Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Existential Decathletes: The Professionals of the Future

This article compares self-action leaders to decathletes and the exercise of Self-Action Leadership to participation in a decathlon (or heptathlon for women).  It explicates why the decathlon/heptathlon is an apt metaphor to capture the essence of the Existential Intelligence, Growth, and Balance that self-action leaders are capable of attaining.

Athletic Metaphors

crossing a bridge
Personal development teachers and coaches often employ athletic metaphors to elucidate challenges and opportunities that accompany our personal and professional journeys in life.  We do so not to exclude non-athletes from the discussion, but merely to paint a picture using metaphorical brush strokes that virtually everyone can understand either theoretically or practically speaking.  One age-old athletic comparison likens difficult work projects, onerous personal challenges, and even life itself to running a marathon.

In the early years of this century, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz introduced an alternative paradigm that embraced the management of energy over time.  According to Loehr and Schwartz, accessing "The Power of Full Engagement" is best achieved by approaching life NOT as a marathon, but as a "series of sprints" [1].  Moreover, Loehr and Schwartz assert that as a "Corporate Athlete" [2], "We build emotional, mental and spiritual capacity in precisely the same way that we build physical capacity" [3].

With my son, Tucker, after completing my
12th marathon in 2014.
As a former marathon runner who has completed the 26.2 mile distance 13 times, I am a big fan of marathon metaphors.  As a former semi-elite collegiate runner and human being who faces both finite time and energy, I am also a proponent of Loehr and Schwartz's helpful paradigm surrounding the concept of the "Corporate Athlete" and the science of managing energy rather than just time.  

In designing the Self-Action Leadership Theory and Model, I introduce a new athletic metaphor that builds on the concepts of persistence, endurance, and energy management effectively used by others in the past.  This new concept compares the personal or professional "Athlete" at hand not to a sprinter, distance runner, thrower, jumper, or vaulter alone, but to someone who plies their trade effectively at them all.  In this new, Self-Action Leadership (or SAL) Paradigm, the goal is to become a decathlete.  

Decathletes utilize ALL components of a track & field complex

What is a Decathlete?

A decathlete is a track & field athlete who competes in a special kind of event called the DECATHLON.  A decathlon is considered the supreme (and most difficult) event in track & field.  This is because it involves not one, not two, not three events, but TEN!

Other athletes rarely participate in more than two or three events in any given track meet.  In fact, most meets typically limit entries to four events per athlete, and at the elite level, very few athletes compete in more than one or two events.  Decathletes on the other hand—even at the elite level—compete in TEN events over the course of two consecutive days.  The decathlon is considered to be one of the most grueling events in all of sports.

A decathlon begins with decathletes racing the 100 meter dash.  This event is followed by the long-jump and the shot put (an event that involves catapulting a heavy steel ball as far as one is able in a "putting" rather than a throwing arm motion).  Then comes the high jump, which is followed up by the 400 meter run, which is considered by many to be one of the most physically taxing events in track.

On the second day, decathletes return to the track complex to compete in the 110-meter high hurdles.  This challenging sprint/jumpting event is followed by three more field events—the discus, the pole vault, and the javelin.  After all of that, the decathletes finish by running the 1500 meter run, sometimes referred to as "the metric mile," which is the longest, and arguably the most taxing, event of all.  Note: Women participate in the heptathlon, a similarly grueling competition involving seven different events (three track and four field) over two days.

Decathletes vs. Athletes

There are many things that separate a decathlete or heptathlete from a regular track & field athlete.  The most obvious difference is that most track athletes, especially at the elite level, specialize.  This means that sprinters focus on sprints, throwers throw, jumpers jump, vaulters vault, and middle- and long-distance runners race at longer distances.  The only common exception to this rule is that elite sprinters will sometimes add the long-jump and a relay race to their docket.

This specialization is visually evident in the appearance of elite track & field athletes.  For example, it is rare to find an elite long-distance runner measuring in at over 6 feet or in excess of 150 pounds.

