Courage Always Triumphs.

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David Cameron reads the Gospel at the Queen’s 90th Birthday Thanksgiving Service.

So here we are in a post-referendum world. Of the 7000 million people on the planet, just a comparative handful of ‘little people’ on a little island off the coast of Europe have spoken with their hearts, and made a difference. Little people, each with just one vote. It’s called democracy.  Their courage changed the course of history. Things will never be the same again.

Courage always triumphs.

People who choose a life filled with courage will always win in the end. Over these last weeks, onslaught after onslaught of terrifying predictions were thrown at these courageous ones, and they STILL voted “No” to fear. The direst consequences, financial ruin, the inability to feed your kids, poverty in old age, the elites of pretty much anywhere did their very best to intimidate, rubbish, persuade and bully, but in those few quiet safe and sacred moments in the sanctity of a polling booth in our little Sussex village I ticked the Leave box, joined my heart with the risk-takers, and voted for a better – and quite possibly a more prosperous world.

Of course, we’ll never know what might have been, because no one can predict the future. Every decision you and I make is irreversible, so alternatives at that time and place no longer exist. There is only one life, and we are all living it.

Big Mistake. Huge.
Julia Roberts' famous Big Mistake Moment in the classic film "Pretty Woman"
Julia Roberts’ famous Big Mistake Moment in the classic film “Pretty Woman”

Just two weeks before the Brexit vote David Cameron publicly read these words of Jesus to a fearful world. “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after.”  He listened to another David, David Attenborough, read the words of poet Minnie Louise Haskins reminding him that going out into the darkness with his hand in God’s hand is “better than a light and safer than a known way.” In the vote of his and our lifetime, he chose away from a life of faith to lead us with a message of fear.  As Julia Roberts famously said in Pretty Woman when she had been treated as ‘trash off the street’ by an elite clothing store, “Big mistake. Huge.”

It cost David Cameron his career, and us a very good Prime Minister.  Let’s not make the same mistake ourselves.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

Minnie Louise Haskins

 

Three Courages of a Leader

You’re a leader – every single person in the world has leadership responsibility. Not least, it is up to you to decide how you’re going to live.  And lead.

Courage Card

From earliest childhood we are taught the imperative of self control, the need to have boundaries and live within them. And we also learn that others want power over us, and will do all sorts of things to get it. 

In civil societies we are not so free to do just what we like. We are taught that conforming is the way. We find the desires, boundaries and expectations of others impacting on our own and are expected to make room for them.

We learn about influence and competition, and eventually discover that others want to take control of us – teachers, neighbours, managers, doctors, advertisers, journalists, police, politicians, and all manner of other people. Some have the intention of helping us, others have the intention, not of helping us but of helping themselves to us — to our potential, our time, our love, our money — intent on the control of our resources and the leadership of our life. We lose, they win.  That’s if we let them.

Coercion

1. Their number one weapon is often fear – what will happen if we don’t surrender our power to them.  They play on our deeply rooted need to be loved and accepted, on our desire to minimise the discomforts of normal life as well as the sometimes excruciating emotional or physical pain that may be just round the corner.  They will even play on the desire to stay alive (and free from coercion) for a full span of life.  They demand submission, or maybe a cross in their box on a ballot paper, or else… They will do whatever they can, say whatever they want,  to MAKE us play life their way.

Just for the record, stress due to coercion – being made to do something you don’t want to do – is the third greatest cause of Chronic Heart Disease (heart attack) in the UK.  Interesting, isn’t it?

Unsatisfied desire.

2. And the number two weapon? Desire, greed even. Your longing for more – bigger, faster, posher, more noticeable, more successful, a millimetre closer to perfection. More power – often a desperate attempt to close the gap on your perceived inadequacies and weaknesses. Or someone else’s.

So what do I need in order to stand strong, to ensure that my life remains in my control? How do I remain the captain of my ship on the sea of life, of my community, of my business, yet still stay connected to those with whom I need to collaborate in order to live with a minimum of discomfort and a maximum of contentment, but may not be as trustworthy as I’d like? Pirates, even.

