Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Role of Proactivity in Self-Action Leadership

The Self-Action Leadership Theory, Model, and Textbooks are now officially published and available in print form.

Now that leaders, educators, and parents around the United States and world can review the material, how can they determine whether it is worthy or wanting in terms of its potential value in their organizations, schools, and homes? 

The answer to this question will differ from reviewer to reviewer. After all, different people view the world in different ways. But it will also depend on how PROACTIVE each reviewer is.

This is because proactivity is the essence of Self-Action Leadership (SAL). It is also because SAL does not provide quick or simple solutions to deep problems.


Because quick or simple solutions to serious problems usually don’t exist—no matter how badly we may wish for or hope that they would. More often, deep problems require deep solutions, which in-turn require extensive amounts of focus, discipline, dedication, consistence, and persistence (in other words, PROACTIVITY) to access and animate in real life.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you snake oil.  

As such, those who are unwilling to carefully and seriously review the SAL material probably won’t recognize its true potential. Instead, they’ll just see two long textbooks capable of collecting a lot of dust.

Dr. David G. Anthony, an incredibly accomplished professional educator—who wrote the Afterword to the SAL Textbooks—initially felt the same reactive pull of unwillingness that you may feel as you are confronted with two, long, print textbooks.

In Anthony’s own words:

“When Jordan originally invited me to review an 802-page manuscript of this book, I balked a bit, wondering when I would possibly have time to review such a tome. It is interesting to note how some of life’s most important, rewarding, and ultimately enjoyable tasks initially appear so uninviting. In the end, I opted to set myself to the task, and I am so glad that I did. 

“I thank Jordan for inviting me to read this work. He has earned my endorsement. Reading the Self-Action Leadership textbooks may be the most worthwhile thing you do this year. I hope the message of SAL makes its way into the minds and hearts of students, parents, and business professionals everywhere. Its presence in the literature is a service to our country—and world.”

As Doctor Anthony—and all other highly proactive self-action leaders—understands, “You get out of something what you are willing to put into it.” Over time, that is just a mathematical reality. In other words, what goes around comes around, and you absolutely reap what you sow in the long-run.

Given these realities, I have been pondering lately on the power of PROACTIVITY in both our personal and professional lives.

It was disciplined and focused proactivity (on my part) over the past 17 years that led to the creation and publication of the SAL Theory, Model, and Textbooks. Similarly, it will be proactivity (on your part) that leads to the effective and productive utilization of this new, cutting-edge, and groundbreaking personal leadership material.

The question is: “To what extent are you willing to do whatever it takes to realize your goals and help your students, athletes, staff members, colleagues, and subordinates to realize theirs?” In other words, how PROACTIVE are you willing to be when it comes to investigating SAL and then ensuring that your students carefully study and apply it as well?

I have been passionate about the concept of proactivity ever since I learned about it from Dr. Stephen Covey back in 2001. Probably more than anyone else in the world, Dr. Covey deserves credit for making the term “PROACTIVE” commonplace in modern English usage. After all, you won’t even find the word in most twentieth century dictionaries. Yet today it is one of the more commonly used words in educational, business, and a variety of other societal lexicons.

In Dr. Covey’s famous book—The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People—he selected “Proactivity” as the FIRST habit in his famous model.


Because proactivity is the mindset and habit that makes all other positive actions and achievements possible. Proactivity is like the fuel that makes an airplane fly or an automobile drive. Similarly, it is proactivity that makes Self-Action Leadership (SAL) productively operative in our lives and careers.

Proactive people inspire me because they consist of those relatively few individuals in our communities, organizations, and society-at-large who consistently exercise initiative, work hard, pull their weight (and usually much more), solve problems, and build worthwhile things that last. Everything a proactive person touches tends to accelerate and improve over time. Everything positive, productive, useful, and helpful around us exists because of PROACTIVE PEOPLE.

REACTIVITY is the opposite of PROACTIVITY. Unfortunately, there are usually a lot more reactive people than there are proactive people in any given organization or community.  

