Monday, August 31, 2015

Self-Action Leadership Model Step 1: Self-Education

Self-Action Leadership Model 

Stage 1: Pre-Construction  ~  Planning & Preparation


In today's post, we begin the process of taking readers through the first Stage of the Self-Action Leadership Model (pre-construction).  Stage one of the SAL Model involves seven steps, all of which are metaphorical analogues to the first seven stages of building a skyscraper.  

“Formal education makes you a living; self-education makes you a legend.”
– Habeeb Akande

Just as a building company must have the necessary information, knowledge, and skills to properly build a skyscraper, education is a key component for effective life construction. This process of education is called self-education, because you are responsible for its attainment.

Successful self-action leaders don’t wait for the right teacher to come and teach them; they proactively seek out knowledge on their own, sometimes going to great lengths to find it.
One of the best self-educators in history was Abraham Lincoln. Born and raised in humble circumstances in the dense, rural backwoods of Kentucky and Indiana, Lincoln was not blessed with a quality formal education, so he created his own. He was known to travel many miles on foot to borrow a single book to read. Hungry for knowledge, young Abraham devoured all the knowledge he could possibly access. This homespun prairie lawyer and politician eventually educated himself right up into the highest echelon of public office.

Two other prominent examples of proactive self-education from the nineteenth century include Sequoyah, a Cherokee Indian responsible for creating a written alphabet for his people, and Frederick Douglass, who was a leading voice in the nineteenth century abolitionist movement, and the first Black man to be invited as a guest to the White House by a sitting U.S. President. I highly encourage studying the lives of these three remarkable men. I would start by reading Frederick Douglass’s famous personal narrative and then shopping around for credible biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Sequoyah.

Proactive self-action leaders spend a good portion of their time reading, writing, studying, listening to, and viewing, educational media. They ask questions, carefully observe their surroundings, and seek out information in whatever ways they can. In my case, there is no way to calculate the value of self-education in my life and career, but it has been an indispensable variable thereto, and has shaped every major success I’ve ever achieved.

Because you are responsible for the quality of your education, where you learn is secondary to what, why, and how well you learn. Whether you have opportunities to attend a top-rated university, a community college, or no college at all, you can choose to take responsibility for your own learning. With the presence of public libraries and the Internet, there is no need to make excuses about your lack of educational opportunities. No matter how hard it is for you to acquire knowledge in your current circumstances, chances are you still have far more access to information of all kinds than Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, or Sequoyah. As such, there is no need to make excuses about your lack of opportunities.


There are several different components of self-learning that you must focus on; education goes beyond the mere mental storage of facts. Understanding how you learn best (e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic), [1] where to go for information, how to access it, and the importance of your attitude, work ethic, discipline, and commitment are key components of acquiring an outstanding education.


When I was young, someone taught me the great truism that, “repetition is the key to reception.” If you want to commit anything to your long-term memory, you must utilize rote learning. Like it or not, memorization is an important part of a good education, and despite how postmodern educators may try and spin it, there is a lot of material that must be deeply internalized through repetition and memorization in order to become a skilled critical thinker who is also culturally literate. For example, you may need to look up certain words in the dictionary several times before you truly own it in your long-term vocabulary. Moreover, even the presence of high-powered calculators on your phone can’t replace the value of knowing your multiplication table backwards and front. I am also a big believer that some books are worth reading more than once. I’ve read one book nearly 23 times cover-to-cover in my life, and I’m a smarter, wiser, and better person for having done so.

The purposeful memorization of important facts, quotes, and poems empowers you to draw strength and inspiration from others. It also strengthens your memory muscles and bolsters your credibility in situations where you must demonstrate your knowledge to, or teach, others.

Repetition and rote learning is a vital component of a quality education. Engaging these practices require discipline and hard work. As such, it is often what separates top tier learners and performers from average ones.


On Christmas Eve, 2003, I received one of the most memorable phone calls of my life. The call was from Dr. Stephen R. Covey. He had kindly carved out a few minutes from his busy schedule in response to a letter I had sent him earlier that year. On that phone call, which lasted about 15 minutes, Dr. Covey encouraged me to read for at least two hours every day. He also encouraged me to read deeply and widely, including outside of my own interests. While I can’t claim to have read for two hours every day of my life, I have read a lot. Doing so has gotten me to where I am today. I am a rich man because of the treasures I have mined from books and stored in my mind and heart. Reading will always play a role in my ongoing self-education and personal training and development as a self-action leader.

Ongoing self-and other training refers to education beyond the classroom. Examples include online courses, live classes, workshops, mentorships, personal reading, research, educational media, thinking/pondering, making observations, asking questions, and traveling. Self-education and other trainings are not one-time pursuits; they are habits to cultivate throughout your life. Based on my own experience, I highly recommend Dr. Covey’s advice. If you can’t squeeze in two hours of reading a day, commit to one hour. If you can’t squeeze in one hour, commit to half-an-hour. In this day and age, so much knowledge is available to all of us through the miracles of public libraries and the Internet. Don’t be lazy. Don’t let these precious resources go unused.

[1] Visit to take a FREE Learning Style Survey and discover what your primary learning style is (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic).

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