Sunday, December 7, 2014

Things that Enslave: Part 1


The Self-Action Leadership theory and model identifies principles and practices that lead to personal freedom and Existential Growth. To help strike a contrast between right actions and wrong ones, this chapter identifies ten negative behavioral-habits (or shackles) that conversely lead to Existential Atrophy and personal bondage. If embraced, these destructive behaviors can enslave you personally and wreak havoc on relationships, families, communities, organizations, and even entire nations.
Our Nation is full of deep and complex problems. From troubling cultural, political, educational, and familial problems to serious issues involving geopolitics, terrorism, health care, litigation, and income and other inequalities, there is no shortage of serious issues. Many of these problems are so deep and penetrating that entire academic fields and industries spring up in an effort to critique, criticize, address, and even profit from them (sometimes underhandedly so).

The irony is that these problems are not the seeds or roots of the real problems; they are the branches, limbs, and leaves of the real problems. The seeds and roots of any human-caused problem do not originate in organizations or structures. They begin in the minds, hearts, and spirits of individuals. This includes me, you, and everybody else. Systemic institutional problems, therefore, are ultimately the result of the limitations, weaknesses, greed, pride, ego, hatred, selfishness, dishonesty, irresponsibility, illogicality, and in some cases the downright evil, of individuals operating within those systems. Fix or eradicate solvable individual problems, and you will simultaneously prevent avoidable organizational and cultural problems that arise when individuals abdicate personal responsibility and make wrong choices.

Wrongdoing and the abdication of personal responsibility is a cultural cancer that afflicts all echelons of society (i.e. lower class, middle class, upper-class, and the 1%). Ethical tumors exist in the highest offices of business and politics as well. Think about the last time you heard a political figure or business tycoon say, “I take full responsibility,” and then do absolutely nothing to remedy the negative consequences of his or her deleterious judgment or dishonest behavior? Even worse, this abdication is often elevated and glamorized by the dark sides of contemporary fashion, Hollywood, and pop culture in general.


One of the more foolhardy philosophies contemporarily en vogue is that institutions – particularly government – are responsible for and can fix people’s lives. This ideology, however well intentioned, is fundamentally flawed. Institutions cannot fix people’s lives. Individuals must fix their own lives.

This is not to say that institutions, organizations, schools, churches—and especially families—do not play pivotal roles in the lives of individuals; they do! You cannot make it successfully or happily through life all by yourself. We need the help of others, including organizations, institutions, and in some regards, even government.

The key is the order in which you seek out help. Self-Action Leadership posits that self-reliance is primary whereas other-reliance is secondary. The principle of self-reliance holds that you are primarily responsible to do everything in your power to help and support yourself and those you are responsible for (i.e. spouse, offspring). The principle of other-reliance holds that after you have done all you can, it is appropriate for others to step in and help as needed. There are times in all of our lives when we need the help of others in various ways. At such times, other-reliance can be quite appropriate, but only if we have already exhausted our own capacity to help ourselves.

Temporary aid from others is vital to our Existential Growth. However, temporary aid that turns into a long-term, or even an intergenerational, dole does nothing to existentially elevate individual recipients or the communities, states, and nations in which they reside.

Where possible, temporal aid should be accompanied by educational initiatives that empower recipients to become self-aware, self-disciplined, and ultimately self-reliant. It is so easy to embrace whatever we get for free—Pavlovian conditioning applies to humans as well. Continually receiving aid that you do not pay for or earn leads to inertia, indolence, and a growing sense of unjustified entitlement.


Freedom Focused supports the delivery of self-reliance-based educational initiatives to all entitlement recipients who are not terminally ill. It does not, however, promote the legislation of character education beyond this. This is because character, conscience, morality, and even a quality education will never be effectively legislated at the federal level.

Most States already have some kind of legislation that mandate public schools offer various forms of character education. While there are many positive by-products of such legislation, and while we are not on a crusade to end character education legislation (a well-intentioned, and often positive initiative), Freedom Focused holds that it is better if character education initiatives are driven by leaders of individual organizations, districts, schools, and homes—than by politicians.