Reactive people do not respond to situations productively, rationally, or even sanely. Rather, they react based on their moods, feelings, impulses, environmental conditions, prejudices, misinformation (and false information), and social pressures. Proactive people, on the other hand, respond to situations intelligently and empathetically based on values, standards, laws, order, courtesy, empathy, love, and their own internal consciences, which are continually governed by a principle-centered compass that consistently points to principled ideals Covey describes as “True North.”

In Covey’s words, “Response-ability” [is] the ability to choose your response [regardless of internal or external stimuli or pressure]. Highly proactive persons recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feelings” (See “Be Proactive” Chapter of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

According to Covey, “The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person” (Ibid.). In summing up the essence of proactivity, Covey explains that, “We are responsible for our own effectiveness, for our own happiness, and ultimately, I would say, for most of our circumstances” (Ibid.).

That last statement can be tough medicine to take when life gets difficult or seems unfair. And since life is often difficult and seems unfair, we must take a great many doses of this medicine if we are to transcend our difficulties and rise to higher planes on the powerful wings of proactivity. The good news is that the difficulty and the seeming unfairness of life does not negate the power of proactivity in our lives—as long as we are given an opportunity to learn about and practice it.

Perhaps you are wondering why I use the word “seeming” before the word “unfair” in the preceding paragraph. After all, aren’t things often unfair—plain and simple—in life? Furthermore, is it not obvious that things are much more unfair for some people than others? While a one-dimensional or superficial answer to this question would obviously be “YES”, the reality is often deeper and more complicated.

To illustrate my point, consider the fact that historically speaking, some of the greatest and most accomplished persons to ever live in this world were dealt extremely difficult hands at various junctures of their lives. Was it fair that Theodore Roosevelt had to deal with breathtaking asthma growing up, or that Franklin Roosevelt was dealt a devastating blow of polio that put him in a wheelchair in middle life? Was it fair that Abraham Lincoln lacked the money and opportunity to receive a quality formal education? Was it fair that Frederick Douglass was born into slavery or that Helen Keller entered this world deaf and blind? Was it fair that the genius Stephen Hawking became a physical invalid relatively early on in life, or that Christopher Reeve (aka Superman) broke his neck in an equestrian accident in his physical and professional prime? Or what about the profound prejudices and other oppressive forces that Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela had to face? Or the deep and onerous social, cultural, and personal challenges that Oprah Winfrey overcame to become the billionaire media mogul she is today?

In every example listed above, the individuals named were able to achieve success not only in spite of their challenges, but in part because of them. In other words, take away their challenges—the seeming unfairness—and it is possible they would not have risen nearly as high as they did in their lives and careers. That is why, in hindsight, highly successful people often refer to their past by saying: “I wouldn’t change a thing—even if I could.” Such people recognize that their difficulties and challenges were just as important to their overall success as their advantages and benefits—and sometimes even more so—because of what they became due to the extraordinary growth they achieved by overcoming deep and painful obstacles.

This does not mean, of course, that all unfairness is good or desirable. Some unfairness is, in fact, rooted in human error, prejudice, and evil—something that proactive persons of conscience are quick to identify, condemn, and seek to extinguish wherever they find it festering. What it does mean is that seeming unfairness in life almost always contains seeds of opportunity that proactive persons can use to learn, grow, progress, and achieve. As such, the next time you find yourself saying: “It’s not fair,” consider what the other side of the coin might produce over time through personal proactivity. After all, hindsight often demonstrates the tremendous value to be found on the other side of significant life difficulties and challenges. In the words of Garth Brooks’ famous Country Music song: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” 

For the proactive, there is something magical about adversity. It actually makes a person far stronger and more accomplished than they would have been under easier circumstances. Athletes become stronger by lifting heavy weights and persistently pushing through pain, bad weather, injuries, and other adversity—not by coasting downhill with a brisk tailwind at their backs. Why would it be different for human beings in general, either personally or professionally?