Just one deep thing – Courage.

Courage to Stand.

What DO I stand for? What brings me to my feet? (Or, like Rosa Parks in 1955, would keep my sitting down on an Alabama bus when those around me conform and stand up?) What would you die for – bearing in mind that in many situations across the world, standing DOES mean dying. In Rosa Parks’ case, staying seated led to prison – before becoming a heroine of the anti segregation movement.  What do YOU stand for?

Courage to Lead.

… to be a leader.  The truth is, you lead people every day.  People are watching you.  You are influencing others in what you say, how you act, what you wear, the attitudes you take. Me too.  

And who? Well, if you want to know how much of a leader you are, look around, check who’s following. Who is in your ‘world’ right now? This isn’t some statistical statement about social media although it may include them – most of those people don’t care that much about you.  But who do you meet every day,  people who are watching your life and deciding they like what they see (or not) and want to imitate it – have some of it even – be like you?   Friends, clients, family, managers, the woman at Sainsburys, the other drivers on the road. 

And where will you lead them TO? On a trip to social conformity? A wild adventure holiday?  Here’s something much more worthwhile and long-lasting:

Show them courage –  the courage to change. Maybe an attitude, or a life-path. Courage to do right.  To stand out. to be different. Ask yourself what attitudes you model for others to see, what life-path you are on. Are those congruent with the deepest roots of your life? What do you REALLY believe is a key, worthwhile horizon to head towards, worth sacrificing to reach? Would you be proud for others to follow you there?  A bigger house?  More money? Probably not. 

Courage to Let go.

Time and again this is the Big One. You may not even be aware of those incredibly strong ‘invisible’ spider’s webs that anchor you to the past, those bungee elastics that tug you back to the status-quo whenever you seek to pull away. They are little undermining beliefs – things you think about the world, about how you’ve supposed the world is all these years, that you’ve ‘proved’ to yourself are true, but actually are not. Those determined little beliefs that keep you anchored to your safe and comfy status quo – even when you secretly want to be somewhere (or someone) else entirely.  Ready to let them go?  Now?

Leadership is ultimately about courage. The courage to walk past your fears into an unknown future – and because it’s unknown there is no guarantee that it will necessarily be better – but a future you have the faith to choose.

The courage to reject rejection and accept acceptance. Or maybe accept rejection and reject acceptance?

The courage to say No, when everyone is pressing you to say Yes, because NO is the Right thing to say right now. To vote differently.

And who will come with you?  I don’t know.  Nor do you.  But you’ll be surprised.

Some will come because you love them.  Others because they love you.  Some will come because they admire you, or you persuaded them. Or none of those reasons. Just make sure they are following for good reasons.  

I love honest humble leaders. True leaders are brave inspiring people. They say the unsayable, live the unliveable and think the unthinkable. They swim across the stream of public opinion. Often inconspicuous, they act on their convictions. I’ve met many as I have been working in leader development over the last 40 years. The best sort are those who are more concerned about influence for good than personal fame or prominence.  They are ‘servant leaders’ who know how to love people, honour those around them, have others stand on their shoulders and reach higher than they themselves will ever be able to reach. Humble caring determined men and women who have chosen to live their lives with courage, and have had the faith to step forward. Men and women of whom the world is not worthy.

My invitation to you today is to invade the impossible. To choose Courage. To influence with a Servant Heart. To go for the higher goals, the greater victory – perhaps a victory you’ll not live to see. Better to lead your life with courage and deep passion, complete with it’s inevitable experiences of failing, falling, and frustration, than live a life of superficial joy and shallow success – a life you are no longer proud to own.

It’s HOW you choose to live this next phase of your life that matters.

Quitting the Fear Factory

How to become an Employee in the Fear Factory (They don’t like to use the word ‘slave’)

1. Sign on – you’ll be able to find any excuse, the one most people use is ‘I had no choice’.

2. Take a mix of simple, widely available and common unpleasant experiences and exaggerate them. You won’t need many, but make sure they are not SO exaggerated that they lose any sense of being faintly possible.