On the other hand, it is similarly unheard of to come across an elite shot putter under 6 feet or less than 250 pounds.  The current world record holder, American Randy Barnes, who set his mark of 75 feet 10.23 inches back in 1990 was 6'4" and weighed 302 pounds!

Big, lean, rippling muscles can be quite helpful in the sprints, but you'll never see a body-builder physique toe the line for the 5,000 or 10,000 meter run, much less the marathon.  Consider, for example, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the world-record holder in the 100 and 200 meters; Bolt is 6'5" tall and weighs 207 pounds.  Compare that to Kenyan distance runner Dennis Kimetto, the world-record holder in the marathon, who is only 5'7" tall and weighs in at a scant 128 pounds.

Another, less salient, difference between decathletes and regular track & field athletes is that an elite decathlete almost never performs at the level of an elite athlete in any given specialty.  This means that even the best decathletes in history failed to run, jump, vault, and throw at the level of elite specialists in each given event.  While elite decathletes come impressively close to specialists in some of their events, they rarely, if ever, quite break into the elite level in any ONE event.  Their greatness does not stem from being the best in just one event, but from being very good at a LOT of different events.  This brand of eclectic excellence garners a special kind of approbation from the sporting world milieu such that whoever is crowned world or Olympic champion in the decathlon is appropriately awarded the venerable and exclusive title of being the Greatest Athlete in the World.  

Ashton Eaton of the United States is the current world-record holder in the decathlon.  His 9,045 point performance at the World Championships in China in 2015 is truly extraordinary.  Despite his remarkable performance in the ten events in which he competed, NONE of his marks would have been good enough to qualify for a Final in any of the individual events in the same elite track & field meet.  And what of his physique?  He measures in at 6'1" tall and weighs #185 pounds.  He more closely resembles a sprinter than a distance runner, and is far from resembling an elite shot-putter.  And his times and marks are indicative of his size.  Indeed, his best events, the 100m, 110-hurdles, 400 meters, long-jump, and pole vault indicate he is first and foremost a strong sprinter.  But he also has enough weight and strength to keep him competitive in the throws, and he is not too bulky to run a fast 1500 meter middle distance event at the completion of the competition.  Even as a former semi-elite middle-distance runner myself, I ran faster than Eaton's best time in the 1500 meters only twice, and I never came close to any of his other times or marks.

Eaton is an extraordinarily balanced athlete—not the world's best in any one event, but the world's very best in all ten of them when scored together cumulatively.  It is a rare, unique, and special ability.

An additional difference between decathletes and regular track & field athletes is the amount of time and effort spent in training.  Elite athletes in any event must take time and effort to ensure they obtain sufficient rest and nutrition, but the amount of time invested in actual physical exertion differs from event-to-event.

Typically, Throwers will spend much of their time doing strength exercises (i.e. weightlifting) and practicing their throws.  Sprinters will also spend a lot of time doing strength work, but will add various running and sprinting exercises to their training regimen.  Distance runners still do a little bit of strength work like sprinters and throwers, but with less weight and higher repetitions.  Their time is taken up largely by piling on road and trail miles to build and then maintain their base mileage.  Jumpers and Vaulters participate in a variety of speed and strength exercises in conjunction with actually practicing their jumps or vaults.

But decathletes must do a comprehensive combination of ALL of the above.  As a result, they typically spend a LOT more time completing their training regimen than athletes specializing in individual events.  While most professional athletes consider their sport a full-time job, only decathletes routinely put in 8+ hour workdays engaged in actual training exercises.  Simply stated, no single track & field athlete is likely to work harder or invest more time and focus in their overall performance than decathletes.  It takes a remarkable athlete—and human being—to make a successful decathlete.

