Wednesday, October 28, 2020

SAL versus Politics: The Case for Hope & Optimism Beyond the 2020 Election

The 2020 Presidential Election is upon us! By the time next week's blog post is published, The United States of America will presumably have decided on who her President and Vice President will be for the next FOUR (4) years, as well as which political party will control both houses of Congress for the next TWO (2) years.    

Freedom Focused is an Apolitical organization, and therefore does NOT endorse candidates or promote partisan platforms. Our aim and focus is the health, welfare, and existential growth of ALL human beings who live on this Planet, regardless who they are or how they vote. 

We do, however, comment from time-to-time on politics and other events (both current and historical) when a non-partisan connection to Self-Action Leadership or FREEDOM can be relevantly and specifically drawn. 

The purpose of this essay is two-fold.

First, to explain why politics matters to the quality of your life, but probably not as much as you think—and not nearly as much as your own Self-Action Leadership. And second, to explain why we believe there are reasons to be incredibly hopeful and optimistic about the future—despite the current challenges we face and regardless who wins the election next Tuesday.

For starters, it should be noted that democratic politics is an imperfect form of government that often becomes messy, personal, and personally nasty in the process.

As Winston Churchill once noted: 

"No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that it is the worst form of government on earth, except for all the others that have been tried from time-to-time."

In other words, democracy is not a theoretical ideal for governing human affairs. It is merely our best, practical option in an imperfect world full of flawed human beings.

Next, politics is important. 

          Politics matters.


Because, as the late political commentator, Charles Krauthammer, once noted: "If a nation gets its politics wrong, it can end up like Germany in 1933."

This is a good reminder of something many people do not even realize—that Adolf Hitler rose to power legally through the orderly channels of a legitimate democratic system. He did not seize power via a political or military coup. In the process, that evil fiend proved that diabolical political takeovers by extreme partisan factions remain a frightening possibility, despite being practically unlikely, in any democracy.

It should further be recognized and understood that political leaders possess great power to influence, decree, legislate, enforce, and regulate/deregulate the laws and affairs of the people. While it is true that their power over some (e.g. those with LESS money, influence, and fewer connections) is greater than it is over others (e.g. those with MORE money, influence, and connections), the collective power that politicians wield is immense, and should be recognized, respected, and continually reigned in by checks, balances, an independent judiciary, term limits, a free press, a Bill of Rights, and regularly recurring elections. Politics should also be an arena where a citizenry's best, brightest, and most circumspect members are willing to join the fray—and it often is just that, if not an all-out fracas—for the good of the PEOPLE.  

Lastly, and most vitally: as important as politics is, and as seriously as all citizens should view it by voting and other appropriate participation—politics is NOT nearly as important as the LIFE LEADERSHIP and PERSONAL MANAGEMENT of your own, individual life.

In other words, SELF-ACTION LEADERSHIP (SAL) trumps—or at least should trump—politics in terms of its impact and influence in your life.  

No matter who wins the election next Tuesday, the person who holds the most power and influence over your own life and circumstances is—and should always remain—YOU. This fact is good news as long as you are willing and committed to take that personal leadership seriously. 

There are citizens—on ALL sides of the political spectrum—who don't take their own personal management and life leadership as seriously as they could. Instead of working things out on their own, they are more interested in having other people solve their problems for them. For such persons, the outcome of an election may cause a great deal of anxiety and distress because of the illusion—erroneously held by many—that election outcomes have a much greater influence on their daily lives than they really do.

For those who are on top of their own SAL Game, an undesirable election outcome can and should be disappointing—like when your favorite sports team loses—but rarely does it drastically change the quality of your actual life, and it certainly should not be cause for undo mourning, depression, or pessimism.


Because the quality of your life has already been determined to a large extent by your knowledge and exercise of SAL, and you can improve your life a LOT quicker by focusing on your own Life Leadership and Personal Management than you ever could by hoping "the right" person gets elected to office. Besides, there is always hope for the next election! And as self-action leaders, we can choose to support causes and candidates we believe in moving forward.  

I have learned these realities from my own personal experiences. I am 41 years old. I have voted in FOUR (4) Presidential elections in my lifetime. I just missed getting to vote in the 1996 election because I was only 17. I then missed voting in the 2000 election because I was engaged in service work in another country and failed to apply for an absentee ballot, which is something I regret. Of the four elections I have participated in since 2004, I have voted for candidates who have both WON and LOST.

How much did voting for a losing candidate impact my own quality of life?

The answer is: very little

On the other hand, how much did my diligent and determined exercise of SAL have on my life throughout those same periods?

The answer is: very much!

Like everyone else who attends to their civic duty and VOTES, I have favored candidates on the ballot. And like everyone else, I hope the candidates I vote for win! I enjoy following and studying politics, not only because it is fascinating (and entertaining), but because it does indeed matter in the lives of the populace. 

However... my mind is at rest knowing that whether the candidates I vote for win or lose, it will NOT dramatically change the quality of my personal life, career, or family.


When your SAL-House is in order, there is a LOT to smile
about, no matter who the President is!
Because my SAL-house is in order.

In other words, my spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial affairs are all in a positive place, thus guaranteeing my quality of life regardless who wins the upcoming Presidential Election.

This is most comforting to me, and despite my personal passion for politics, will prove dramatically comforting if the candidates I vote for lose. For I know that the kind of person who lives in the White House is far less important—to my life—than the kind of person who lives at My Own House!

It is no secret that I am an ambitious person. In fact, when I was younger, I harbored ambitions to someday be the President of the United States. Why did I choose to abandon my previously held political ambitions? 