3.  Add the yeast of an uncontrolled, pro-active imagination. Dwell on them by returning to them in your mind, talking about how bad they are to yourself and others in a frightened spooky over-emotional voice. Make sure you think about them regularly, especially when you are alone, first thing in the morning and just before you go to bed at night.

4. Bake them well for many hours by imagining that you cannot NOT think about them.  (Focus on anything and it will get bigger in your thinking. If you keep visiting the same tree in a wood you will create a well-worn path to it. Keep visiting it for long enough and you’ll build a motorway).

5. Remove, in your imagination any possibility of those experiences being neutralised or mitigated in any way, so they hold no hope or chance of escape. Make sure no one can possibly rescue the situation and that you are paralysed from helping yourself to get away.

6. Wrap them up with normal everyday items (newspapers are excellent for maintaining good fear quality) so that everything around you reminds you of how afraid you are..  That way you will not be able to get away from them.

7. Create a web of statistics that ‘prove’ that the chances of these things happening are overwhelming. You will perceive your fears to be permanent, personal and all pervasive.

The Fear Factory, of course, has no windows that might let the light of reality in, and has lots of dark corners where invisible unidentified evil ‘presences’ might hide, silently observing your vain attempts to escape and waiting patiently until your courage has been completely destroyed and you are paralysed by fear so they can come and ‘get’ you unhampered by humour, reality or common sense.

Terrified yet?  Keep thinking that way and you soon will be. You can do it with everything from people ‘getting’ you, cancer ‘getting’ you, and unemployment ‘getting’ you.

Quitting the Fear Factory.

1. Resign from the Fear Factory with immediate effect,without waiting for the end of the week or any back-pay you are owed, and simply WALK OUT NOW.  Avoid entering into conversation with any current employees of the factory or the management staff.  They want to keep you trapped. After all, they will want to convince you of their (wrong) belief that there is no hope of a better life. (The back-pay argument is a trap, by the way. The owner of the Fear Factory has no intention of ever paying you what was agreed, but he needs your energy and imagination to keep the fear factory delivering the goods in your area.)

2. Whistle, hum, sing and play encouraging songs as you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, and smile as you walk out of the factory gates. Smiling works to increase the seratonin levels in your blood and annoys the security guards. It also makes you happier and even more inspired.

3. Choose a mountain top destination and walk towards it, knowing that anyone who lives with purpose and who has a mission in life lives longer, experiences less illness and enjoys each day much more fully – even though life is tough. There are many good things ahead but the finest ones are a little reserved – they do not make themselves obvious. You need to look for them before you see them, and when you do meet them, treat them with respect. The best things in life are not for the casual observer. Whenever you notice them treasure them and they will serve you very well indeed. You’ll be surprised at how little you need to be truly happy now you are no longer a slave in the Fear Factory.

4. Be kind to yourself, forgiving yourself for the mistakes you’ve made in life (include the mistake of signing on at the Fear Factory), noticing that the seeds of courage, happiness and joy that you were born with have sparked unbidden into life and are starting to germinate. They grow slowly and strongly, more like oak trees than mushrooms, so tend them well. Take time to be quiet, away from others, so that you learn how to grow your strength without the need for the hubbub of other people’s opinions, busyness and activity.

5. Focus on growing your COURAGE. Deliberately set yourself some interesting challenges that will need courage from you, and take on things that you really want to achieve. You’ve left the fear factory now so you won’t be afraid of not getting something quite right or perfect. Failing from time to time is normal, and it shows you that although none of us intends to fail,it is part of learning how to be successful. Choose new activities where you are clearly the learner.

6. Weed your life, and tend it well, keeping it productive and bearing fresh fruit. Link up with other ‘Quitters’ who have learned the lessons of contentment, courage, freedom management and self-control you are learning.

7. Review the above six steps, and commit never to sign the control of your future over to anyone else or for anything else ever again.

Welcome to freedom. Those of us in Powerchange have set off for the mountains too. It’s great to have you sharing the joy and the journey.