Self-Action Leaders are Like Decathletes

Self-leaders and self-action leaders are NOT the same thing.  The primary difference between self-leadership and Self-Action Leadership is that the latter carries a moral component the former may lack.  This means that self-action leaders are not merely interested in doing things right; they are also students of morals and ethics; they pay close heed to their conscience in an effort to do the right things as well.  They are focused not merely on achieving their goals, but ensuring that their goals are rooted in morally just activities that benefit both themselves and others in the long run.

A secondary difference between self-leaders and self-action leaders is that the former is more like an athlete while the latter is more like a decathlete.  The Self-Action Leadership Theory and Model were designed to help self-leaders graduate to become self-action leaders.  In other words, the SAL Theory & Model is designed to assist existential "athletes" to become existential "decathletes."

Self-leaders, or "Existential Athletes," typically set goals focused on one, niche area of their personal or professional life that may or may not be morally circumspect.

Self-action leaders, or "Existential Decathletes," on the other hand, are more interested in pursuing a higher form of personal growth and development that is only attainable by focusing on SEVERAL vital components (events) of one's life in an effort to produce a synergistic cumulative effect that is exponentially greater than the growth achieved in a single area.

Existential Intelligence, Growth, & Balance

What are the ten EVENTS in a metaphorical Self-Action Leadership decathlon, or in our case, the six intelligences (sextathlon) involved in Self-Action Leadership?  They are the spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, social, and moral components of our nature as human beings and self-action leaders.

With this in mind, let's consider a few, key definitions moving forward...

~  Key Definition  ~

EXISTENTIAL INTELLIGENCE: Holistic knowledge (i.e. spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, social, and moral) that empowers you to pursue Existential Growth.

~  Key Definition  ~

EXISTENTIAL GROWTH: The holistic growth of personal character, capacity, and integrity, as measured by nine progressive stages of Self-Action Leadership development (these stages are outlined in the SAL Theory.  Click HERE to learn more about the SAL Theory 

~  Key Definition  ~

EXISTENTIAL BALANCE: A state of relative equilibrium among one's six intelligences (i.e., spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, social, and moral).

Existential Intelligence—as it relates to Self-Action Leadership—refers to a special brand of holistic intelligence that can only be created by merging a variety of other, more specific intelligences; namely: Spiritual Intelligence, Physical Intelligence, Mental Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence, and Moral Intelligence.

The quest for Existential Intelligence and Growth, made possible by a balanced pursuit of these six individual intelligences, is another key element that elevates Self-Action Leadership to a higher plane than traditional self-leadership.

The effective exercise of self-leadership may empower someone to become a professional athlete, a rich sales person, or a successful Hollywood movie star; but efficacious self-action leadership will ensure that you are a fully-functioning, balanced human being who is holistically successful and happy both personally and professionally and enjoys a relational social circle that is dependable, caring, and true.

You probably know people who are incredibly intelligent, capable, and effective in one, two, or three areas, but severely lacking in the rest.  Such people may accomplish remarkable individual achievements, but never fully attain the peace, happiness, and joy that is available to those who are more balanced—the result of investing time and effort across the full spectrum rather than spending most or all of one's time on merely one or two specific intelligences.

Ever known a gifted spiritual leader or academic teacher who was morbidly obese?  How about a physically attractive man or woman who was either ditzy, deceitful, or both?  What about a social genius that you could throw farther than you could trust?  Ever met an academic whiz who was completely obnoxious to be around?  How about a very honest and moral person who had little insight into how they come across to others and no sense of other people's feelings?  What about an emotional genius bereft of a conscience?

