Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Self-Action Leadership Theory (Part 3)

Review an explanation of the Self-Action Leadership Theory and its metaphorical analogy to space travel HERE.

Review the explanatory information on the first four levels of the SAL theory HERE.


The Polishing Stage corresponds to the ionosphere, where the dazzling aurora borealis and aurora australis (Northern & Southern Lights) occur. For those who make it past the painful challenges of the Refining Stage, the views in the Polishing Stage are are spectacular—and “sorely welcome.”[1] While passing through the adversarial depths of the Refining Stage, you may question whether it is worth it to keep striving. This vacillation of purpose occurs not only because the Refining Stage is so difficult, but because it can also last a long time. I have personally spent more than half of my life in the Refining Stage. At times, the pain of the refining process in my life proved horrifically excruciating, and often seemed like it would never end.

By the time you arrive at the Polishing Stage, you discover by degrees that all your efforts and sacrifices were worth it many times over. While I shudder to think about “doing it all over again,” (I thank God I don’t have to), I can say without reservation that I am incredibly glad I chose to successfully endure. Life looks very different from the “far side” of the Refining Stage than it does from the “near side.” I have come to learn that in some respects, life doesn’t even begin until after you’ve entered the Polishing Stage. Such a vantage point clarifies the tragedy of an individual’s decision to quit short of the goal of transcending the Refining Stage.

“I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity; I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935)

Moving from the Refining Stage to the Polishing Stage is like advancing from the mesosphere to the ionosphere. In the Polishing Stage, successes usually come more quickly than they did before. After all the heartache you faced in the Refining Stage, this may initially be a welcomed change. However, new opportunities come with new challenges, so your entrance into the Polishing Stage is not a cue for idleness or rest, but a chance to exercise your growing capacity that has been so beautifully refined in previous stages.[2]

“The reward which life holds out for work is not idleness nor rest, nor immunity from work, but increased capacity, GREATER DIFFICULTIES, MORE WORK.”
– Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915)

Having significantly matured as a self-action leader, you can now take joy in doing more with yourself and your surroundings. It is now time to begin “polishing” the skills that have been refined.

The Refining Stage does more than merely test your character; it forges it. Once a steel sword has been removed from the refiner’s fire, it cools and eventually hardens. It is now ready to be polished. Likewise, your own mettle has been forged in the fires of the Refining Stage, and now has a chance to cool off and harden into consciously chosen traits of character, which can now be polished to shine ever brighter in your personal decisions and interactions with other people. This stage offers you the opportunity to take skills, attributes, character traits, and talents to the next level by adding a degree of polish that the Refining Stage alone cannot produce. This polish comes through further practice and the acquisition of additional knowledge.

By the time you arrive at the Polishing Stage, your character and integrity will have developed great strength. This does not, however, mean you are immune from future trials, nor does it guarantee you will never digress backwards to earlier stages. While this stage doesn’t preclude you from experiencing hardship, you have become a self-action leader that will likely weather future storms with dignity and poise. As a result, future adversity will actually have the effect of polishing you up rather than grinding you down.

A measure of financial security (not to be confused with financial independence) will typically accompany your entrance into the Polishing Stage. This means you no longer rely on anyone for your temporal subsistence. You likely also have an emergency fund to cover all expenses for three to twelve months, and have started saving for retirement. Moreover, you have acquired enough knowledge and developed your skills sufficiently to successfully absorb and rebound from a job layoff or other temporary financial setback. At this point in your existential development, you have purged toxic relationships in your life, and you are secure enough to laugh off detractors, naysayers, and other Existential Crabs. This feeling of being “at home” in your own skin, and satisfied and happy with yourself and your life, is a precious—and well earned—commodity of the Polishing Stage.

As you work to increase your knowledge and sharpen (polish) your skills, your life’s purpose becomes increasingly clear and illuminated. You have begun to comprehend who you really are, why you are here in this world, and where you are going in your life. You are preparing yourself to enter the next level – Actualization – on your ongoing journey to Self-Transcendence.

A fascinating component of the Polishing Stage is the presence and actions of Serendipity, which show up in powerful ways to clean up a host of residual challenges, stress, suffering, financial issues, or burnout that may linger from the crucibles recently passed through in the Refining Stage. This may explain why many who rise to this stage or beyond often exclaim humbly that they did so “only by the grace of God.”