The answer is simple: I am a philosophical and practical utilitarian, and came to the conclusion that I could ultimately have a far greater influence on other people—and a more positive and lasting impact on the world—by promoting SAL principles and practices than I could by serving in public office. I also came to discover that my natural desires and proclivities were better suited to a teaching role than a political office.

Like Winston Churchill and Hyrum W. Smith before me, I have always wanted to make a BIG DIFFERENCE in this world by virtue of my own, unique contributions. Click HERE to read how Churchill influenced Smith, who, in-turn, inspired ME with BIG AMBITIONS for my life.

What does the leadership and management
look like at YOUR OWN house?

While politics is important and elections obviously matter a great deal (for a variety of reasons), we all face the tendency and temptation to overestimate the importance of election outcomes—and politics in general—on our own, individual lives, careers, and worlds.

The truth is that how we choose to lead our own lives is infinitely more important than how a President of the United States—or any other elected official—chooses to lead his or her own life, constituency, party, or populace.  

I promise you the more time and effort you invest in setting your own life and house in order, the less you will have to worry about the way in which elected officials are keeping their own homes and offices. This is not to say it doesn't matter who serves, and how.

Of course it matters!

It merely means that YOU remain the most important leader in your own life and world. As long as you are taking wise charge over your own life and responsibilities, everything else going on outside of your direct control will have much less of an impact on you and those you hold dear. It will also clarify your personal priorities and vision and open up more opportunities to contribute to political and other broader issues outside your own home that you are passionate about. And along the way, it will provide you with a metaphysical bubble of protection over you and your loved ones.    

And that is just ONE of the many beauties, glories, and gifts of SAL!

Freedom Focused admires and LOVES the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution. It is, after all, no coincidence that we are constructing our own organizational structure—and our core curriculum—around these non-partisan, history-altering documents. 

We therefore encourage everyone everywhere to learn about and study these august instruments of self-governance and then study the Self-Action Leadership Model (SAL Textbook Volume 2) to discover how you can apply similar principles of wise self-governance to your own life.

Optimism Amidst Calamity and Incivility

Perhaps you are thinking to yourself: "Jordan: how can you be so optimistic amidst so much political incivility and cultural calamity?" 

Good question!

First of all, I should note that I am not merely an optimist; I am an optimistic REALIST. As such, I am not naive to the enormous and seemingly unprecedented incivility and dishonesty currently pervading the political and social climate in the United States. Moreover, as an American, I think it is sad and disappointing that we currently find ourselves in this dishonorable and, quite frankly, embarrassing cultural quagmire.

History is our Prelude to the Present
And teenagers have been, and always will be...
Nevertheless, as a diligent student of history, I am also not naive to the fact that there have been MANY other times in the past when things were at least as bad as they are now, and in some cases, even worse! 

It may not seem that way because previous generations' pettiness, puerility, vitriol, and violence were not magnified by ubiquitous social media platforms and 24/7 news media coverage.

It is soooooooo important to remember this vital fact of history! 

Any percipient historian comes to learn over time the great truth that: "the more things change, the more things stay the same!"  

Take TEENAGERS, for example. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates once opined—over 2,400 years ago:
"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

You see... even the great Socrates once felt to exclaim the exact same thing that parents and teachers in every succeeding generation have exasperatingly echoed; namely: "Teenagers these days!"   

We are still like teenagers in our use of Social Media
The reason I bring up the subject of children and teenagers is because I believe one of the causes of our present and persistent incivility is the fact that we are, as a collective nation, still kids—or, at best, teenagers—in terms of our collective use of and experience with Social Media. 

After all, social media has only been around in a significant way for about 15 years. Like your own 15-year old, we as a nation and world are still figuring out how to behave with our newfound freedom and power of communication made possible by social media platforms and other unprecedented technological advancements. For most of human history, one needed formal power, position, or a palpable platform to have a voice in society. Thanks to social media, virtually everyone has a voice in today's world, and it tends to give us all a false sense of our own stature, status, and capacity for influence.    

Discovering how to navigate the territory and peacefully coexist with each other in a Brave New technological World that has empowered individual citizens in ways that every other generation throughout history could have only dreamed of is not a quick, easy, or clean process. But I assure you we will eventually grow up in this regard. Things will get better, speaking collectively and not individually. The better angels of our nature will prevail! We will, in time, figure things out and the result will be a noticeable return to a collective civility the likes of which many citizens are unable to even imagine at present.

Even the rowdiest of teenagers usually grow up eventually, and most end up turning out to be fairly stable, productive, and trustworthy adults. I recognize that dealing with "teenage" behavior can really suck in the moment. I personally have never been a big fan of teenagers. Heck, I didn't even like them when I was a teenager myself! And teaching ninth and tenth graders in Houston, Texas for a couple of years only reinforced my previously-held prejudices—albeit with some noteworthy and sterling exceptions.

I'll never forget something my Principal taught us teachers and staff in a faculty meeting at a large, diverse, urban high school in Houston, Texas—where I taught 9th grade English a decade ago. This wise and experienced educator told us: "I know how annoying and frustrating these students can be. But it's important to remember that in not very many years from now, most of these kids will eventually grow up and become responsible adults." 

This VISION provided by our principal was reassuring—and underscored the important role we were playing in their lives at that particular moment in time. Those 9th graders are now in their mid-twenties, causing me to reflect back on my Principal's words. While I don't know exactly where my students are now in their lives, I'd bet money that my Principal was right, speaking collectively and not individually.  

Like those darn kids or teenagers that can be so frustrating in the moment, I predict we will eventually "Grow Up" collectively as a nation and world in our use of social media, and the result will be a new age of maturity and civility the likes of which seems impossible to many right now. There will, of course, always be outlying individual and group exceptions to the rule; but suffice it to say, much HOPE remains!  