For the reactive, however, adversity can be mind-numbing and completely draining; the challenges stop them cold in their tracks. Seemingly unable to go any further, the reactive are then quick to complain about how unfair life is. And from their own limited perspectives, they are right!

How different the world would be if everyone had an equal opportunity to learn about and then practice PROACTIVITY from their youth on up! Unfortunately, far too many individuals throughout our country and world have learned for far too long—from bad examples and poor pedagogy—to confront their personal and professional problems and the seeming unfairness of life reactively rather than proactively.

I personally am no stranger to adversity. From being dealt a devastating case of mental illness (OCD and depression) in my adolescence to confronting significant personal, relational, and professional challenges in young adulthood, my life has not been easy. I imagine yours hasn’t been either. But that doesn’t mean life is irreversibly unfair, or that you are doomed to failure and penury—no matter where you may have started out, or how significant your trials may presently be. I can tell you with certainty that I wouldn't be where I am now in my life or career without the growth and progress obtainable only through successfully surmounting the manifold challenges with which life has dealt me. My trials and crucibles were not fun. They were excruciating. But they have absolutely made me who and what I am today. For that, I wouldn't go back and eradicate them—even if I could.  

There is so much hope for overcoming whatever adversity may come your way in life, especially when you understand the principles and practices of Self-Action Leadership and are willing to be PROACTIVE in your pursuit thereof.

Fortunately, I read Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when I was a freshman in college. It changed my life and led to my own diligent pursuit of a similar career. What is the purpose of that career To help educate and inspire others to become highly proactive persons who build things and initiate positive, productive, and meaningful change as opposed to reactive people who blame, shame, complain, and call people names.

One of the most proactive things that any individual can undertake—especially in this day-and-age of short attention spans—is to dedicate time, effort, and energy to deep reading and study about the most important things in life. In other words, to simply sit quietly for substantial periods of time in thoughtful, reflective, and diligent reading and study of high-quality wisdom literature.

I know the value of this activity because of my own life-changing experience reading Covey’s 7 Habits—and other life-changing literature throughout the past three decades of my life. As a result, I spent the last 17 years creating a NEXT-GEN 7 Habits-esque comprehensive personal leadership textbook that leaders, educators, coaches, and parents can use to begin to turn the tide against the pandemic of reactivity we see all around us. But instead of a primarily popular read designed for a corporate environment and the literature of the layman, SAL is a bona fide educational textbook that proactive educators, schools, and even scholars can legitimately embrace—to the benefit of themselves, their staff members, and most importantly—their students.

It takes a LOT of proactivity to spend some of your hard-earned money to buy a long, detailed textbook and then invest the time and effort to read, study, apply its principles, and teach it to others. For those willing to be proactive, I promise you will be empowered with a greater desire and ability to become a solution to the problems you face at home and work—as well as to the challenges presently perplexing our communities, nation, and world. Additionally, you will find yourself gradually and steadily rising to higher levels of growth, success, achievement, happiness, and inner peace.

I have dedicated nearly half my life to creating an educational solution to the preventable and solvable difficulties we see all over America and throughout the world. I plead with persons in positions of power and influence to investigate how this proposed solution can begin to make a palpable difference in the lives of students, workers, and human beings everywhere.

According to Stephen Covey, “Your most important work is always ahead of you, never behind you.” How might Self-Action Leadership empower and further the vital work that lies in your future?

There’s only ONE way to find out.

In Summary, PROACTIVE Persons (aka Self-Action Leaders):

· Take the initiative
· Focus on solutions
· Build things

They Are:

· Self-disciplined and focused
· Results oriented
· Willing to try new things and even fail in order to learn. And when they do fail, they immediately pick themselves up, study out a new and better approach, and then try again.

REACTIVE persons, on the other hand:

· Wait for others to take the initiative
· Focus on problems
· Tear people (and things) down

They are:

· Undisciplined and focus on

     o Blaming,
     o Shaming,
     o Complaining, and
     o Name calling

What kind of a person do you want to become?

