/unkind/inconsiderate/nasty/etc, it’s because they’re not right with themselves. They’re insecure/traumatized/etc. They’re so consumed by pain and negativity, they have little to no capacity for empathy and love. And since anger feels better than pain/shame, people lash out. Here are some examples of people masking their pain/insecurity with hatorade:

  • An employee vilifying their boss for not promoting them

  • A jealous person blaming the other woman/man for “seducing” their partner (“You homewrecker! You ruined my relationship!”)

  • A business owner demonizing a competitor

  • An individual reviling a provider of well-intentioned constructive feedback

We could go pretty deep here exploring the many elements to this, but suffice it to say: Hurt people hurt people.

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I’m grateful I realized this truth early on in my life. It’s softened the blow when I’ve had venom spit my way, or faced betrayal. Don’t get it twisted: it can still sting, but at least I understand the cause, and know not to take it personally. That’s crazy liberating. It’s like there’s an invisible bubble protecting your sense of self worth, deflecting the hate and doubt from permeating.

And just because you empathize with the causes of someone’s negative behavior doesn’t mean you condone it. That’s where boundaries come in. You can still love them while making it clear certain words/actions are unacceptable.

And also - and this can really bite the big one - be wise and humble enough to recognize the truth bombs in negative feedback. Sure, that person’s delivery could REALLY USE SOME FRIGGIN’ POLISHING, but try to remain open. Try not to shy away from reflection. View it as an opportunity to become even more of an allstar. If the feedback hit a nerve, that right there reveals an unhealed part of you. Lean into it. Figure out why.

And maybe the affected nerve is the one of caring too much of others’ opinions, and requiring external validation. The key to making it through the cleansing - but often brutal - fire of negativity-inspired self reflection is to operate on a solid foundation of self love. Knowing your shadows don’t define/control you, and neither do others’ opinions. Knowing you’re strong enough to brave the blows and use them to become even STRONGER and more self aware. Knowing you can directly face the negativity and extract what you need to evolve and get better, not bitter. This comes from loving yourself through ALL of your phases, even the ones where you feel beaten down or less than. You may not feel you’re quite there yet, but it is absolutely within your reach.

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The hardest thing in the entire world is to remain kind even when people aren’t. Remain honest even when you’re met with lies. Remain good even when things go terribly. And above all, understand the pain and heartbreak you feel isn’t a reflection of something you’ve done wrong or anything you lack. When people hurt you that means there is pain within them and something they lack that they haven’t figured out how to process or heal from. Hurt people hurt people. But don’t let them change you. Understand those are the people who need love the most.
— Kirsten Corley

So I was listening to a podcast with Marianne Williamson on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. Marianne introduced a novel perspective:

When people are physically injured, we typically react with compassion, and usually try to help. You’re bleeding, I’mma grab a bandage/tourniquet/etc. But if someone shows us (intentionally or - more often - unintentionally) their insecurities/traumas/etc, it’s easier for us to ignore/judge/dismiss. But they’re the people who need the most compassion!

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Sure, as I mentioned, boundaries are key. You can empathize with people and not condone certain behavior, and it can be tricky distinguishing between empathizing and enabling. But no matter what, you can always offer love and kindness. Sometimes this must be from afar, but love is always the answer. We all get “hurt” and all need love. Some are better at healing themselves than others, but we all have healing power within us we can apply to both ourselves and others.


xx,

-w-

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Following T H E Leader
Images by Trey Staff/ @treyshotz

Images by Trey Staff/ @treyshotz

Like many people, I’ve read multiple books on leadership. I’ve held and hold leadership positions.

I’ve pondered what makes a truly great, effective leader. Why some are effective and others aren’t.

One of my earliest and lasting impressions has been that not all leaders and situations are the same. What works for one leader may not work for another. What yields success in one circumstance may cause catastrophe in another.

I seemed to be the only one thinking this, as book after book I read offered checklists/attributes/traits/steps/formulas/characteristics/formulas/steps exhibited/adopted by all “true” and “great” and “effective” leaders.

Until I found General Stanley McChrystal’s new book he wrote with Jeff Eggers and Jason Mangone titled, Leaders: Myth and Reality.

FINALLY.


Note: If you’re not familiar with Stan McChrystal and don’t know why the hell you should take advice from him, TRUST ME - bro knows his stuff. He served for 34 years in the US Army, rising through the ranks to ultimately command all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan as a four-star general. Those four stars aren’t the gold stars they give out for just participating. He’s a leader through and through, and I highly HIGHLY recommend the book. He profiles 13 famous leaders from a wide range of eras and fields (Walt Disney, Coco Chanel, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, etc) to explore how leadership actually works in practice, and to challenge the myths complicating and clouding our thinking on this key topic. It’s actually a fun, interesting, and engaging read and is brilliantly and clearly written.


First of all, let’s talk about timing.

It’s often overlooked. What we call “leadership“ is often some combination of the leader’s actions, along with serendipity or other contextual factors that make for a positive result.