In his book, How Will You Measure Your Life, highly acclaimed innovation expert, Clayton Christensen, tells of his real life experience observing the life trajectories of his classmates at the Harvard Business School.  He explains that at his five-year class reunion, nearly everyone seemed to be doing well, getting rich, and enjoying great personal relationships.  But by their tenth reunion, things had begun to change, and that "despite [significant] professional accomplishments, ... many of them were clearly unhappy." [4]  He goes on to say:
"Behind the facade of professional success, there were many who did not enjoy what they were doing for a living.  There were, also, numerous stories of divorce or unhappy marriages.  I remember one classmate who hadn't talked to his children in years, who was living on the opposite coast from them.  Another was on her third marriage since we'd graduated." [5]
Christensen went on to explain that one of his classmates had been the now infamous Jeffrey Skilling of the ignominious corporation Enron.  Ironically, Christensen describes "The Jeffrey Skilling I knew of from our years at HBS [as a] good man."  According to Christensen, "he was smart, he worked hard, [and] he loved his family." [6]  Over time, Skilling obviously lost sight of his moral compass, among other things.  It was sad for Christensen to observe these life trajectories of such otherwise intelligent, capable people.

Such scenarios, and others similar to them, are exaggerated samples of what can occur when human beings fail to pay the price to develop Existential Intelligence, Growth, and Balance in their lives.  It is what happens when you decide to become an Existential Athlete rather than an Existential Decathlete.

In regular track & field you can choose to compete in whatever event you wish; there is no moral imperative involved in your choice of events.  Life is different.  Whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not, as human beings, we are ALL Existential Decathletes.  As such, we each have a moral imperative (a duty)—for our own good and the welfare of others around us—to nurture and develop ALL six of our intelligences.  We are, of course, free to not do so, and many people either knowingly or unknowingly fail to focus on one or more of the six areas.  Unfortunately, the negative consequences that stem from such neglect are predictably troubling.

In order to become a high-functioning self-action leader, you must do more than be spiritual, fit, smart, stable, social, and moral; you must develop ALL of these different intelligences together in relative harmony and equilibrium.  In other words, you must become a SEXTATHLETE (an athlete who competes in SIX different events).  Metaphorically speaking, a successful sextathlete effectively balances all six specific intelligences, and by so doing, elevating his or her Existential Intelligence to the greatest degree possible.

Existential Decathletes are Not Necessarily Renaissance Men or Women

High functioning self-action leaders, like decathletes, are not necessarily renaissance men or women (Jacks- or Jills-of-all-trades) when it comes to their specific personal talents or work skill sets.  Indeed, many of them, like myself, may have a relatively narrow niche of concrete skills.  For example, I am an outstanding writer, speaker, and organizer, but recruit me to build, fix, install, operate, or sell something and you are going to regret hiring me.

One of the things I have learned repeatedly throughout my career is that my disposition and personality is poorly suited to sales.  I am not a very good salesman, and in general, I despise the activity.  It doesn't mean I can't do sales; nor does it mean I don't do sales.  It also doesn't mean I can't be reasonably competent in doing sales when necessary, or that I couldn't get better with conscious effort and practice.  It simply means that my company will be more successful in the long run if I hire someone who actually likes sales and is highly skilled at that specific work proficiency.  I can sell things, but just like I'll never qualify to run in the Olympics or be a concert pianist, I will never be a top salesman in competition with those who enjoy sales and are better suited to the activity than I am.  

As an executive, there is little point in hiring an artist to serve as a professional mechanic, or a poet to become a career engineer.  In some cases it might be possible to teach, train, and equip someone with average aptitude in an area to eventually provide basic services in that area; but in most cases, it would be a poor use of the finite time, energy, and resources to which we have access.

Being an "Existential Decathlete" does not mean that you are an expert at a lot of divergent work activities.  Relatively few people are.  It merely means you have developed the capacity to maintain a healthy balance between the six different intelligences that constitute Existential Intelligence (i.e. spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, social, and moral intelligence).  Don't get me wrong, developing this balance is not easy; most people struggle with the difficulty of this balancing act throughout their lives.  But it is possible to attain unto this balance.

When it comes to most job positions, employers usually aren't looking for a renaissance man or woman; they are looking for a subject area expert who has a specific set of achievements, experiences, knowledge sets, and skills.  They do, however, ideally want all of their people to be well balanced human beings who are mentally competent, physically healthy, emotionally mature, socially well adjusted, honest (morally sound), and if possible, spiritually in tune with their inner selves as well.  They may not always get a workforce so healthy, but rest assured it is the desire of every effective and existentially intelligent leader or manager to have such.