In truth, these persons are, of themselves, among the smartest, strongest, and most savvy people on Earth. Because they are also wise, they understand they can’t legitimately claim sole responsibility for their successes. They recognize—and acknowledge—the enormous physical and metaphysical help they received all along the way. While Serendipity plays an active role in all stages of your Existential Growth, it is usually the most active (and ironically undetected), in the Refining Stage, and then most apparent in the Polishing Stage and beyond, where you may see for the first time, the enormous footprint that Serendipity has had in your life all along—and especially during your life’s most difficult tempests.


Just as man-made satellites and spaceships begin to orbit the Earth in the thermosphere, graduating from the Polishing Stage into the Actualization Stage launches you into metaphorical “orbit” as a self-action leader. This “arrival” does not signal the end of your journey, or of adversity. It does, however, mean you will have to burn less fuel to maintain the same level of performance in the future. In this regard, life does become easier once you have “entered orbit.”

Once you have entered into your own personal “orbit” in the Actualization Stage, the chances of digressing back to former stages is unlikely because your refining trials have strengthened and matured your character and integrity.

All human beings who come to this Earth have a purpose. At Freedom Focused, we believe this purpose, generally speaking, is to become self-actualized, and then help others do the same. Self-actualization looks a little different for each person, based on your own unique disposition, personality, desires, and talents. The process of becoming self-actualized is, metaphorically speaking, akin to boarding a train, and not just any train, but the unique existential train that life intends for you to board based on your unique potential for growth, achievement, and contribution.

Boarding this metaphorical train is not an easy endeavor in the traditional sense. You cannot merely buy a ticket and board at your leisure because your train makes no station stops. It stops for no one, not even for its intended occupant—YOU. Hence, you must catch your train while it is already charging down its tracks at full speed. To succeed in doing so, you must become well acquainted with how your train works. You must also develop the speed, strength, and agility required to catch it as it zooms by. No one boards one’s train on his or her first attempt. For most of us, many attempts are required. Your initial failures will result in all kinds of scrapes, bruises, and perhaps even dislocated or broken bones. Failing to board your train at each attempt will hurt, sometimes badly so. In fact, the only thing that can possibly hurt more than trying to board your train is suffering the pain of regret at having forfeited your opportunity to do so.

To succeed at boarding your train, you must repeatedly “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” It is an exhilarating, but terribly challenging, endeavor fraught with seemingly endless frustration – and sometimes discouragement, bitterness, and regret. There may even be times when you choose to turn your back to your train and stop trying to board it for a while. You may even begin denying that your train exists at all, and deceive yourself that moseying along through the prairie grass in an ox-drawn wagon is really preferable to a magnificent train ride anyway. But for those who endure the trials of boarding their trains, the ride is truly “out of this world.” Aside from being full of creature comforts and other personal and professional benefits, finally catching your train earns you a first-class suite whereby you will be able to comfortably reside while simultaneously teaching and helping others to catch their train (become self-actualized). Catching your train is a tremendously significant event in your life because as long as you choose to stay on the train, all tracks eventually lead to the highest levels of Existential Growth (Self-Transcendence and the Creation Stage).

Level six, the Actualization Stage, is an analogue to Abraham Maslow, self-actualization, which “refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely…the desire to become…everything that one is capable of becoming.”[3] More than merely becoming what you are capable of becoming, SAL actualization refers to your “making it” personally and professionally. It is marked by a clear realization of who you are, and what your purpose in life is. It represents a quasi-mastery of all principles and practices elucidated in the SAL theory and model. Still a long ways from perfection, you have nonetheless reached a high level of both understanding and application. Having become a person of great capacity and integrity, you have also begun to exert increasing levels of influence among others who seek the Existential Growth you have already achieved.

The Actualization Stage is likened to the thermosphere, where satellites and space stations orbit. They orbit in the thermosphere to obtain knowledge about outer space as well as to transmit information back-and-forth to Earth. Similarly, if you have reached the Actualization Stage and desire further Existential Growth, your focus shifts increasingly away from yourself towards helping those at lower levels rise in their Existential Growth.

