The only secret I know…
NB: Before we begin: this is the final article in a series on modern leadership mastery. The series overview and links to previous articles can be found here.
2008, Cock’n Bull Bar, Montreal: I had just returned from a few months volunteering in Uganda. I was tan and playful and feeling self-assured. My brother had driven the 500 miles from Boston to Montreal to hang out for a few nights.
We were both carelessly drunk and horsing around when he asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. He said, “What’s your secret?”
I’ll come back to that…
When I started this series on modern leadership mastery a year ago, I set out to simplify leadership.
I was fed up with the writers, consultants, and speakers who overcomplicated the process. The truth is, making leadership seem hard is great for selling books and trainings, but shitty for actually getting people to step fully into their lives and share their gifts with the world.
One year later, and I still believe what I wrote initially: leadership is about taking action, and then reflecting on what went well, what went poorly, and how you can grow.
It’s as simple or as complicated as that.
The reason I emphasize action is because too many people are stuck in their heads, afraid to fail, afraid to ask for what they want, and afraid to exercise their innate power. And I get it. I’d be a liar if I said I hadn’t wrestled with these demons too.
Too many people feel like they need to read one more article, attend one more training, and get one more hit of external validation before they are ready to begin creating the world they want to live in.
The truth: you’re ready. You’ll get in shape as you go. You’ll become a bit more powerful and face a bit less resistance each day. It just requires starting.
Of course, taking action isn’t always easy so over the course of these articles on leadership mastery, I’ve worked to simplify the process for you. I hope it helped. I hope it sped up your results. I hope your life and community are better because of your actions.
When I outlined this series, I wanted to close it by sharing “The only secret I know.”
Over the year, the “secret” I wanted to share changed and evolved.
When I started writing, the secret I had in mind was: proactively provide value for the people around you, and watch the magic unfold. This was one of the first things my mentor taught me.
Or phrased more directly: go out and help people. It will come back to you. You’ll notice that if you get in the habit of freely giving that which you wish to receive, you will be rewarded beyond your expectations.
And I still passionately believe that this one of the most important things that can be taught.
But it’s not really a secret.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were a bunch of “secrets” I wanted to share:
- Do the hard work of finding your truth, and then find the courage to live it. The world will meet you half way and work hard to speed up your success.
- The trick to most things you really care about is to try less. To let go. To trust yourself and the universe.
- There is nothing wrong with you.
- Separation between living things is nothing but a compelling illusion. We are all one, caught up in a deep flow that extends beyond anything our minds (though not our hearts) can comprehend.
- We belong to one another.
- The real trick is to learn to love yourself, because everything you do flows from your relationship to you.
And I still wildly believe all of these things. But they’re not secrets…
Though I’ve since (mostly) stopped drinking, one of the gifts of being buzzed is that it gets you out of your head and draws you into the moment.
When my brother asked me what my secret was, I instantly knew the feeling that inspired his question.
Life has this weird quality that makes it seem like there is something just out of your reach that if you could only grasp, you would finally understand how to effortlessly translate your desires into reality. You’d be happy and content and in love and enough.
And while that’s a nearly universal feeling, it only sends the individual chasing their tail, because ultimately, there is no secret.
You aren’t missing anything.
You are already enough for more than your wildest dreams (I promise).
You always have been.
You’re more powerful than you know (and perhaps as you read these words their truth quietly resonates).
Yes, you’ll stumble from time to time. Yes you’ll be embarrassed and say the wrong thing from time to time. Yes sometimes you’ll be lazy for no good reason. Yes you’ll get depressed and frustrated.
And it’s ok.
I promise you, it’s ok.
These are simply component parts of being a human, as inescapable as the color blue or the need to drink water.
The “secret” that I want to leave you with isn’t one and it has more to do with life than leadership.
It’s simply this: there are no secrets. You’re ready. You’re more amazing than you know. You always have been.
Photo credit: Autumn Whispers by Alexander Mueller