Leaders are separated not only by time and place, but also by what kind of leadership style would make them effective in their specific roles and place in time, moment, and framework. Yet too often we revert to vague assessments of “strong“ or “moral“ leaders, as though those things consist of formulas to be replicated in diverse contexts.

Spoiler alert: THERE IS NO FORMULA, y’all. Context matters!

This totally echoes my thoughts and observations over the years that never seemed supported by literature and guidance on the topic.

Moreover…

Leadership is never about the capacity and impact of a single person. We typically attribute far too much to an individual, the figurehead, the one with visibility, whom we can see and idolize, and ignore/dismiss/overlook the system as a whole and its contributing parts. (And as Stan the Man acknowledges, there are multiple reasons for the idolizing.) Yes, there are some phenomenal people out there, but none so amazing they singlehandedly drive a movement/achieve results/make it all happen. Turns out Coach was right: teamwork makes the dream work. There are many contributing factors to any event/movement/force/etc.

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And to be judged fairly, leadership styles must be viewed not just at a specific time but also in a particular framework. The context of an enabling institution is often necessary to substantiate leadership.

The culture, the environment, the location, etc must all be examined. Consider the presence/degree of such factors as hostility, resistance, acceptance, apathy, sympathy, motivation, momentum, etc. The quality and quantity of resources.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of hero worship. It’s fun and energizing and helpful to cheer for a hero. Having someone to look up to and aspire to emulate.

We intentionally live with the gap between myth and reality [in part] because we like to do so.

Really think about that. Think about why we do that, and how it could benefit us.

The truth is that when we look closely, we see leadership as much in what our leaders symbolize as in what they actually accomplish.

A hero’s particular actions take on broader significance because the results they achieve resonate with group values.

It’s less about the tangible results they achieve and more about the expectations they defy and symbolism they uphold.

It’s for what they stand for, not just for what they do. Some leaders ride waves more than they cause them.

It is simpler and more satisfying to see the power contained within a single person. Do you relate to this, that it’s easier and more satisfying to have just one person represent all you strive for and admire and respect?

Rather than ask “ How do/did they lead” ask: “Why did they emerge as a leader?” and more specifically, “What was it about the situation that made this style of leadership effective?” These are questions I constantly ponder when studying leaders and their impact.

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Beyond a taste for narrative and belief in our own causality (basically meaning we love a good story, and we love knowing we can have an effect on our lives), we also have a preference for simplicity. Boiling things down to distinct actions by a specific cast of prime actors is more relatable, and makes attributing success and blame easier. And most people prefer easier, right?

Reductionist explanations are somehow more satisfying than the complex, estranging, but usually more accurate accounts. Reality is complicated and even boring, and the mundane messiness can be unsatisfying. It can leave us craving the feel-good feeling. Life is more interesting and pleasing either when it is simplified or, in the other direction, sensational. And we’ll sooner accept the simple or sensational explanation over the accurate one.


Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.
— Seth Godin


Leaders are made powerful not so much by what they do, or even by, what they say, but by what their followers perceive they have to gain either individually or collectively by buying into what their leader is asking.



Great leaders believe they work for their team. Average leaders believe their team works for them.
— Alexander den Heijer

Those who emerge as successful leaders are not necessarily those with the best values, or the most comprehensive record of results, but those who align with sources of human motivation (political leaders are great examples of this!). If a leader can tap into fear or any of its derivatives, GAME OVER. Just add a “villian” and it’s a done deal. That leader instantly has devotees.


A boss has the title. A leader has the people.
— Simon Sinek

Fear is powerful and overrides reason/values/empathy/etc and activates people’s primal survival instincts. Just ask Hitler. He targeted people’s fear of marginalization/poverty/survival and vilified Jews, offering a group to blame. So just as the first line of the previous paragraph asserts, it’s all about connecting with human motivation. Did Hitler have the best values? I’mma go with NO. But he undoubtedly aligned with human motivation: Germans’ desire to survive and prosper.

Same with Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Even upon losing battles, his homies still rolled with him. Not because he had the best values (slavery is NOT COOL) or the best record (he lost key battles and eventually the war) but because he was tapped into the southerners’ motivation to maintain their way of live, human slaves and all.

This explains why followers might turn their attention to the hollow optimistic leader, or people dig the leader who talks a big game but who holds a weak record. Just as we look to heroes as a symbol of what could be, we look to leaders more generally because we hold out hope for an alternative future, or because we fear a coming threat, and the leader becomes the repository of that hope or the guardian against that fear. This is compelling, and even necessary, since hope and fear are both essential to pulling human society forward.

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Leaders should understand leadership as a system, see themselves as the enablers of that system, and learn how to adjust their approach based on the needs of that system. It is the function of leadership to improve the overall progress of humanity. We should see our leaders as part of us, and ourselves as part of the solution. As I’ve said many times before, we’re all in this together.

xx,

-w-

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