Persons entering this stage possess high levels of personal integrity and moral character. They are proactive, emotionally intelligent and resilient, and possess an extraordinary capacity to respond maturely to a variety of people and situations. Although it might seem that these people all look alike, in fact, quite the opposite is true. The individuality of the SAL-Actualized person is more pronounced than at any preceding level. As C.S. Lewis once put it, “How monstrously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.”[4] M. Scott Peck put it similarly:

If one ever has the good fortune to meet a living saint, one will have then met someone absolutely unique. Though their visions may be remarkably similar, the personhood of saints is remarkably different. This is because they have become utterly themselves. God creates each soul differently, so that when all the mud is finally cleared away, His light will shine through it in a beautiful, colorful, totally new pattern.”[5]

In lower levels of X-Growth, insecure self-leaders often equate individualism and originality with marked deviations from traditional mores surrounding one’s choice of fashion, cosmetics, vernacular, and social milieu—and the stranger the better. In reality, such actions have little – if any – connection to one’s true identity and potential, to which they are virtually blind—and are typically undertaken to mask devastating insecurities with habits and accouterments which blaspheme the name of authentic originality. Conversely, the rich inner lives of authentic self-action leaders may appear modest and non-descript on the outside. Their tremendous inner security precludes the need to “make a statement” or otherwise attract unnecessary attention to their outer appearance.

Professionally speaking, you have developed natural talents and practiced skills and are rightly referred to as an expert. Because everyone is unique, SAL Actualization will look different from person-to-person. This is another way that SAL Actualization mirrors Maslow’s Self-Actualization. “In one individual [actualization] may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in inventions.[6]

Have you ever found yourself wishing you could be someone else? By the time you become self-actualized, such wishes, borne of poor self-esteem, will have vanished from your life. Self-actualized persons sincerely like who they have become. As a result, insecurities, diffidence, jealousy, and covetousness will have almost entirely evaporated from your internal world. You no longer see the world through a mindset of scarcity, but a paradigm of abundance.[7] Your new mentality engenders genuine appreciation for, and satisfaction in, the growth and achievements of others. You may even find yourself beginning to take more joy and satisfaction in the accomplishments of others than you do in your own successes. Knowing that everyone possesses the same existential worth, and therefore Existential Potential, there is no need to compare yourself to others any longer. The sense of inferiority or superiority toward others no longer troubles you. Your own inner peace and maturity makes it irrelevant; at this point, competing with other self-action leaders seems a silly pursuit. Your only authentic goal is to continue to be the best YOU of which you are capable.

Actualization as a self-action leader is a significant touchstone along your journey to Self-Transcendence and beyond; it is a considerable personal achievement. In a sense, it is the only level where you can legitimately claim to have arrived. As such, it represents less a stage and more an accomplishment, or milestone. It also represents an enormously important decision point in your life, where you decide whether you will take it easy and live for yourself, or dedicate your life to helping others join you in becoming SAL-Actualized. If you choose to settle down on Easy Street and live for yourself, you will remain at level six, or (more likely) digress back to lower levels. If you opt to dedicate your life to helping others progress to the Actualization Stage and beyond, you simultaneously choose to advance to the next stage: the Leadership Stage.

Although level six represents a huge “arrival” in your Existential Growth, it is not the highest level you can attain. If you seek further growth, this level becomes a preparatory stage where you ready yourself to lead others to achieve the same Existential Growth you attained. Regardless what you have become or accomplished in the past, the Leadership Stage is where you will begin to make your life’s most meaningful and important contributions. In this sense, life – or at least your new life – is just beginning in the Leadership Stage.


The Leadership Stage is likened to the Exosphere, the top layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is also the thickest layer. The distinction between the Exosphere and Outer Space is slight. In this layer, the Earth’s atmosphere eventually fades entirely, preceding an astronaut’s entrance into deep Outer Space. The gravitational pull of the Earth is almost non-existent in the Exosphere. Likewise, the tugs and pulls of Existential Gravity are typically much slighter than in lower levels—so much so that highly developed leaders may not notice it at all. Moreover, Existential Crabs are virtually extinct. It’s not that they don’t exist, but only extremely crazy crabs are foolish enough to even try messing with you at this point, and those who try are typically marginalized and even scorned. The vast majority of X-crabs are too intimidated and frightened to even open their mouths in your presence because the metaphysical emanations of your leadership influence repel and shut them up. It is often comical to watch a X-crab try and take on a true Leader. It simply doesn’t have any palpable effect, and the crab ends up looking like bloviating buffoons in the attempt.