Existential Intelligence, Growth,
and Balance lead a Happy, Healthy Life
Self-action leaders recognize that in the long-run, a healthy life balance is even more important than winning a gold medal, earning the title of Miss America, or becoming part of the one percent financially speaking.  There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with achieving any of these lofty goals.  Indeed, they are all noteworthy accomplishments that we can all look up to and admire (as long as they were honestly achieved without harming others in the process).

The statistical reality, however, is that only a very small percentage of human beings will ever achieve such elevated positions in this world; and those who do typically have outlying advantages physically, socially, or otherwise, making it unfair to make apples-to-apples comparisons with the rest of us.

Moreover, those who do rise to such heights are, in some cases, unhappy people whose personal lives and/or relationships are a shambles.  While we may admire their individual achievements in the short-run, in the long run, few of us would want to change places with such persons.  There is, of course, the rare exception of the high (or outlying) achiever who is also really well balanced in their personal life and relationships.  But persons who attain that balance did not do so from stellar talent or outlying ability; they did so by following the same self-action leadership principles that everybody else did.

Thus we may return to the outstanding work of Loehr and Schwartz, who taught that, "We build [social, moral] emotional, mental and spiritual capacity in precisely the same way that we build physical capacity ... [by engaging in] positive ... behavior[s] that become ... automatic over time—fueled by some deeply held value" [7].  In other words, Existential Intelligence, Growth, and Balance are difficult goals to effectively achieve.  A high price must be paid in focus, intention, effort, and time; but the rewards make the commitment and exertion incredibly worth it.

The Relative Myth of Fair Interpersonal Competition

ALL human beings are profoundly singular in their unique makeup of SAL Variables (genetics, mimetics, background, upbringing, experiences, etc.).  We are all quite different.  As such, there really is no truly fair competition because no one is exactly the same.  The top performer in any interpersonal competition usually comes out on top because he or she possesses a superior blend of SAL variables when compared to the other competitors.

To illustrate what I mean, watch the following clip of Jamaican sprinting superstar Usain Bolt when he set the world record in the 100-meter dash at the World Championships in Berlin, Germany in 2009.

Click HERE to watch clip.

A decade ago, few people thought it was humanly possible to run as close to 9.5 seconds as Bolt did in Berlin.  No one had ever even run under 9.7 seconds, much less 9.6!  In this record-setting race that Usain so totally dominated, it should be noted that the second place competitor—American Tyson Gay—ran one of the fastest times in history; yet he was still easily beaten by Bolt.  When you look at Bolt's remarkable physique—the seemingly perfect formulaic blend of height and weight and strength for speed—even an amateur onlooker can begin to see why Bolt performed head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.

While the stadium crowd, the companies Bolt endorses, and even the world-at-large marveled at his superior exhibition of unprecedented speed, the SAL Theory holds that Bolt's performance should be no existential "skin" off of the noses of the "also-rans," who did the best they could, but nevertheless came up with a less impressive final result.

In life, it is not unheard of for the last place finisher in any given "race" to expend the greatest personal effort of all.  Losing a competition against others may have nothing to do with a your own effort or degree of preparation.  In most cases, it is merely a matter of a differing SAL Variable Formula.  There are, of course, endless exceptions to this scenario.  In many cases, people produce subpar results because they invested subpar intention and effort.  But in other cases, a person's very best can be easily bested by someone else's very best, or even less than their best.  The final result in any interpersonal competition is determined with mathematical precision according to the unique output of each person's individual formula determined by one's unique set of SAL Variables.

To learn about the 16 different SAL Variables and begin to get a clearer idea of your own unique formula, see BOOK the FIRST, Chapter 17, of Dr. Jordan Jensen's book, Self-Action Leadership.  

