Sunday, November 9, 2014

Self-Action Leadership

The opportunity to live up to your Existential Potential is an invitation to practice self-leadership, and more specifically, SELF-ACTION LEADERSHIP—or as I like to call it, just SAL for short.

SELF-LEADERSHIP: Intentional cognitive and behavioral leadership of self to achieve targeted results.

SELF-ACTION LEADERSHIP: Self-leadership that is morally informed, action-oriented, focused on long-term results, and aimed at a continual rise in the Existential Growth of self and others.


Unfortunately, far too many renounce their royal birthright to the baser inclinations of the animal within. This abdication is understandable; after all, holding on to the throne of civilized humanity is not easy—as history has amply evinced. Forces abound to usurp it whenever and wherever possible, and some of mankind’s greatest potentialities eventually became fatalities in the hellish and unrelenting onslaught that EXISTENTIAL GRAVITY inflicts upon us all.

EXISTENTIAL GRAVITY: Internal and external adversities influencing the poor exercise of Self-Action Leadership, thereby inhibiting Existential Growth and preventing a self-action leader’s rise to higher levels of personal freedom.

Remaining royal requires you fight the good fight and remain ever vigilant. The battles will be adventurous and exciting, but they will not be easy. In the words of one great leader, “The greatest battle of life is fought within the silent chambers of your own soul.”[1] It is a lonely battle, and a long and vital war – lonely because you are the only one who can give the orders to fight, long because life often seems long, and vital because your personal freedom is ever on the line.


There are many ways we can relinquish our personal freedom—it’s easy to do so, and it shifts responsibility from our shoulders. It’s more comfortable to make excuses:

I was born this way.

It’s the fault of my genes or memes.

Changing would squelch my individuality, making me just one of the herd.

This is just the way I am.

Changing is hard, and not worth the effort.

I don’t want to change.

I can’t change…

Not even if I wanted to…

And not even if I tried.


My life has been, and continues to be, a battle with change. These battles started early.

For example, I sucked my finger until I was ten years old. As a “Big” third grader, this infantile fetish was embarrassing to me, and I’d conspicuously hide my scarred left finger with my right hand to prevent my peers from peering at the visible consequences of this puerile practice.

During the summer of my tenth year, I began to ponder on the oddity and silliness of a ten-year-old still addicted to sucking his finger. Such shame-ridden musings led me to begin considering the implications of breaking my absurdly prolonged habit. In the process, I concluded it was time to take the high road and choose to quit.

On August 21st, 1989 (my 10th birthday), I stopped sucking my finger. Doing so was very difficult. For the first two months, I was tempted daily—sometimes terribly so—to return to my bad habit. Twice, the temptation proved too great for my will to resist, and I relapsed briefly only to try again after each “Slip.” Determined to succeed, I rose each time I fell, and was eventually victorious. After two or three years, I finally stopped thinking about wanting to suck my finger. At age 35, the thought of sucking my finger is no longer a temptation; in fact, the very thought of it grosses me out. I have completely changed. Yet to this day, my left index finger remains slightly more worn than my right—a minor, but irreversible lingering consequence of my decision to engage in a bad habit for all those years.

If only finger sucking was my life’s only vice! At present, I deal with a wide array of shortcomings. Aside from propensities toward depression, addiction, impatience, and gluttony, I also have proclivities toward vindictiveness, lust, losing my temper, and a variety of other personal immaturities, vices, and imperfections. Yes, as far as I have come, I still have a long way to go.

If this weren’t enough, I have also struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)—a story I will relate in a later chapter—since I was 10-years old. Dealing with OCD has been hard as hell. God be praised I don’t have to be my OCD forever. And thank God counselors and medication can help palliate symptoms in the short run, and cognitive-behavioral therapy has the power to change biochemical brain functioning in the long run. And thank God—literally—for His countless graces and tender mercies all throughout the process.

At best, life is often a deeply challenging, frequently frustrating, and dangerously discouraging journey. It would be nice if we could just snap our fingers and will ourselves to the land of authentic personal change. But of course it doesn’t work that way. I have been working on some areas of change for years, decades, or even my entire life. Some areas I have mastered; others I have not. Hopefully, through the tenets of Self-Action Leadership, the help of others, and Grace, I will master as many of them as possible before I die.

As difficult as change can be, I will never give up trying to become the kind of person I most want to be. This means I must rise each time I fall, and unfortunately, I fall more often than I would like. But the knowledge of my human imperfection will not stop me from trying. I believe there is something noble in making the attempt, because even if you fall short of your goal, you will become something greater by virtue of having tried in the first place. No good-faith human effort is ever wasted.

But in many cases, you will succeed completely. When you do, it may seem like a miracle; and in a very real sense, it will be. There is nothing quite so beautiful, impressive, and magnificent, as the miracle of change that occurs when a human being evolves into a better person than they were before making the attempt.

If you are like me, you were born with—and presently carry—a bag full of your own blunders and blemishes. You may have tried very hard and been very clever in hiding them from yourself. But deep down somewhere inside your mind and heart, you know they exist, and they inhibit your personal, relational, and professional success. Even deeper inside, you also know these weaknesses are ultimately a result of your own choices. Deeper still, perhaps so deep it resides only in your subconscious mind, you know you are not helpless to change. You are simply like most of us, most of the time—undesiring, and especially unwilling, to do the hard work that change demands.


A wise man once remarked that the word “Remember” may very well be the most important word in the English language. G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) made a similar comment when he said, “We need to be reminded more than we need to be instructed.”

This book serves to remind as much as it does to teach. It aims to review key truths of which you may already be aware, but are lying dormant somewhere in the dusty hard drive of your subconscious. It seeks to inspire you to do what only you can choose to do—and that is to CHANGE.

If change is possible for me, then change is possible for you. Time spent bemoaning the missed opportunities of the past is time poorly spent. You cannot change what happened yesterday, last year, or decades ago, but you can choose at any instant to make yourself better for the rest of your life. In truth, right now is the only moment you will ever have. That makes it the most important and valuable moment in your life—every day of your life. What are you going to do with this gift of the present?

“Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift, that is why they call it the present.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Next Blog Post: Wednesday, November 12, 2014: Chapter 3: The Freedom to Change, Part 4: An Authentic Formula for Change

[1] Attributed to David O. McKay (1873-1970)

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