Upon reaching the Actualization Stage, the typical desire of a self-action leader is to help and empower others rise just as you have done. Whereas you were once focused on seeking out leaders, mentors, teachers, and consultants, you now become the leader, mentor, teacher, and consultant. Sympathy, empathy, compassion, and a truly altruistic desire to see others succeed are a natural outgrowth of inhabiting this stage.

In the Leadership Stage, your focus shifts from being primarily about your own growth and development to being primarily about the development and growth of others. Leaders at this level have an amazing capacity to forget themselves and go to work[8] on behalf of other people and causes larger than themselves. You are no longer "content with blessing [your] family alone, but [are] anxious to bless the whole human race."[9]

In the Leadership Stage, you become increasingly aware of the legacy you are leaving behind, and you seek to enlarge that legacy in a way that allows you to help even more self-action leaders. Many who reach the Leadership Stage have, through diligence and excellence in their professional pursuits, acquired sufficient resources to support themselves and their families without further employ. Thus they are empowered to direct their efforts toward service, humanitarian aid, writing, speaking, traveling, and philanthropy.

While the Leadership Stage is largely immune from Existential Gravity and negative influences, it is not free of temptation. Since those on this level are almost exclusively leading others, they often find themselves in positions of great power, authority, and influence. Accompanying these newly acquired “perks” are often the veneration and adulation of throngs of admiring followers. At this point, and with enough authority and influence, a cult of personality becomes a very real danger to even the morally conscientious, making it easier than ever before to succumb to greed and debauchery. If the leader chooses to engage in greed, lust, or unfair and unethical dominion over others, that leader will surely fall and digress to lower levels; the only question is when and how far?

Unfortunately, many leaders who enter the Leadership Stage are seduced by whatever fame, fortune, or increased power and influence they allocate. These individuals end up returning to lower levels. If proper amends are not made, they are sure to leave a legacy of disappointment, shame, and unrealized potential.

Fortunately, some leaders remain humble, steadfast, and compassionate no matter how high they rise or how powerful they become. Such leaders continue their Existential Growth toward Self-Transcendence and beyond. These leaders no longer care much, if at all, about who gets the credit; they are focused almost exclusively on results, and on lifting up those whom they serve at equal or lower levels of Existential Growth.


The Self-Transcendence Stage, also known as the “Freedom Zone,” is the last official stage of Existential Growth. It is likened unto deep Outer Space. Just as a rocket ship has is no longer subject to gravity after exiting the exosphere, self-action leaders who reach this level are no longer subject to Existential Gravity. Having fully conquered the enemy within, they have become truly free. Self-action leaders at this level have become so fully actualized they are no longer candidates for regression to lower levels. On all the first seven levels, even the strongest self-action leaders remain susceptible to failure and regression. But upon reaching Self-Transcendence, you have finally “made it.” This doesn’t mean you are perfect in every particular—no human being ever is; it does, however, mean there is no longer any “air” whereby the seeds of moral failure can germinate or sprout.

At the level of Self-Transcendence, it’s not so much that your “ship has come in,” as it is that you voluntarily swam out to your ship, and conquered all the swells, wind, rain, hail, and storms on the way. As a result, those who transcend themselves through personal effort and serendipity enjoy almost unlimited personal freedom. They are almost always financially secure, and in many cases are financially independent. They are those who have received and embraced outlying opportunities to positively influence and meaningfully contribute to the lives of others. They have many relationships with others people that are deep, rich, and founded on impeccable trustworthiness. If they have a significant other, they have usually been with their mate for decades, are more in love with him/her than they were when they got married, and have a healthy, mutually satisfying union.

Such individuals have both the time and ability to contribute meaningfully to other people and their causes of choice. They also have the freedom to choose where and when they spend their time and money. While they may not be an organization’s formal leader, they usually have significant influence on great (sometimes vast) numbers of other people. They usually leave a deep and lasting posthumous legacy of greatness, honor, love, and charity for others to admire and follow.