My Quest to Become an Elite Performer

In my mind's eye at age 10,
I was going to be
the next "Air Jordan"
Since age seven or eight, I have had a deep desire to become an elite performer—if not the best in the world—at something.  Around the same age, I became deeply interested in self-leadership.  Much of my early self-leadership interest stemmed from my desire to become not just my best, but the best at something.

Like many young boys or girls, I saw myself eventually becoming a world-class performer in my favorite activity, which at the time was basketball.  Indeed, in my mind's eye, I believed I was destined to become the Michael Jordan of my generation.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, and others beat me to the punch.  I not only failed in my initial objective to become an NBA Star, I also lost interest in basketball sufficiently to quit my pursuit of the game in any serious manner after 9th grade.

Despite surprising even myself at my early exit from the game of basketball, my desire to become a world-class performer was far from being extinguished.  It merely transferred to other activities.

My next big pursuit was cross-country and track & field.  I enjoyed more success in interpersonal competitions as a runner than I did as a basketball player.  However, after becoming a state champion in high school and an All-American in college, it became evident that no amount of work or dedication on my part was going to empower me to transcend the semi-elite status I had achieved at the junior college level.  Sadly, or not—depending on how you look at it—I am never going to qualify for the Olympics.

Other activities I pursued with less vigor and abysmal results.  For example, sales.  It seems as though my life has been one long, bad date with sales.  It began with those elementary school fund raisers that recruit young students to go door-to-door selling chocolate and other snacks and wares.  As a boy, I reserved a special kind of loathing for such activities.  As a man, I have largely maintained this same reservation for sales.

As I grew older and discovered that most of the world's richest people are, in one form or another, sales people, I strove to face my loathing "like a man."  The result?  I lasted a few weeks as a knife salesman, a few months as a part-time network marketing legal insurance salesman, and a single day as a small-business telephone services salesman.  In all, I earned less than a thousand dollars for my combined sales efforts in these attempts.

Despite my stellar professional platform skills as a speaker and seminar facilitator, I've never been able to elevate my "back-of-the-room" product selling skills to the same level.  And even though I am the Founder and CEO of my own business that sells products and services, actually selling those products and services is not my strong suit.  I despise sales and after repeated attempts and failures to succeed or "like" sales after two-plus decades of trying, I am under no illusion I will somehow magically desire to embrace it in the future.

Those who are familiar with my personal story know that I am no stranger to failure and disappointment.  Indeed, these twin demons—or angels, depending on how you frame them—have plagued—and bolstered—my life, for much of my life.  As a result, and despite however hard I have tried, I have ultimately failed to achieve my original objectives for athletic or sales greatness.

In the process, however, I have learned what I am good at, and that I can be very successful in the long-run by focusing most of my attention on developing my strengths.  I have also discovered the relative myth of fair interpersonal competition, as well as the realization that the greatest quest I can undertake in my life is not to focus primarily on beating other people, but in striving tirelessly to beat myself by becoming my own best self.

A Vision of Self-Action Leadership

Perhaps the grandest vision I hold for The Self-Action Leadership Theory and Model is to engender a worldwide paradigm shift among people and organizations throughout the world whereby we no longer place preeminent value on being "the best," but instead shift our focus toward individually accomplishing "one's own best" in conjunction with attaining the elusive achievement of holistic Existential (or life) Balance.

Such a paradigm shift not only frees up a lot of time and effort and energy you can invest on improving your own performance, it also improves your chances for success when you do compete interpersonally with other people and organizations.

Considering the current climate in which we live, where elite performers and their performances (or facades) in specific activities and pursuits are held up as royal monarchs of a postmodern King's Court, and the rest of us are viewed largely as average citizens or worse—nobodies—it is a tall order to place, to say the least.  But I believe it is a possible shift to make over time.  And I will not rest until I have done what I can to make this shift real and lasting.    

Specialization vs. Generalization

There will always be a need in our world for specialists, meaning people who are extremely gifted in an extremely specified activity or intelligence.  Examples of specialists include professional athletes (and other niche performers), specialty doctors and surgeons, and highly technical engineers, scientists, designers, academics, etc.