To better understand the present, carefully study the past

Study the Past to Better Understand the Present

If you desire greater clarity about the PRESENT, I can't underscore or emphasize enough how important and valuable it is to really study HISTORY. 

I'm not talking about merely paying attention to those relatively shallow high school and/or college courses on the subject. I'm talking about really immersing yourself in the past by independently reading history books and biographies, watching documentaries and biopics, researching historical individuals and events online, spending time with senior citizens and asking them lots of questions, and traveling to visit monuments, relics, and other famous sites from the past whenever opportunities arise. 

Few things will provide you with more comfort and perspective about the way things really are right now than a detailed and growing understanding of the way things things really were in the past. Sadly, it is the relatively rare individual who undertakes a careful study of human history. And it is an even rarer person who can effectively synthesize its disparate parts to develop meaningful models and interpretations that become highly relevant to present issues.

Without an understanding of history, human beings must confront present problems bereft of any past patterns—as if such things had never happened before, and as if we are the first to experience something (good or bad).

While that notion might make one feel unique, or even special, it certainly isn't going to help you much in solving present problems. 

Understanding the past provides us with a storehouse of wisdom for solving problems in the present. Moreover, the greater one's historical comprehension, the more one recognizes one's own relative obscurity and smallness. Such comprehensions lend themselves well to self-awareness, humility, and right understanding about a whole host of academic subjects and life arenas—all of which is highly desirable if you want to be an authentic self-action leader.  

Second only to my understanding and command of language, I credit my knowledge of history as being my foremost and most valuable intellectual tool, academic skill, and practical daily consultant.

And I still have so much to learn!

Indeed, I have just barely scratched the surface of all there is to know about such a vast and ever-expanding subject. Fortunately, I have the rest of my life to continue my diligent inquiries into the past in an effort to broaden my perspective of the present and equip myself to successfully confront and embrace the future. 

For these reasons, I encourage YOU to begin TODAY to expand your own understanding of history. One of our many objectives at Freedom Focused is to increase the value that Americans (and all people) place on the study and understanding of history. In our view, history should be among the most important subjects a student (of any age) studies. It should come second only to academic basics (i.e. reading, writing, and arithmetic) and Self-Action Leadership in any legitimate core curriculum.    
Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles and odds of any given moment or time period, humanity has always found creative and inspired ways to "Right the Ship." This phenomenon has been particularly the case throughout the history of the United States.

America's Strength is Rooted in its Governing Principles
At Freedom Focused, we love our country and embrace an idea we call The Patriotism Principle, which is something that applies to citizens of all different nations, not just to Americans.

Click HERE to read what the PATRIOTISM PRINCIPLE is, and how it applies to citizens of all countries throughout the world.

At Freedom Focused, our admiration and respect for our Country is rooted in the principles and ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the hallmarks of which have enabled and empowered us to survive for nearly 250 years—through a devastating Civil War, two World Wars, profound inequalities, a great depression and recession, two worldwide pandemics, and endless injustices and other adversities along the way. These ideals and principles, set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, include: life, liberty, equality, self-government, and the pursuit of happiness.

According to the Honorable William Gladstone, a 4-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:

"The American Constitution is the most wonderful work ever struck off 
at a given point by the brain and purpose of man."

While our individual, collective, and partisan blemishes abound, the United States remains a unique bastion of liberty, freedom, and democracy in the annals of history. There is a reason that over 100 other nations throughout the world have produced constitutions similar to the U.S. Constitution.


Because "warts and all" it works! There are, therefore, good reasons why we at Freedom Focused incorporate so much non-partisan structural and thematic "Americana" within our corporate composition, culture, and creed.

To learn more about the U.S. Constitution and why it has worked so well for over 230 years, click HERE to read an informative Bicentennial Article written by David Lauter and published in The Los Angeles Times in 1987.  

My optimism about the future of my Country is not rooted in any single individual. A nation is never the sum of a single person, group, or party's contributions—no matter how great that man, woman, or organization may be. That is another reason why I am not overly concerned about who wins next week's elections.

I am optimistic because my Country is not ultimately governed by human beings, but by TRUE PRINCIPLES, and in the long-run, True Principles adhered to will always carry the day and win the fight—no matter how uncivil, persistent, dreadful, or even bloody the fight may be.

Cheer Up America!  It's not as Bad as You Think.

Cheer up America!

There are Many Reasons to Hope

One of the things that makes me sad is to see really good people (stalwart citizens) who have turned pessimistic about the Nation and its future. For example, I was recently talking to a friend who was bemoaning the incivility that presently pervades the country's politics. 

My friend's tone was dolefully dour to the point that he seemed to genuinely question whether we can ever recover from our present funk. Sadder still, my friend is not alone in his pessimism. Indeed, some of the nation's best and brightest citizens are, in fact, currently among the most pessimistic about its future.

I think that is sad. 

          I also think it is unnecessary. 

I believe my friend's pessimism is not rooted in a reality that all hope is gone. Rather, I think it is more an issue of his inability to "see the forest for the trees." He is understandably blinded by the trees on fire right in front of him to the extent that he is unable to rise above the smoke and ashes to behold that a protective force of Principles, Practices, and Providence is, in fact, watching over the broader forest, and will never let the entire landscape go up in smoke.

He further fails to see the Growing Army of Goodness forming right behind the danger zones—an army that is already enrolled in "Basic Training" in preparation to extinguish the flames, clean up the mess, and replant fresh new trees.

Do YOU, like a horse,
 have blinders on?
There are many others, like my friend, who are currently so blinded by the fear and fatigue of the moment that they are unable to rise above the present period to see the tremendous hope that still legitimately exists for a future that remains unprecedented in its transcendent luminosity.

No matter how bad things seem right now, I assure you they will get better. A brighter day exists in the future—no matter who wins the Presidential Election next Tuesday.