Only a small percentage of the population reaches the level of Self-Transcendence during the course of their lives. Typically, people who do reach it are well known figures, who, in some cases, founded entire movements. For example, Jesus Christ, Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha), Confucius, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and others like them are examples of historical and religious figures I believe reached, or may have reached, the level of Self-Transcendence.

You do not have to have a name as recognizable as Gandhi to transcend yourself and reach this level of Existential Growth. In fact, I believe the number of obscure individuals reaching this top stage far outnumber the number of high profile persons who have done so. Such impressive, albeit socially obscure, persons may not be known beyond their own families, friends, and communities; there is no specific audience size required to reach this milestone. Seemingly ordinary mothers and fathers are often candidates, many of whom eventually join the magnanimous milieu of transcendent achievers. In the insightfully queried words of one theological sage:

When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?[10]

Never underestimate the potential of any human being to eventually reach this level of Existential Growth. Don’t let the simplicity of your station in life, or the provinciality of your profession fool you into thinking you can’t achieve existential greatness. The homeless and starving ultimately possess as much existential potential as presidents and potentates. Anyone who has an opportunity to learn the principles that lead to Self-Transcendence has the freedom to choose to advance as far as their desire and work ethic will take them.

Remember also that someone like Confucius did not transcend self primarily because he founded a popular belief system. He reached it primarily because of what he became inside as a self-action leader. The movement he founded was merely an outgrowth of his inner accomplishments. When someone transcends self, extraordinary moral authority is an inevitable by-product of their personal greatness. Whether that greatness influences one billion, one million, one thousand, one hundred, or simply one, it is still greatness of a grand degree and kind.


Something truly wonderful awaits you on the other side of Self-Transcendence. That something is the Creation Stage, which is likened to astronomical bodies throughout the Universe (e.g., stars, planets, galaxies, comets, etc.).

In the Creation Stage, a self-action leader is a builder of institutions, cultures, movements, philosophies, and religions. Most importantly, you work to develop other self-action leaders in hopes of helping them to join you in transcendence and creation. At the Creation Stage, there is no jealous threat of competition or one-upsmanship. All self-action leaders in the Creation Stage value each other as much as they value themselves, and take as much joy and satisfaction in the creations of others as they do in their own.

Men like Jesus, the Buddha, and Confucius created whole new religions upon entering level nine. Men like Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln discovered, created, and saved—respectively—an entire country that would eventually rise to an unprecedented status of power, magnanimity, influence, and moral leadership. Others like Florence Nightingale, Mohandas Gandhi, and Mother Teresa created powerful, positive changes in hospitals, subjugated nations, and poverty-stricken cities. I do not mention these individuals to suggest they led perfect lives; no mortal being has ever lived a perfect life. I mention them simply to provide examples of imperfect, yet visionary and impressive human beings that “created” extraordinary opportunities for millions of their fellows to better their own lives. People who arrive at the Creation Stage change the world and make it a better place to live—and their lasting legacies are burnished only brighter by the passage of time.

Depending on your visibility in a social setting, such contributions may be home impacting, neighborhood influencing, community changing, state improving, nation blessing, or even world altering.


To illustrate how one’s Existential Growth grows from the Education Stage up to the Creation Stage, consider the career trajectory of a doctor. She starts by learning of her potential to someday become a doctor (Education Stage). Then, she throws herself into her K-12 studies to lay the foundation for her college and medical school (Beginner’s Stage). After successfully graduating from high school, she begins the process of her four-year undergraduate program majoring in a pre-med field of study (Practitioner’s Stage). Then she attends four more years of medical school. She also “pays her dues” by completing her residency and internships and overcomes whatever unexpected challenges that stand in the way of a good job (e.g., rejections, disappointments, failures, timetable setbacks, personal health issues). All of these difficulties represent the Refiner’s Stage. Transcending them to land her first full-time, full-paying job, she enters the Polishing Stage where she begins to fine tune and hone her reputation, credibility, and pay back her student loans.