However, just as the percentage of top performers is minuscule compared to "the rest of the pack," the percentage of specialists will always dwarf the number of generalists.  Generalists will almost always receive less attention, credit, honor, glory, and financial remuneration for their contributions than specialists.  This does not make them any less important to the fundamental welfare and greater good of society-at-large.  It simply makes them less visible.

Quarterbacks will always be more prominent and visible and compensated than offensive lineman; but we all know the fate of every quarterback if you take away his offensive line.  Specialists of all kinds will almost always get more public adulation, attention, and honor than generalists; but that doesn't make their contributions any more valuable in the overall aggregate of human work.

The eye and brain and heart and face will always get more face time in the limelight than the fingers and toes; but the former will always be in debt to the latter for intricate dexterity and overall balance.

None of us is the SAME; but we are ALL EQUAL
in terms of our intrinsic Existential Worth. 

Existential Worth & Equality

~  Key Definition  ~

EXISTENTIAL WORTH: The worth of someone or something's existence as measured by his, her, or its potential for Existential Growth and achievement.

~  Key Definition  ~ 
EXISTENTIAL EQUALITY: The theory that all human beings have equal intrinsic worth as measured by each person's potential to become fully actualized and earn unlimited Existential Growth.  
A correct understanding of the aforementioned principles promotes a profound paradigm shift that enlightens our realization of the absolute Existential Equality we share as human beings.  To truly recognize that no one is exactly alike is to comprehend the fallacy of "fair competition." Once comprehended, the relative absurdity of living your life in competition primarily with other people becomes increasingly evident.  Your inner security begins to blossom, and feelings of jealousy, resentment, bitterness, and hate begin to melt away.  

There is little time or energy left to compete against others when you are focusing all of your time, attention, and power on contributing your own best effort and producing your own greatest results.  In the process, you will inevitably surpass and fall short of the performance of others in the same field or endeavor; but either way, you'll stop caring so much about where you stack up next to others because you possess the quiet confidence and inner peace that can only come from a knowledge that you did YOUR best—and you can't do any better than that.

As simple as this may sound theoretically, the actual practice of the principle is extremely difficult.  Even as the author of this article, I confess I struggle every day of my life to compete solely with myself and avoid comparing myself inappropriately to others.  Moreover, it should be noted that there are times when it is appropriate and quite helpful to make interpersonal comparisons and even to compete interpersonally, for doing so can assist and motivate us in our efforts to elevate our own performance.

However, if we allow ourselves to become overly caught up in the interpersonal element of competition instead of the intra-personal element, we are bound to begin losing sight of and focus on the execution of our own performance.  We will also find ourselves apportioning time, energy (emotional and otherwise) to distracting thoughts and their concomitant, negative emotions of anger, bitterness, jealousy, spite, hatred, etc.  The end result of such actions will be a diminishing return on our own results and future efforts to succeed whether we are officially competing with others or not.

The term Existential Equality should not be confused with the idea that we are all the same and are capable of achieving the exact same things.  That is not the case.  For example, men are different from women (not better, just different), everyone comes in different shapes and sizes, and we all exhibit different personalities, preferences, proclivities, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  In this world, there is no such equality, and never will be—and that is a good thing.  Imagine how boring it would be if everyone were the same!

What Existential Equality does mean is that everyone has the same existential value in a fundamental, ontological sense.  Believers chalk this equality up to our all being children of God.  Non-believers chalk it up to our connected genetic heritage and collective in-born desires for fairness and community.

Most importantly, Existential Equality means that everyone CAN achieve the same kind of greatness in one, fundamental, unifying sense.  They can do so by means of becoming fully actualized human beings who maximize their holistic personal potential and their opportunities for Existential Intelligence, Growth, and Balance.  We begin this journey by accepting the challenge to become a decathlete (or sextathlete) dedicated to the development of the six primary intelligences of existentialism.