Another reason I am so optimistic—and even enthusiastic and eager—about the future is because of all the GOOD PEOPLE in this world.

People like YOU!

And people like those with whom you are going to share this article.

In the words of Country Music Singer, Luke Bryan: I Believe Most People are Good!

I agree with Luke.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are more genuinely GOOD people living in the world right now—TODAY—than there have ever been in the history of Planet Earth. Moreover, we have more information, greater access to resources, technology, education, health care and medicine, and better mobility than ever before throughout all of human history. Combine all these wonders together, and I know that GOODNESS will prevail now and in the future for as long as the world stands.

Individual and collective trials and troubles will continue to come, no doubt. And sometimes those challenges will—like COVID-19—be profound and long-lasting. But I know we are up to any and every challenge that will come our way forever into the future. I know we will come out of this troubled year—and other challenges like it—better, stronger, and ultimately even more hopeful than we have ever been in the past. 

Don't believe all the negative HYPE, my friends.

     The FUTURE is BRIGHT!

And your individual future can be even brighter than our collective future as you lay hold upon SAL principles and practices and then personify them with all your mind, heart, and soul—to the incremental and everlasting expansion of your personal and professional FREEDOM, now and forevermore.  

Once again, I wish to emphasize that there are so many reasons to hope. 



                    Because YOU exist!

You, my friend, and millions upon millions of other GOOD PEOPLE like you throughout the United States and World are the reason for my hope. And I will go to work every single day for the rest of my life to work alongside GOOD people just like YOU to bring about the kinds of positive, productive, and prosperous changes that all good people seek. And together, we will transform this nation—and world—not primarily through political means, but through social, educational, and existential means.

Join me, and together we will create the kind of nation and world we all want for ourselves, our children, and our children's children.

Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn more about my experiences as a Stay-at-Home Dad

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays.    

And REMEMBER to be a RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN and VOTE early, on Tuesday, or whenever your next upcoming local, regional, or national election occurs.

Click HERE to learn more about our Vision and Mission at Freedom Focused

Click HERE to buy a copy of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks.



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

LIFE Lessons in HUMILITY, Part 2

Joseph Fiennes & Tom Felton in Kevin Reynold's 2016 Film, RISEN

Last week's post introduced the movie, RISEN, starring Joseph Fiennes. It discussed how Fiennes' character, Clavius, became more self-aware and humble through his experiences as chronicled in the movie. 

Today's post continues this theme.   

Humility is Admitting When You're Wrong and then Changing Course

An area of humility that virtually everyone struggles with is the DEEP and prideful FEAR of being wrong, and the inability to seerecognize, and/or acknowledge when you are wrong about something and then change course to follow a betterclearer, and more accurate pathway.

Toward the end of the film, after seeing Yeshua—the resurrected Christ—with his own eyes, an unusually subdued Clavius finds himself in private dialogue with Jesus, who asks him point blank: "What frightens you?"

Clavius's unusually honest and transparent response: "Being wrong." 

Click HERE to watch a VIDEO CLIP of this SCENE

Many of us can probably relate with this fear to which Clavius humbly admits.

Up to this point in time, Clavius has viewed himself as being one of the most important people holding one of the most powerful positions in the most dominant nation on Earth (at the time). In his mind, everything he thinks, says, and does is right. His journey that leads him to a sentient experience of the seemingly impossible completely rocks his inner world. Shaken to his core, he simply doesn't know how to respond to these inexplicable, yet very real experiences, all of which fly in the face of everything he has previously known and believed. And while his experiences don't necessarily turn him into a Christian believer, he himself admits that he can NEVER BE THE SAME because of his newly acquired SELF-AWARENESS and HUMILITY.   

Click HERE to watch a VIDEO CLIP of this SCENE

Some people, like Clavius, will go to the ends of the Earth to avoid being proven wrong, or from having to admit that they were, or are, wrong. I, for one, don't fully understand it. In my view, it is so much easier—at least in the long run—to quickly confess an error in thinking, speaking, or acting and then move on confidently with better, truer, and more accurate information than it is to stubbornly hold on to an erroneous idea for ego's (or public opinion's) sake. Aside from protecting one's ego or public popularity, what use is "kicking against the pricks" of reality? Doing that only hurts YOU! In truth, a complete commitment to REALITY is really the only way to live as an authentic self-action leader.

As one author incisively put it:
"We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn [in thinking, speaking, or acting], then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the [person] who turns back soonest is the most progressive ... We have all seen this when doing arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pig headed and refusing to admit a mistake. ... Going back is the quickest way on." **

At Freedom Focused, we are interested in TRUTH and REALITY, and we don't really care where we find it, or from whom. We just want to see and know things as they really are, so that we can, in turn, make the wisest possible decisions in both our personal and corporate lives. We are less concerned with who is right and more concerned with what is right.
A primary reason I am where I am at this point in my life and career is because I have striven with all of my heart, mind, and soul to seerecognize, and acknowledge when I am wrong and then change course to think, say, and do what is right. In my mind, it does absolutely no good to argue with or fight against Truth with a capital "T." Every second I do so only hurts ME. The quicker I can admit to being wrong, and then change course, the better.

As a flawed human being, I recognize that acknowledging error and changing course causes a great deal of pain and irritation to one's pride and ego. I know this because I have been wrong a LOT in my life. As such, my own pride and ego have been bruised and bloodied more times than I care to admit. But that is okay—nay, that is more than okay; that is FANTASTIC—because I would infinitely prefer the short-term pain of a bruised ego than the infinite pain of pursuing a wrong course to its destined end. Moreover, the deeper my ego is wounded, the better; because ideally I would like to be completely free from its prideful and counterproductive influence in my life.