Character, morality, and culture typically cannot be effectively legislated. Such things are an outgrowth of moral authority, not formal authority.

Formal Authority: Power derived from a position or title

Moral Authority: Power derived from personal influence (i.e. character, integrity, knowledge, capacity, personality, charisma, etc.)

Principle-centered[1] cultures must ultimately be shaped and spearheaded by leaders within the culture itself—not from external authorities seeking to impose their will.
What then ought statesmen, stateswomen, and other titular leaders do? The answer is to consistently make personal decisions rooted in conscience, integrity, and selfless service within the realms of their own stewardship. They should also use the powerful perch of their various platforms, including the bully pulpit, to promote the same principles and practices This includes a commitment to saying what the people need to hear, not just what they want to hear.


If you study any individual, organization, community, state, or nation that has enjoyed lasting success, you will find that humble adherence to correct principles is what created, drove, and maintained that success. Correct principles, when practiced, become ideals that can be aimed for in the future. When ideals are consistently practiced over time, they can become touchstones that invigorate and empower entire cultures.


Ideals should not be confused with values. Values are things that are important to you, and they differ from person to person. Ideals, on the other hand, serve as universal targets that all human beings can profit from striving towards. Regardless what race, culture, religion, political persuasion, or ideology you choose to embrace, you will benefit from aligning your thoughts, speech, and actions with certain time-tested ideals. The SAL theory and model outlines just such a set of ideals.

While we may not always fully realize the ideals we aim for, a certain nobility exists in pursuing them to the best of our ability. By continually aiming for ideals, and making course corrections when we fall short, we can stay focused on the thoughts, speech, and actions that lead to power, prosperity, influence, and lasting success.


Right principles--or ideals--form the basis of the success of groups, institutions, and nations. Dr. Niall Ferguson, an esteemed Harvard historian, recently identified six ideals that led to the unprecedented success of Western Civilization over the past 500 years. According to Ferguson, the tremendous advantages that Western Europe and the United States have enjoyed on the world stage during this period of time were not primarily a result of race, geography, or military might. Rather, he attributes it to the occurrence, or practice, of six basic ideals. These ideals include:

  1. Competition 
  2. The Scientific Revolution
  3. The rule of law and representative government
  4. Modern medicine
  5. The consumer society
  6. The work ethic (viz. the Protestant work ethic)[2]

According to Ferguson, any nation that embraces these ideals will produce predictably positive results over time. These successes include expanded educational and career opportunities, freedom of thought, liberty from tyranny, longer and healthier lives, a wide array of purchasing options, and achievement that can only come from individual creativity, diligence, and industry. Ferguson points to countries like China to illustrate how entire nations are currently achieving greater power, influence, and prosperity as they have begun to embrace these same ideals. He also warns that many Western nations, including the United States, are presently in decline as a result of a gradual abandonment of these ideals that made them great in the first place.


SAL-Philosophy endorses Ferguson’s premise as it relates to civilizations and offers an analogous set of principles that relate to individual human beings. The SAL Theory and Model presented in Book The Second & Book The Third presents a wide array of these micro ideals, which will eventually produce positive results for any individual who learns and practices them. Before articulating these ideals, we first identify their opposites, which we refer to as the “Ten Shackles of Self-Action Leadership.” These shackles are listed in order from lesser to greater evils:

  1. The abdication of personal responsibility
  2. The scourge of selfishness
  3. The quest to obtain something for nothing
  4. Greed 
  5. Arrogant pride
  6. Dishonesty
  7. Substance abuse and addiction
  8. The irresponsible care and use of sex
  9. Abuse and neglect of loved ones
  10. The devaluation of, and disregard for, human life

Next Blog Post: Chapter 12: Things that Enslave, Part II (Delineating the 10 Shackles)


[1] Covey, S.R. (1990). Principle Centered Leadership. New York, NY: Fireside.
[2] Ferguson, N. (2011). Civilization: The West and the Rest. New York, NY: Penguin. Pages 12-13.

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