Eventually, the day arrives when she is personally successful, professionally respected, debt-free, and making a handsome salary. As a successful doctor, she has fulfilled her goal and entered the Actualization Stage. As her career progresses, she becomes a well-respected doctor who eventually teaches, mentors, and leads others to greatness (Leadership Stage). Later in life, having earned all the money, acquired all the recognition and rewards, and helped all the people she has desired to help, she realizes she has truly become the doctor of her dreams (Self-Actualization). With nothing left to achieve at the hospital, she decides to invest her surplus time, effort, and resources, in starting her own hospital, research laboratory, school, or movement within a field she feels passionate about and knows she can contribute meaningfully to (Creation Stage).


You may recall from your study of definitions in Book the First that there is a difference between self-leadership and Self-Action Leadership. The latter carries comes with a moral imperative to be honest, fair, transparent, and otherwise live a life of integrity so that your speech and actions create positive long-term consequences for yourself and others.

Unfortunately, some of the worst people on Earth are also some of our Planet’s best self-leaders. For example, Adolf Hitler – history’s most salient example of evil personified – was in fact a remarkably disciplined, diligent, dedicated, and hard working self-leader. He possessed remarkable amounts of vision, discipline, and passion. What he lacked, of course, was a conscience.[11]

In our world, some leaders, scholars, politicians, philosophers, journalists, pundits, business men and women, teachers, artists, athletes, actors, parents, et cetera, rise up in the world to achieve great power, popularity, and influence by defying conscience and disregarding honesty, integrity, and morality. Counterfeit rises up the hierarchy cannot be equated with authentic Existential Growth. Such pseudo progress is actually a progressive regression down an inverse plane of the SAL hierarchy known as the “Dark Shadow.” While it may appear on the outside that someone is making great strides toward higher levels of Existential Growth, such progress cannot be fully validated except through the passage of time.

To illustrate, I reiterate the contrasting lives of Adolf Hitler and Nelson Mandela. The first few decades of these men’s respective lives were strikingly similar in some ways. For example, they were both marginalized socialists with an axe to grind. Moreover, both men ended up in prison for attempting to overthrow their adversaries by violent means. However, the seemingly convergent paths that led them both to prison took startlingly divergent journeys after their respective incarcerations. Hitler spent his time in jail authoring Mein Kampf and otherwise planning his devious and diabolical plans for genocide and world domination. Mandela, on the other hand, who was serving a much longer sentence, allowed his heart to become softened, and was further inspired by the words of William Ernest Henley’s famous poem, Invictus.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.[12]

With Mandela's Statue in London, England
Nelson Mandela is an example of a good man who rose to the highest level of the authentic SAL hierarchy of Existential Growth. Adolf Hitler is perhaps the supreme example of an evil man who fell to the lowest levels of the Dark Shadow. Both men ended up achieving remarkable things on the levels of Creation, but only Mandela’s have lasted—and are honored and revered today. Hitler’s creations were vaporized by Allied bombs, and have since been relegated to the pages of history where they belong.

The Mandela/Hitler example is a valuable illustration of this vital contrast because of its extreme salience and clarity. It should be noted, however, that most people who rise in their personal or professional lives by “falling” to the lower levels of the Dark Shadow do so with much less pomp, circumstance, and visible destruction than Hitler did. As such, it can be more difficult to identify, arraign, and justly convict them of their unjust doings in the court of public opinion, or, if needs be, a court of law.

In identifying those caught in the Dark Shadow, the most important sign to watch for is deception. Frequenters of the Dark Shadow come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, but they always have one thing in common: the truth is not in them. Nevertheless, because they are often smart and gifted communicators, their deception will almost always come in the form of half-truths and other sophisticated contortions of reality—for they know that outright lies are too easily exposed.

Beware of these wolves in sheep’s clothing, these venomous vipers cleverly disguised as purveyors of wisdom. They have little interest in your welfare, and will do virtually anything to aggrandize their own power, position, and pocketbook. Such “People of the Lie,” are infected with “the ultimate disease”; for “despite their pretense of sanity, the evil are the most insane of all.”[13] Avoid such persons like you would a deadly plague, and when possible, expose and indict them when necessary and possible—to the benefit of yourself and others.