If I have to choose between a short-lived, albeit agonizing, smart for a brief amount of time or excruciating pain over the long-run, I'll choose the former pathway every day of the week and twice on Sundays. The quicker we seerecognize, and acknowledge the TRUTH of any given matter, the sooner we can choose to align our thoughts, speech, and behavior therewith and avoid much greater pain down the road.

What about the "Gray Areas" of Life?

Unfortunately, not every situation and decision in life is "Black-and-White." What, then, can we do when we must choose between two flawed, grayish options—both of which possess truth and error, plusses and flaws? As a utilitarian philosopher the answer to this question is clear to me: I usually must choose the option which—in the long run—will bring about the most possible benefit to the most possible people with the least possible collateral damage, after having considered, analyzed, and synthesized all possible variables involved. This philosophy does not make every decision clear or easy because there is often a lot of "homework" involved. Furthermore, there is almost always an exception to every rule. Nevertheless, this formula does tend to point me in the right direction, generally speaking, when I must deal with life's pesky "Gray Areas."  

Clavius's journey is adventurous and suspenseful and Fiennes' and his colleagues' acting is superb. One scene in particular vividly demonstrates the level of talent on display in the film—as well as Clavius's deepening inner struggle and discovery as he pursues his pathway to answers.

The scene is set in a pub. 

It features Clavius as he interviews one of the soldiers who was guarding the garden tomb when the resurrection purportedly occurred. The drunk and disillusioned soldier—played masterfully by Richard Atwill—tries his best to explain to Clavius what he beheld at that extraordinary moment. Such a supernatural occurrence is, of course, inexplicable, and Atwill brilliantly portrays both the dismay he feels and the dilemma he finds himself in in his efforts to articulate the utterly unutterable.  

Click HERE to watch Atwill's moving dialogue with Clavius in the Pub Scene in RISEN  

I LOVE the THREE (3) Kevin Reynold's-directed movies—detailed over the past month—for a variety of reasons. I love the storytelling. I love the sets and costumes. I love the writing. I love the history of the time periods in which they are set. I love the adventures and romance involved. I love the mystery. And I love the acting. But most of all, I love the things these movies teach me and the life lessons I learn as a result. 

For many people, a movie is good if it entertains. For me, a movie is good if it teaches and inspires. In my view, the very BEST movies are the ones where I walk out of the theater determined to be a better person than I was when I walked into the theatre—a person who works a little harder, loves a little more, judges a little less, lives a more balanced life, and strives increasingly to leave this world a better place than I found it.  

I hope this article motivates you to watch these three movies—and others like them—in an effort to glean your own insights as you simultaneously enjoy watching some of the world's most talented actors, actresses, directors, and other cinematic professionals do what they do best.  

Click HERE to watch a video of Joseph Fiennes being interviewed about playing Clavius in RISEN

Disillusioned over the 2020 Presidential Election?
Tune in NEXT WEDNESDAY for a little Hope.
Tune in NEXT WEDNESDAY for a Special Pre-Presidential Election edition of the Freedom Focused Blog. Freedom Focused is a non-partisan organization that does not endorse candidates or support political platforms. We do, however, comment from time-to-time on various political matters insofar as they relate to Self-Action Leadership and/or Freedom. Next week's article will make the case that Americans have reason to be optimistic moving forward, despite the current challenges we face—and regardless who wins the upcoming election. Are you feeling down-in-the-dumps because of the incivility and other drama surrounding this year's Presidential Election? If so, you won't want to miss next week's Post!

Click HERE to learn more about our Vision and Mission at Freedom Focused.

Click HERE to buy a copy of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks


** Lewis, C.S. (2001). Mere Christianity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. Pages 28-29

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Movies and Life Leadership, Part 3: LIFE Lessons in HUMILITY

The past two weeks I have featured two of my three favorite movies—Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Count of Monte Cristo, both of which were directed by Kevin Reynolds. I further explained why I enjoy them so much, including the life lessons and character development strategies they personify.    

Today I discuss my third favorite movie, which is perhaps not-coincidentally also directed by Kevin Reynolds. It is called Risen, and was released in 2016.

I cherish Risen in part because of my deeply held religious beliefs, which are centered on Jesus Christ. But that is not the reason I highlight this film in this secular blog post. 

While based on New Testament scripture, Risen is a fictional tale of a Roman Officer who was put in charge of crucifying Christ on Golgotha's Hill. Brilliantly played by Hollywood A-lister, Joseph Fiennes, Clavius is portrayed as a typically smart, strong, ambitious, and ruthless Roman Tribune—a high-ranking officer in the Roman Army. 

After the purported "Resurrection" of the Christ, Clavius is tasked by Pontius Pilate to investigate the matter and, most importantly, locate the body to provide proof that the Christian's tale is—as the Romans believe it to be—a farce. The bulk of the movie follows Clavius in his investigative efforts to accomplish what turns out to be an impossible task. 

Because the movie takes the Christian view that Christ did indeed rise from the dead, Clavius is, of course, thwarted in his mission. But along the way, he learns a LOT about himself and the people (Jews) he has—up until that time—looked down upon as inferior human beings. Two key components of Self-Action Leadership include SELF-AWARENESS and HUMILITY. In order to become self-aware and humble, we must, like Clavius, engage in a great deal of research, investigation, observation, and introspection. Aside from its underlying Christian themes, Risen is a movie about one man's experiences—and the ways in which those experiences invite him to become more introspective, self-aware, and humble than he had ever been before. 