     What kind of people do you want your students, staff members, or subordinates to become?

          What are you willing to do to realize your desires and objectives?

Freedom Focused is here to help reactive people become Proactive People and proactive people to realize their full potential. We accomplish these objectives in three simple (but not necessarily easy) steps.

1. Read and study the SAL Theory, Model, and Textbooks

2. Enliven and expand upon the material with LIVE TRAINING by myself (Dr. Jordan Jensen) or another Freedom Focused Facilitator.

3. Reiterate and repeat steps one and two with ongoing training, coaching, mentoring, and consulting on a strategically planned or as-needed basis.

Visit FREEDOMFOCUSED.COM for more information

Click HERE to read the Foreword & Afterword to the SAL Textbooks, written by Christopher P. Neck, Ph.D., and David G. Anthony, Ed.D.

Click HERE to BUY the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Making of a Champion

Attention Coaches, Leaders, and Educators Everywhere: 

Practically speaking, what exactly is the FUNCTIONAL AIM of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks and training?

To answer this question, I'd like to pose a few questions to YOU, as follows:

1. When, in the past, were YOU most focused on and diligently dedicated to a single-minded purpose?

2. What was your goal, objective, or "End in Mind" for giving it your all for that particular period of time?

3. Did you achieve it?

4. If so, how did it feel?

5. Would you like to replicate those feelings and accomplishments?

When I think about these questions myself, I immediately go back to my junior year in high school during the lead-up to winning the State cross-country championship in my school's classification.

After finishing 4th at the State Meet the previous year as a sophomore, I was determined to not be a bride's maid my junior season. For several months following the 1996 Summer Olympics (which was very inspiring to watch), I was completely zoned in on my objective. In short, I exercised highly effective Self-Action Leadership and was richly rewarded with an individual Gold Medal and First Place team trophy at season's end. As an individual athlete and a Team Captain, I accomplished everything I set out to achieve.

It was enormously rewarding.

As someone once said: "Once a Champion, always a Champion." I believe this is true for the simple reason that this outlying achievement has continued to burnish and bolster my self-image and confidence for the past 24 years, despite accomplishing more significant and more important things since that time.

What about YOU?

I'm guessing you could probably hearken back to something similar in your own personal life or professional career. What made that particular season, semester, or time period so special? What set it apart from other periods of your life when your efforts and results were less spectacular?

The idea behind the Self-Action Leadership seminars and textbooks is to provide YOU and your student athletes with an opportunity to intentionally simulate these outlying periods of heightened preparation and increased focus that lead us to become our very best either personally or professionally. Such opportunities can, in fact, be intentionally created by diligently reading, studying, and learning the principles of SAL and then applying their accompanying practices over set periods of time.

What do you have to lose to train your students in SAL, equip them with textbooks, coaching, and mentoring, and then really GO FOR IT in your upcoming season, semester, year, et cetera?

How far might you go by taking this unique, time-tested approach?

Would it be worth it to give it a shot, knowing from your own past experiences how valuable such endeavors can be?

If your honest answers to these questions are:

1). I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

2). It is definitely worth a shot -- just to see how far we might go.

3). Without any question, YES!

Then I look forward to hearing from you soon to begin developing a specific plan to transform your team, classroom, school, district, organization, etc., into the Championship Program it was destined to become.

See You at the Top-

-Dr. JJ

Visit FREEDOMFOCUSED.COM for more information

Click HERE to read the Foreword & Afterword to the SAL Textbooks, written by Christopher P. Neck, Ph.D., and David G. Anthony, Ed.D.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Humility in Leadership

As promised, today I share two examples of high profile, executive leaders who demonstrate that loftiness of position should not elevate anyone beyond doing what needs to be done, when it needs doing, no matter how seemingly lowly the labor at hand may be. These leaders exemplify the great truth that no one should be "above" scrubbing a toilet (literally or figuratively) or attending to any other necessary task.  

