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Yesterday I saw the most interesting story about Nicholas Cage. Apparently, he just had a pyramid commissioned and delivered to a Louisiana cemetery for his body to be placed in when he dies. The story also talked about how Cage had recently dyed his hair blonde to ”get in touch with his Celtic roots.”
I have been hearing interesting stories about Cage for a long time. A few years ago I was walking on the beach and one of my neighbors was bragging to me that he had recently loaned Cage $1,000,000 against one of his properties and was going to loan him some more money. At the time this did not seem to make sense: Cage seemed to be a very well off movie star.
When it came out recently that many of Cage’s homes were in foreclosure I went over to try and find my neighbor and ask him about how his loans to Cage were performing. I could not find my neighbor, however. He was trying to sell his own house and had put it up for sale. I wondered if he was selling his house because he had lost so much money to Cage. I felt sorry for my neighbor and, also, wondered to myself if he too had lost money to Cage.
Cage strikes me as someone that really has a sense of himself. For example, he loves collecting comic books. He loves toy trains. He loves purchasing real estate. Many of his homes are under foreclosure but Cage just keeps going. Hurting people based on not paying for what you buy is not a good thing; however, Cage certainly is original.
Cage is original and I would go so far to say he is the rarest sort of personal leader out there. The more I read about Cage the more I am convinced he is a leader. He is extremely eccentric but he knows exactly who he is. He is not afraid to be 100% original and I would dare say that he will long be remembered both for his work and his personality. He will make an impact with his pyramid in the cemetery long after he dies. People will look at that pyramid and say ”That was one unusual guy.”
Cage is not afraid to be his own person. His love of comic books and real estate will certainly never qualify him to be remembered as someone who changed the world. Cage is, though, someone who is “original” and “memorable” and is able to lead himself and be 100% his own person. He is a personal leader.
Most of us will not be remembered. We will die and most of us will be forgotten. Most cemeteries are packed with the bodies of people who were never leaders in anything. They spent their lives conforming and trying to be like others and then they died. They never got in touch with their inner leader and the things they believed in. They came and were just like everyone else and then they died and were forgotten.
This is probably what is going to happen to you too unless you wake up.
But you probably will not wake up.
Most people never wake up.
Most people are not leaders. Most presidents are not leaders. Most CEOs are not leaders. In fact, the more you look around the more you will see that there are very few true leaders in the world.
When I was younger I read book after book about leadership, success and many, many biographies. Since I started this reading at such a young age, I began to have a very ”instinctual” understanding of what it took for people to be truly successful and to really and truly lead themselves. After all of this reading, I learned one main thing:
Personal leaders are able to stand behind an idea they believe in even if it means acting alone.
If you look at any person who is truly a leader and makes a lasting impact on the world you will see someone who believes in something and is able to act alone.
The world respects people who stand behind ideas despite all opposition and are able to act alone. The reason the world respects this so much is because it is so rare. There are very, very few people out there who are able to stand behind an idea and act alone. Most people are all too willing to ”cave in” at the first sign of resistance from a group. Most leaders are actually followers.
In order to really lead, you need to take a stand for the things you believe in and you often need to do this alone. It does not matter if others agree with what you are trying to do—you need to act in the things you believe in. Are you brave enough to act alone?
The average cemetery out there may be filled with the bodies of thousands and out of those thousands of bodies the odds are there is not one leader among them. There may be former Congressmen, well known business figures and others-but no true leaders.
There are two main types of leadership. There is what I call ”bureaucratic figurehead” leadership and there is what I call ”personal” leadership. If you are going to be a leader in anything, you are going to have to decide at some point what sort of leader you want to be. Even the well-known leaders among us are really just ”bureaucratic figureheads”—there a very few personal leaders.
In ”bureaucratic figurehead” leadership, someone is ”appointed” into a position as a representative of a group. Someone who is a representative of a group is acting as a voice for the group’s concerns. They may be elected to lead the group but the election is more of a ”choice” among well-defined people who are similar.
The Democrats in the United States have traditionally wanted higher taxes, more government involvement in social policy and business regulation. Republicans have traditionally wanted lower taxes, less government involvement in social policy and less business regulation.
If you are a member of either party and take a stand for one of these issues that is consistent with what your party stands for you are not going to get a lot of opposition; instead, you are going to be simply taking a stand for things that are consistent with what you are expected to be doing.
The ability to be a bureaucratic figurehead sort of leader revolves around your ability to successfully navigate within organizations and be ”popular” and someone that is supported by the group. In order to be elevated as a bureaucrat, you need to play by the rules of the organization and make sure that you are gaining the favor of your constituents. You do not need to have charisma, but it helps. You need to stand for what the group stands for and be an adequate voice for these concerns. You are supported by the group.