The Role of Self-Awareness in Humility

It has been my observation that many people are relatively non-self-aware and have a somewhat skewed vision about what authentic humility actually entails. To begin with, many people either see themselves as being better, or worse, than they in fact are. Rather than seeing themselves as they really are—as if peering into an objective mirror of reality—many view themselves in a distorted light and manner, as if gazing into a "Fun House" mirror, which is purposely designed to skew perception and distort reality.  
In truth, none of us sees ourselves as we really are in a complete sense; and it is the rare individual who comes close. It is an indication of authentic HUMILITY when a person moves in the direction of being able to see oneself more fully as one really is. It is that kind of accurate self-awareness that serves as the essence of authentic humility. As a wise man once put it: Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self.

"Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self."

Charles H. Spurgeon

Common Misnomers about Humility

One of the biggest misnomers about humility is that people who appear to be humble, or act like they are humble are, in fact, humble. This is because many confuse so-called "humble actions" with authentic personifications of actual humility. In some cases, these actors and actresses may be gradually approaching humility in the sense that their "Act" is motivated by a sincere desire to acquire the virtue. But in other cases, quite the opposite may be true. Indeed, acting out a pretense of humility for the mere sake of appearances can, in fact, be quite prideful! After all, is there anything truly humble or authentic about someone who tries to impress others with how humble they are?

Another misnomer about humility is that recognizing, admitting, and utilizing one's strengths is an indicator of pride. Hiding—or failing to admit and fully utilize—your strengths because you fear you might inadvertently intimidate, offend, or upset someone else is not humility. There will always be those who will take jealous offense at someone else's talent, skill, intelligence, accomplishment, or cultivated ability. That is no reason to ever shy away from being your very best!

Obviously there is a time, place, manner, and degree to which we should let our best be known and shown. Moreover, there are times to shine and there are times when we should let others shine—and do our best to increase the brightness of the light and the volume of the applause that shines on them. But self-action leaders should avoid falling into the trap of failing to put their best foot forward due to some mistaken notion about what it means to be humble.

There is nothing humble about trying to convince yourself or others that you really aren't very good at something when, in fact, you are very good at it. A classic example of this can be found in the person who receives a sincere compliment and then tries to convince the giver of the compliment that it really isn't true. That is not only not humble; it is also impolite. If someone gives you a sincere compliment, the best thing you can do is sincerely thank them for their kindness in giving you the compliment! After all, how many people do you know who never bother to compliment anyone for anything? Like perhaps your boss (past or present)? It's sad, but often true. Bottom Line: you've gotta appreciate those relatively few people who are sufficiently humble, secure, and confident to openly compliment YOU; and you've got to sincerely express that appreciation!    

Recognizing and using your strengths is not arrogant when done with kindness, consideration, modesty, balance, 20/20 vision, and a sincere effort to serve and bless the lives of others. That is merely recognizing reality and making the most of your God-given/self-developed assets, aptitudes, and talents to make the world a better place.

On the other hand, to aggrandize—or brag about—one's strengths in an effort to elevate oneself above others is indeed arrogant; as is utilizing one's strengths to purposely harm another or hinder one's growth, progress, or achievement. But rationally recognizing one's strengths and doing everything in one's power to bolster them (while eliminating or minimizing weaknesses) is actually an element of authentic humility—not the other way around. There is nothing humble about shying away from your capacity and potential; that's just laziness, irresponsibility, and/or unwisely falling prey to the fear of what others—the EXISTENTIAL CRABS, who seek to diminish and otherwise pull you down—might think of you.  

Click HERE to learn about existential crabs, and how they seek to undermine your success as a self-action leader.

Similarly, misguided efforts to lower your own view or estimation of yourself is not humility; nor are efforts to illegitimately aggrandize the same. Humility is an outgrowth of seeing things—including oneself—as they (YOU) really are: the good, the bad, the ugly, the attractive, the coarse and the refined—all wrapped up in one, holistic, imperfect, human package.

As a wise man once exhorted me—on a very piercing and personal level—"Jordan: be mindful of your weaknesses and be aware of your strengths as part of recognizing the tremendous potential you have to accomplish great things and bless the lives of others." 

Be mindful of your weaknesses and be aware of your strengths.

That is a good recipe for authentic humility that all of us can follow.    

Humility is less concerned about what others might think of you and more concerned with doing your best to become your best while helping others to do the same. Truly humble people don't spend undue time worrying about what other's might be thinking of them. Instead, they focus more on how they can improve and grow so they can better serve others. Authentic humility instills within a person an accurate sense of one's utter smallness and profound potential—all at the same time. Humility endows one with a clear recognition of one's limitations while simultaneously imbuing one with a deep reverence for the human spirit—including one's own limitless capacity for growth and creation. It empowers one to more fully comprehend the GREAT HUMAN PARADOX that we are all physically "dust in the wind" while concurrently possessing "infinite and inestimable existential and spiritual value."

Humility is an outgrowth—indeed, it is the very essence—of honest and accurate self-awareness. Such self-awareness can only be obtained by engaging in a great deal of honest, courageous, and intelligent introspection—the kind of introspection that Clavius undertakes in a serious way throughout the movie, Risen.

My Own Journey Towards Self-Awareness

One of the greatest blessings of my life's journey has been my opportunity to engage in an extraordinary amount of honest, courageous, and deep introspection about myself, others, and the world around me. This is due in part to the fact that I am a natural contemplative (philosopher personality). But it is also due to the fact that my life's circumstances have provided me with a LOT of TIME to think deeply and carefully ponder all of the subjects that I now write, teach, and speak about.

These life circumstances have been many and varied, but they all had the same effect of providing me with an unusual amount of time to sit quietly by myself and THINK deeply about important things. For example: having a severe case of OCD in my teen years led to my being, for the most part, a social recluse. This provided me with a lot of time to ponder about my life. OCD also led to a lot of social and other personal flaws and failures that caused me a great deal of pain, suffering, frustration, and even jealousy and anger. Instead of letting this pain and suffering make me eternally bitter and discouraged towards my undesirable circumstances and other people I envied, I used my FREEDOM and POWER as a self-action leader to think deeply about what my problems were and how I could solve them. Solving them was not quick or easy; but it was possible, and in time, much has been accomplished to solve them!