The Hyrum W. Smith Story

Shortly after graduating from college, I got a part-time job as a retail salesman in a FranklinCovey store in Atlanta, Georgia. One day, my manager told me of an experience she once had with my Uncle Hyrum. She and her colleagues were setting up a table of Hyrum’s books to sell at a national FranklinCovey symposium. As they worked, Hyrum—the co-founder of the entire company—just happened to walk by. Immediately, he jumped in and started helping them complete the menial labor of setting up the table of books. My manager was surprised. Her comment to me was, “I didn’t think CEOs unloaded boxes.” 

Hyrum’s actions left an impression on my manager that positively influenced her own leadership style. The story, in turn, left a positive impression on me. It continually serves as a reminder that no matter how high I may ascend within a hierarchy, I should never think myself too good or important to lend a helping hand when needed. And if that means setting up tables or washing dishes or scrubbing toilets, then so be it! If a job needs to be done, no self-action leader should ever consider him or herself to be above any honest labor that needs completing—no matter how lowly that work might seem. Hyrum’s humble actions demonstrate how a leader’s actions and interactions between other leaders and subordinates can influence a more egalitarian company culture.

The Stirling D. Pack, Ph.D. Story

Stirling D. Pack Jr., Ph.D., is a former senior vice president of a Fortune 500 corporation in the Houston, Texas area. Through hard work and diligence, Pack rose through the ranks of his company to eventually become a “big shot,” making millions and flying around the world on corporate jets.

Shortly before Pack retired, Nick—a lowly graphic technician—visited Pack in his office to present a thank you gift. Why? In Nick’s words: “You were the only senior executive in this entire company that ever treated me like a human being.” 

Pack did not know Nick well. In fact, he had to think for a moment to recall how he knew Nick at all. Then he remembered: Nick had assisted him a time or two as an IT specialist by designing some slides for his executive presentations. That was the only association Stirling ever had with Nick. Pack did not tell me what he did or said to make Nick feel so valued; I don’t think he remembered himself. The point is that he did. Pack was the kind of leader who understood the great truth that no one is “just-a” graphic technician, “just-an” administrative assistant, “just-a” custodian, or “just-a” new hire. 

Stirling understood that existentially speaking, he was no better than Nick. As such, he treated him with the same kind of respect and regard as he would have treated his own supervisor—the CEO of the entire company. All of the greatest leaders I have known share this intellectual understanding of Existential Equality, which Pack so effectively demonstrated in his interactions with other people, including—and perhaps especially—with his subordinates.

The story of Stirling and Nick remind me of a stanza of verse from the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (The Builders):

Nothing useless is, or low;
    Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
    Strengthens and supports the rest.   

The best leaders are humble. They understand that one's own innate existential worth does not exceed any other human being—no matter how intelligent, gifted, or accomplished he or she may be. This realization instills within such leaders a deep reverence for their colleagues and subordinates. As a result, they treat other people as if they were the most important asset they have; because that is exactly what they are!   

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Dutifully Doing the Dirty Work of SAL

Today I taught my seven and five year old one of the most important lessons anyone can ever learn in life: how to scrub a toilet and clean a bathroom.

Perhaps I am overstating the point a bit, but hear me out...

All my life, I have been a believer in the power of scrubbing toilets and cleaning bathrooms. There is nothing quite so satisfying as beholding a beautiful baƱo that sparkles, shines, and smells good by virtue of my own willed effort, detailed focus, and gritty elbow grease.

Likewise, there is nothing quite so rewarding as progressing in your life and career in ways that decrease the likelihood that you'll have to clean bathrooms if you don't want to! You see, the beauty of SAL is that it empowers you to do the dirty work of life so well that eventually you won't have to do much dirty work anymore.