The individualized sort of leader is someone who steps forward and takes a stand against something that they believe in—regardless of whether it is the popular way of doing things. They take bold risks. They live the life they want to live instead of living the life that society may have trained them to want. They refuse to be resigned to mediocrity. They seek, in some small measure, to leave the world better than they found it. They do not care what people think.
After all of my reading and study of leadership, I decided when I got to college that my life gave me the choice of being a ”personal” or ”bureaucratic” leader and that I wanted to be a personal leader. To that end, I started taking steps to support and lead a change against the things I believed in. I did many things.
I started organizations I believed in.
I had grown up around a lot of drugs and saw the damage they can do. In high school I had a friend whose mind became so ”fried” that he was left with the inability to say few words beyond ”dude”. I had spent some time going to school in Bangkok, Thailand and had seen some high school classmates become addicted to heroin. One person I knew in Bangkok had been thrown for years in a Thai prison for trying to smuggle heroin out of the country in a hollowed out sandal when he returned back to the United States for summer vacation.
I’ve never used drugs, but felt that they were dangerous enough that I needed to take a stand against them. Because I thought they were so dangerous, I decided to start an anti-drug organization.
I did not particularly enjoy running this anti-drug organization. The organization took a great deal of my time and was quite a bit of work. Moreover, I lived in a fraternity house in college that was definitely considered the ”wild” fraternity house on campus.
Since everyone knew that I was part of the “party” fraternity, many people outside of my fraternity found my involvement in the anti-drug organization quite unusual. In general, people were a bit ”perplexed” about my dual involvement with the fraternity and this anti-drug group.
Because of my stand against drugs, people I knew spent a lot of time trying to get me to do drugs, discredit my involvement with the drug organization and, in general, discredit me. This is what happens to anyone who sets themselves apart: The nail that sticks out people try to pound it down.
I remember one of my professors called me and told me that one of my fraternity brothers had come to her confidentially and told her I had cheated on the final exam test for her class. The only problem with this accusation was that the class had an ”option ” of taking a final exam or writing a paper at the end of the semester. I had written a paper and had not even taken a final. This same fraternity brother was someone who used a lot of drugs and was the most vocal in making fun of my drug organization.
If I would spend some time talking to a girl who was not my girlfriend at a party a rumor might be started that I was cheating on my girlfriend. I remember I once spent over a week trying to convince my girlfriend that nothing had happened with a girl that I had spent some time talking to at a party.
Rumors and so forth are, of course, quite normal and I am sure they happen to everyone in college but in my case I felt like they were occurring a little bit more than normal. Because of my personal stand against something, I was being held to a higher standard and being put under a little bit more powerful microscope than others might be in a similar situation. Moreover, in most cases I found that the problems I was experiencing were most attributable to the people who had been most interested in my anti-drug activities and had the most serious drug problems.
I ran the anti-drug group for four years and each year in my fraternity I was elected to a higher and higher office. In my fourth year of college I was elected to be the President of the fraternity.
In retrospect I realize that even though I was against drugs, most of my fraternity brothers seemed to respect the fact that I had taken a stand against something. In short, I was my own person and capable of being among them and holding my own opinions that differed from what the group believed in.
Inside you may have some views about right and wrong and what is correct; however, very few people voice these concerns when surrounded by people who do not share your views. When you take a stand against something personally that differs from what others around you are doing and thinking, you are entering a different dimension of leadership that is more challenging and will have a different set of outcomes and rewards than from simply leading a group.
A politician for the Democrats or the Republicans is someone who is generally always leading with a group. They are taking stands but doing so with the support of their Democratic or Republican constituents. While they will certainly have countless detractors, they are being supported by others within their own party who are generally behind the things they are doing.
However, there are some people out there who are able to step forward for what they believe in and do this regardless of whether they are supported by others or not. What I am talking about is not a way to power, titles, or wealth, but a way of living your life that puts you in complete charge of the outcomes that you get. I am talking about personal leadership and a decision making process that is going to change everything if you understand it.
Most lives are wasted.
What’s the point of worrying about others opinions? In order to lead and take charge of your life you need to act and do what others are afraid, or unwilling to do. This is personal leadership and it is what is going to change your life and give you incredible results in everything that you do.
When you do what you want to do you become an innovator and not a follower. The world respects the innovators. You are able to reach your highest visions and be the person you are capable of being—instead of the person others say you should be.
For you it may mean writing a book. It may mean quitting your job to go help the poor. It may mean becoming the best possible parent you can be. Whatever it is, personal leadership is going to change your life. You can be whoever you want to be but you need to be a personal leader and do what is deep inside of your heart. You need to be the person you are capable of being no matter what others may think.
True leadership comes from standing for the things in which you believe, even if you stand alone and others disagree with you. Taking charge of your life means acting and doing what others are afraid or unwilling to do; this is personal leadership, and will lead you to incredible results. You will reach your fullest potential by being the person you are capable of being, rather than the person that others say you should be.