Later, as a young adult, I had very little success in romance until I met my wife. And I wasn't one to "hang out" socially—an activity that seemed like mostly a wasted expenditure of my time. Spending relatively little time dating or casually socializing and not getting married until I was 29 left me with a LOT more time on my hands to PONDER than most people my age who led a more lively social life. I have also done a TON of travel in my life and career, which has taken me to all 50 U.S. States, 8 Countries, 9 Counties of Great Britain, and 8 Provinces of Canada. I have logged a million or so miles in automobiles and airlines as an adult, most of which was done on my own. 

That is a LOT of self-awareness time!

Then there is my training as a triathlete. All told, I have ran, biked, and swam thousands of combined miles over the course of my life. As any triathlete knows, the journey can be a lonely one—that is, unless you are a natural contemplative, and then you just have that much more time to think, ponder, pray, analyze, scrutinize, synthesize, etc. For me, the results of all this cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and existential "me time" have been profoundly productive, both in terms of my own, personal growth and my capacity to help others grow as well. It has also helped me to become more self-aware and humble. I still have a long ways to go, no doubt, but I've also made a lot of progress. 

Speaking of which, there are some who suggest that it is fundamentally incompatible to be humble while simultaneously recognizing your own humility. I suggest otherwise. There is obviously a fine line where such self-back patting can quickly turn prideful, egotistical, and counterproductive. Nevertheless, what good are you as a self-action leader if you are incapable of recognizing, gauging, and judging your own growth and improvement? If you are unaware of your own progress in cultivating a virtue, how can you know that you still have room for further growth? It is difficult enough as it is to be truly humble; let's not make it even more challenging by artificially creating a bunch of unnecessary and unrealistic qualifications and mind games that only serve to discourage us along the way! The prospect of human growth in any arena should serve to motivate us to move forward, however incrementally, rather than discourage any attempt to begin with.    

It is vital to note that self-awareness is not always accomplished on one's own. I, for one, had a TON of HELP from OTHERS in the form of spiritual leaders, psychiatrists, counselors, family members, teachers, coaches, mentors, roommates, and friends all along the way. But I still had to do the hard work that led to my own growth, progress, and achievement, and a LOT of that work was cognitive in nature. A whole host of different people can show you the way to go; but ONLY YOU can make the journey.    

is the story of a man who is similarly blessed with the time and opportunity to think deeply about what is going on around him and inside of him. As a result, Clavius becomes increasingly self-aware and humble as the film goes on. This doesn't mean he is any less strong, capable, or confident. Remember: inhibiting your strengths or trying to convince yourself you are less capable than you really are is NOT humility. Nor does it mean that Clavius becomes a Christian. It simply means that he comes to see himself—and circumstances around him—more accurately: the way things really are, rather than the way he has erroneously perceived them to be in the past. And that is my own favorite definition of humility.

Humility is seeing things as they really were, really are, and really will be
—and then acting in deferent accordance with that knowledge.         

Tune in NEXT Wednesday for the remainder of this post, entitled: LIFE Lessons in HUMILITY, Part 2  

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Click HERE to buy a copy of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Movies and Life Leadership, Part 2

Last week, I shared my THREE (3) favorite movies. One reason they are my faves is because of the character lessons and life leadership strategies they contain and the personal inspiration I derive from watching (and rewatching) them. I then wrote about my favorite movie—Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves—and explained specifically why I cherish that film. 

Today's post continues this cinematic theme. My second favorite movie is: The Count of Monte Cristo, starring Jim Caviezel, Guy Pierce, Richard Harris, and Dagmara Domińczyk. It was directed by Kevin Reynolds and released in 2002. 

Reynold's version of The Count of Monte Cristo, has been criticized for its failure to live up to Alexandre Dumas's original novel of the same title and story. That's okay with me. There is a place for creative license in art, and I think Reynolds and his team did a splendid job of exercising that right. Jim Caviezel offers a compelling portrait of lead character Edmond Dantés (The Count of Monte Cristo), as does Guy Pierce as Edmond's best friend-turned sworn enemy—Fernand Mondego. Despite these outstanding portrayals, it is an aged Richard Harris—who famously played King Arthur in the 1967 film version of the Broadway hit, Camelot—who arguably steals the show in his stirring performance as the Abbé Faria. It was one of the last roles the Irish screen legend would play before his death in 2002, and arguably one of his best as well. Midway through the film, Harris plays a mentoring father-figure to Dantés, and serves as a key catalyst in helping Edmond obtain a fortune in addition to regaining his freedom, wife, son, and honor by movie's end.  

Reynold's production of The Count of Monte Cristo is deeply engaging emotionally. It allows one to suffer alongside Dantés as he is unjustly imprisoned, tortured, and left for dead in the Chateau D'if—the prison where, as the warden transparently confesses, "they send the one's they're ashamed of" (due to inmates' innocence of any real crime). Armand Dorleac (the warden) is skillfully played by Michael Wincott, who was also tapped by Reynolds to play the wicked Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Few actors play "the villain" more consistently, authentically, or iconically than the gifted Wincott.  

Napoleon Bonaparte
After seven years of hell in the Chateau D'if, Edmond meets the Abbé Faria, an aged Priest and fellow prisoner. Faria is a former soldier in Napoleon Bonaparte's Grand Armée. During Faria's service to Napoleon, it became known that he had  knowledge concerning the whereabouts of the lost treasure of Sparta. It was demanded he give up the treasure's location or go to prison. The Abbé insisted he didn't know its location, and was thrown into the Chateau D'if to "refresh his memory." When Dantés meets Faria, the Abbé has already been in prison for 11 years, four of which he has spent digging a tunnel to freedom. When he finds himself in Edmond's cell, he realizes—to his comical dismay—that he has been digging in the wrong direction!