Without real life application, the SAL theory isn’t worth much. I myself am just beginning to unearth the treasure trove of wisdom available in this theory. Nevertheless, there are a few key points worth bringing to the forefront of any discussion of SAL theory as it relates to C-level leaders. This is not to say the theory is not applicable at other, lower, levels of an organizational hierarchy—but SAL theory may be more interesting and useful to executives, while the SAL model may be more interesting and useful to mid-level managers and front-line workers.

1. Executive, or C-level leaders will be more successful if they have achieved the Polishing Stage or higher. Executives and managers, therefore, ought to celebrate, not denigrate applicants who have faced great challenges and overcome them. Leadership expert and author Lee Ellis said it best when he wrote:

"Because wisdom and maturity are forged in trials, I would think twice before hiring someone for an executive leadership role who has not been humbled through significant struggles. Leaders devoid of crucible experiences are likely to be overly confident about their ideas, less sensitive to those of others, and surprisingly more susceptible to fears. Leaders motivated by fears and selfishness tend to make choices and cultivate attitudes that undermine the growth of the organization and its people."[14]
2. Executives can determine what level(s) of Existential Growth should serve as prerequisites for hiring various positions within the organization. 

3. Executives would be wise to develop their own personal plans for Existential Growth and review them regularly. Consider again the words of Dr. James Clawson:
“One of the biggest leadership issues [throughout the World today] is the inability of people – even and especially managers and executives – to lead themselves."[15]

4. Executives should provide training on the SAL theory and model to all managers and employees in the organization. They should encourage their workforce to likewise develop personal plans for Existential Growth, consistently execute those plans, and regularly review their progress with a mentor. With consistent SAL training throughout the organization, a culture of upward progress in the face of Existential Gravity can eventually permeate the entire organization. This will lead to dramatic increases in company cohesiveness, efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. Company cultures that are founded on the SAL principles and Existential Growth will see unprecedented success in the long run. It will take time, but if implemented properly and persistently, stunningly positive consequences are inevitable.

5. The Nine Stages of Existential Growth have many applications to the Law of Attraction. First, persons will typically be naturally attracted towards those who are on the same level as they are. Hence, association becomes an easy way to discover clues about a person’s Existential Standing. Second, persons with authentic desires to rise to higher levels will seek out and spend time with those on higher levels; this behavior results from a genuine desire to learn from and attain similar growth and success. Such individuals—regardless of their background, education, and training—should be viewed as valuable employees in which to further invest through education, training, and mentoring. Third, honest, transparent, persons of integrity will be attracted to others of their character. Conversely, those more apt to deal in deception will likewise congregate over time. By observing this “grouping” over time, you will be able to take necessary actions to “accentuate the positive” and mentor, reform, or “eliminate the negative.” 

[1] A clever phrase I learned from Val Killian, who used it creatively in a personal conversation with me in 2010 in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
[2] Hubbard, E. in Hubbard, A., Editor. (1946). An American Bible. New York, NY: Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc. Page 8.
[3] Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review. Volume 50, Issue 4, p. 370-396. Page 382.
[4] Lewis, C.S. (2001). Mere Christianity. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco. Page 226.
[5] Peck, M.S. (1983). People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. New York, NY: Touchstone. Page 264.
[6] Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review. Volume 50, Issue 4, p. 370-396. Page 383.
[7] See Covey, S.R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, NY: Fireside. Pages 219-220.
[8] Advice of Bryant S. Hinckley to his son, Gordon B. Hinckley, during a trying period in Gordon’s life.
[9] Smith, J., Jr. (2010). Joseph Smith Resource Center (Quotes [online]). Page 1.
[10] Maxwell, N.A. (1978). The Women of God. (Public Address).
[11] Covey, S.R. (2004). The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. New York, NY: Free Press. Pages 68-85.
[12] Invictus by William Ernest Henley. In Cook, R.J. (1958/1997). One Hundred and One Famous Poems: With a Prose Supplement (Revised Edition). Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Books.
[13] Peck, M.S. (1983). People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. New York, NY: Touchstone. Cover Page & Page 264.
[14] Ellis, L. (2012). Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. FreedomStar Media. Page 183.
[15] Clawson, J. G. S. (2008). Leadership As Managing Energy. International Journal of Organizational Analysis. Volume 16, Issue 3. p. 174-181. DOI:10.1108/19348830810937943. Page 175.

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