It is extremely important to note the emphasis placed on the word "CAN" achieve.  This is not to say that all people WILL have the opportunity to learn of their possibilities to do so (although we at Freedom Focused are working hard on that dilemma); nor does it ensure that those who do learn WILL choose to apply what they learn.  It also does not mean to suggest that a person's full potential for such achievement can be accomplished in this life.  Depending on your beliefs, you may choose to hold out hope for the acquisition of additional intelligence and growth for an eternity after this life.  My personal conviction is that all the growth and intelligence we are capable of attaining unto in this life is but a small sliver of our eternal opportunities for the same.  But regardless of whether you are a believer or not, I think we can all agree there is much to be attained before we die in terms of intelligence and growth in a variety of arenas, and most especially in an existential sense.  What is more, the possibilities are endless and exciting!

I've spent much of my life striving to become THE best at something.  Along the way, I've discovered the great truth that simply striving to become MY best is just as challenging—and ultimately a far greater—pursuit.  Indeed, this opportunity provides a challenge sufficiently difficult, engaging, and exciting to keep me busy until I pass away from this world.  Just as the decathlon is the ultimate track & field event, Self-Action Leadership is one of the ultimate existential opportunities afforded us by Life.  I look forward to the rest of my journey.  With this added insight, I hope you will look forward to yours.


1. Loehr, J, & Schwartz, T. (2003). The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. Free Press: New York, NY. Page 12.  
2. Ibid. See pages 197-222.
3. Ibid. Page 13.
4. Christensen, C.M., Allworth, J., and Dillon, K. (2012). How Will You Measure Your Life. Harper Business: New York, NY. Page 2.
5. Ibid. 
6. Ibid. Page 3. 
7. Loehr, J, & Schwartz, T. (2003). The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. Free Press: New York, NY. Page 13-14. 

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Dr. Jordan Jensen
Master Facilitator
The opportunity is now here to bring explicit SAL training to YOUR classroom, school, or organization.  This opportunity includes the possibility of revolutionizing, or at least evolutionizing, your student or corporate body into pathways of holistic personal growth and progress that will produce quantum leaps in the long-term success of your bottom line—the extent to which your students and colleagues or employees to become happy, healthy, successful, and contributing civic-minded members of your organization and society at-large.

SAL Training is the training of the future.  It is training for the organizational soul.  It is the silver bullet to long-term success.

To read about one leader, Joe Jensen's, successful, implicit use of SAL principles and practices in leading his team to extraordinary, even outlying, results, click HERE.

If you are an Executive or Superintendent, Principal or Manager, Teacher or Coach,  and are thinking about brining SAL training to your classroom, school, district, or organization, where do you start?

Simple... just call us at 832-618-5451, or e-mail us at jordan.jensen@freedomfocused.com, and we will provide you with a free consultation to discover which SAL training would be right for you.

SAL trainings are deliverable in five different time frames.  Additional consulting services and a variety of related soft skills training options are also available upon request.

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Self-Action Leadership  ~  The Book

SELF-ACTION LEADERSHIP is the key catalyst for initiating transformational leadership that lasts in any classroom, school, or organization. The truth of the matter really is that simple; and the transformation of organizations through the holistic development of individuals really is that difficult—yet altogether possible for any leader who is willing to invest the time, effort, and sacrifice required to achieve authentic, transformational results.

Unlike any training program that has ever preceded it, Self-Action Leadership provides a single vehicle wherewith individual self-leaders can discover—and then act—upon the great truth that HOLISTIC personal development and growth spanning the mental, moral, spiritual, physical, emotional, and social elements of our individual natures is within the grasp of each one of us.

Back Cover of Self-Action Leadership, the Book
NoteFreedom Focused is a non-partisan, for-profit, educational corporation.  As such, we do not endorse or embrace political figures.  We do, however, comment from time-to-time on historical or political events that provide pedagogical backdrops to illuminating principles contained in the SAL Theory & Model.

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