Fortunately, two can dig twice as fast as one, and the two quickly become comrades in an effort to secure each other's freedom. In return for Edmond's help, the Abbé offers something "Priceless," to which Dantés sarcastically replies: "My freedom?" Faria explains: "Freedom can be taken away... as you well know."

"I offer knowledge—everything I have learned. I will teach you: economics, mathematics, philosophy, science..." At this point, Dantés excitedly picks up a book and asks: "To read and write"?  To which Faria answers with heartfelt, pathetic compassion: "Of course."

Click HERE to watch a video of this MOVIE SCENE

Later, Dantés ups the educational ante, demanding the Abbé also teach him "The Sword," and tells him he can dig alone if he refuses. Though stricken with old age and unmotivated by the prospect, the Abbé reluctantly agrees. During his fencing training, Faria teaches Edmond one of the most important lessons that all combatants must eventually comprehend... 
"The stronger swordsman does not necessarily win.

               "It is speed!

"Speed of hand!  Speed of mind!"

Click HERE to watch a clip of this MOVIE SCENE

My favorite scene in the movie comes at the end of the Abbé Faria's life. As he and Dantés are digging a tunnel to freedom, a pile of earth and rock breaks loose and lands on top of Faria, puncturing his lungs and ending his life. Using his last gasps of breath, the Abbé confesses that he actually does know where the lost treasure of Sparts is located. Surprised, Dantés exclaims: "I thought you didn't know where the treasure was!" To which the Abbé responds: "I'm a Priest, not a Saint."

He then tells Edmond where the treasure map is located, and the following dialogue ensues:

Abbé:  Use your head; follow the clues.

Dantés:  I can't! The tunnel is blocked; I can't escape!

Abbé:  Keep digging. When you escape, use it for good; only for good.

Dantés:  No!  I will surely use it for my revenge.

Abbé:  Here now is your final lesson. Do not commit the crime for which you now pay the sentence. God said: "Vengeance is mine."

Dantés:  I don't believe in God!

Abbé:  It doesn't matter; He believes in you.

Click HERE to watch a video clip of this SCENE.   

This poignant exchange of dialogue between the Abbé (Harris) and Dantés (Caviezel) touches my heart personally because of my own belief in God, and my deep conviction that He believes in—and has always been there for—me, even when I may have not felt particularly close to Him. 

Regardless of your own beliefs (or lack thereof) about God, this exchange is meaningful because it serves ostensibly as a catalyst for inspiring Dantés with a clever plan to escape from the Chateau D'if. The plan works, and in the end, Dantés regains the faith he had lost during his many years of solitude and suffering in the dark, dank, holds of the prison.

The scene that unfolds—a scene that echoes a similar scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves—powerfully illustrates the human desire, need, and quest for FREEDOM.  

Click HERE to watch a video clip of Edmond Dantes gaining his FREEDOM
after escaping the Chateau D'if

Click HERE to view a similar clip of Robin Hood's return to England from the Crusades: 

One of my favorite quotes from the movie comes from Jacapo, The Count of Monte Cristo's servant who swears to stand by his side and protect him after Dantés saves his own life earlier in the movie. As Dantés struggles through his anger and thirst for revenge, Jacopo confronts Edmond and says: 

"I am still your man, Zatara (Jacopo's nickname for Edmond). I swore an oath.

I will protect you; even if it means I must protect you from yourself."

Click HERE to watch a video clip of this SCENE

Despite being his hierarchical subordinate, Jacopo demonstrates a profound sense of leadership, responsibility, and love towards Dantés—and ostensibly helps to save Edmond's life and preserve his freedom. Jacopo's courageous willingness to confront his master when he knows he is not in his right mind illustrates that a person does not need a formal position or title to influence another (including a Supervisor); he or she must merely exercise sufficient moral authority to get someone's attention and spur him or her to action.

The movie's final scene confirms the deep and profound influence that the Abbé Faria had on Edmond. It features Dantés as he revisits the Chateau D'if with his wife and son. He has since bought the prison—to end the unjust imprisonment of innocent persons like himself. As he overlooks the sea waters below the cliffs where the prison stands, he thrusts his sword into the earth and exclaims: 

"You were right, Priest. You were right. This I promise you... (glancing heavenward) and God. All that was used for vengeance... will now be used for good. So rest in peace, my friend."

Click HERE to watch a clip of this MOVIE SCENE 

I admit the ending of the movie seems a little unrealistic, and that is one of the places where the critics have their heyday. Edmond basically gets to have his cake and eat it too; he lands the riches of Monte Cristo, exacts revenge on his enemies, and gets his wife and son back. However, he does it without committing any crimes or unnecessary mayhem.

It is a perfect Hollywood ending, and regardless how realistic it may or may not be, I think there is something inherently admirable about America's cultural and cinematic insistence on happy endings. It is proof that we are ultimately an optimistic society that believes in working, striving, struggling—and if necessary—fighting and dying for positive and productive results in the unfolding of our personal and collective stories.

I hope this article intrigues YOU enough to go and watch (or rewatch) Director Kevin Reynold's take on Alexander Dumas's timeless classic: The Count of Monte Cristo.

Tune in next Wednesday to learn more about my THIRD favorite MOVIE—Risen—and the character education and life leadership lessons it teaches.  

Click HERE to learn more about our Vision and Mission at Freedom Focused.

Click HERE to buy a copy of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks


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