Due in part to my OCD, I am VERY GOOD at cleaning bathrooms. And narcissistic though the following sentiment may be, I have always been convinced that there is something special about someone who can do the same. Perhaps it is because my personal experiences have taught me that most people avoid cleaning the bathroom at almost all costs, and even when forced to finally address the problem, tend to do a subpar job of it. And "cleaning the bathroom" here can also serve as a metaphor for any dirty, grimy, and difficult, but necessary work that must be done at home or at work.

This annoying fact of collective humanity was a perpetual annoyance for me growing up, and more particularly as a young unmarried man in college and beyond where I was always more willing and capable of cleaning a bathroom than any of my roommates. As such, you can guess who ended up doing the dirty work of cleaning the bathroom most often—especially at the end of a semester prior to a landlord's inspection.

Although I confess this fact about my fellows spawned some bitterness in my young heart, there was also something inside of me continually whispering that in the long run, karma would be kind to people with such will and determination to do what had to be done, no matter how unpleasant. I was further inspired by the wisdom of Thomas Huxley, who once wrote:

"The most valuable result of all education is to make you do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learned. And however early a man [or woman's] training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he [or she] learns thoroughly."

Over the years, I have occasionally met individuals who are truly SAL superstars when it comes to cleaning bathrooms—and I am always impressed and heartened when I do. One especially salient example is my good friend, Kari Ginn. Years ago, I attended the same church congregation as Kari and her husband Kirk and their beautiful family. Kirk was the congregational leader at the time, making Kari a high profile member as well. One Saturday morning, I arrived at the home of a member of our congregation to assist other members in packing up the family's belongings for a move.

As I walked through the home, I observed who was there and what they were doing. Some were participating more actively than others, but I'll never forget who I saw on her hands and knees vigorously scrubbing the shower floor in the bathroom. It was Kari. Of all the women in the congregation, you would think Kari should have been exempt from such lowly labor. Yet SHE was the one setting the ultimate example for the rest of us. That image of Kari humbly kneeling to attend to the dirty work that nobody else wanted to do was a priceless picture of pure, honest, and unpaid service on behalf of another. I will never forget it. And I'll bet the Ginn's bathrooms were probably among the cleanest in the neighborhood.

Like it or not—and none of us much like it—LIFE is filled with dirty, grimy, and messy work (both physically and metaphysically speaking) that must be attended to if we desire to live happy, successful, and prosperous lives. It has been my experience—both personally and from observing others—that those who enjoy the most happiness and peace of mind in the long-run are the ones who most proactively tackle the dirty jobs in life in the short-run. Such people are personifications of Self-Action Leadership.

And the cool part is that over time, their efforts are rewarded in a variety of ways—including having to do less and less of the dirty work themselves. This reward comes about in part because those individuals are usually the ones who become leaders and managers, who, of necessity must delegate most of the dirty work to others. Although it should be noted that the GREATEST LEADERS are the ones who never rise so high that they cannot stoop down to "scrub a toilet" (literally or figuratively) if the occasion requires it. Moreover, such leaders are quick to jump in and model for others how such work should be done as needed. Tomorrow I will publish another blog post that shares the story of two highly successful executives (Stirling D. Pack, Ph.D., and the late Hyrum W. Smith) who exemplified this principle in their own high profile organizations.  

The rewards can also come because one's own personal financial situation improves to the point where he or she can pay others to do some of the dirty work for them. I confess that as Lina's and my financial status has progressed over time, we have hired professional cleaners in the past, and we will undoubtedly do so in the future as well. 

But that doesn't mean we won't still teach our kids how to scrub a toilet and clean a bathroom til it sparkles—so they'll know how to do it when they go out on their own. Fortunately, our brief stint in Carlsbad probably won't include professional cleaners, opening up a perfect opportunity for me to teach my kids—my primary profession until Freedom Focused finally takes off—this most important of life lessons, and provide them with a chance to practice it until they possess the skill themselves.

Carlsbad, New Mexico
Thursday, June 4, 2020 

Click HERE to read the Foreword & Afterword to the SAL Textbooks, written by Christopher P. Neck, Ph.D., and David G. Anthony, Ed.D.

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