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You Can Be a Thought Leader


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You Can Succeed

I'm not going to repeat the lie that you can do anything.  That lie told to young people all over the world, may not be true, but it does contain in a simple statement, a fundamental fact that each of us needs to be confident about.  "YOU can DO".  The lie is in the word "anything".  There are also well known and common rules for how to do things with success.  You get a sound formal education.  You strive to succeed in the arts or sport, and in social activities.  You seek to find a mentor and you use that persons advice to help you up the ladder. 

Many books have been written on this topic.  In 1910 Wallace D. Wattles wrote "The Science of Getting Rich" the first book I know of to establish some principles for business success.  In 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote "Think and Grow Rich" which defined 13 steps to the achievement of wealth.  In 1990, Steven R Covey wrote the modern version, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". I assume you've already read those.  If not, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is well worth the purchase price.  Do buy it.  Highlight it as you read it.  Write your own chapter summaries, write margin notes, make the book your own.  This is basic stuff, get your own house in order, then work in the public arena.  Find ways to sustain a high level of learning.  By the time you are 30, you should be well aware of this material and working hard to incorporate those lessons in your life.

7 Habits Revision

Personal Victory

Be Proactive: Most people live by responding to external pressures, to incoming mail, to the demands of other people or events.  To be proactive is to choose what you will do with your time and your attention.  Taking for yourself the power to recognize reality and creating your own adaptive response to that.  Engage the power of imagination and imagine for yourself choices worthy of the sort of person you intend to be.  As Covey says, in the process of "making promises, setting goals and being true to them - we build strength and character."

Begin with the End in Mind: Anything you choose to do is created twice.  First in your own mind, by the acts of imagination and evaluation and choice.  Then in the world as you act on the choices you made.  There is too much focus on doing what people see, the second creation.  As a result people devote large part of their lives to less worthy or unworthy objectives.  When people make life choices, they have a huge capacity to choose badly.  Self leadership is about making good choices.  Covey tells us that if we lead lives based on principles, we will make better choices.  When we make worthy choices the self talk we create for ourselves keeps us focused in the right direction.

Put first things First: This is about having the discipline to do what is necessary over a long period of time in order to make the good choices you've made, real in the world.  Here we are walking our talk.  Our lives can be fully filled by emergencies, deadlines, email, meetings, trivia and busy-work if we allow that to happen.  There is never anything forcing us to do the self chosen activities that are the expression of our leadership in the world.  However if you have chosen to act on your principles, you are the only source of that ideal in the context of your life.  Either you have the committment to carry that idea into reality or you allow other people's pressures to push you off course.  It's still your choice. 

Public Victory

Think Win/Win: In almost every situation, the best approach is to seek a co-operative solution.  However people who don't know and trust each other find it difficult to put their cards on the table.  To move forward someone needs to invest time and attention in understanding what the other person is saying, and to absorb the cost of that, with no certainty of success.  Covey says that paying attention is an act of leadership that few people exercise.  Once the real issues are on the table there are two options; find a way to co-operate or decide not to proceed. 

Seek First to Understand: Each persons "greatest need ... is to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated." To listen to another person with empathy and understanding takes effort.  Seeing the world from this other person's viewpoint makes you vulnerable.  You need to put aside your own understanding to succeed here, and only you can do it.  That act of giving attention creates trust.  In seeking to be understood yourself, you need to deal your own cards plainly and clearly, with acknowledgement of the other person's viewpoint. 

Synergize: Creativity happens in the space between people.  When you communicate with people and propose a possible way to co-operate you have no precise control of the outcome.  Everything is connected to everything else.  Good communication will allow you to see that reality.  If there is a basis for negotiation towards a common win/win position, it will reveal itself. 

Renewal

Sharpen the Saw: This is the process of feeding yourself to maintain your own health and social connection.  This involves maintaining your physical fitness and nutrition.  Being involved in the arts, the environment, philosophy and politics so that you understand the great ideas driving society.  Find ways to continue your personal education and for exercising your mind.  Maintaining active social engagement in your community.  Covey says that our task is, "to define your own unique mission in life, to rescript yourself to live your life in harmony with correct principles and to draw upon your personal sources of strength." ... "Once we are self aware, we must choose purposes and principles to live by ... and there is no shortcut to developing them. ... The law of the harvest governs; we always reap what we sow."

Finally Covey says, "Change - real change - comes from the inside out."

Dr. Joseph (Rae) Mellichamp, professor emeritus of the University of Alabama, created a set of www_linkdiscussion notes for the highly popular book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that has proven useful. 

Let's go on from there.

Discipline and Procedure

"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" was written prior to the internet. When I read it today, while the principles are sound, I believe I can see better methods.

Be Proactive: There's huge opportunity to exercise thought leadership online, and many groups that you can join to share that passion.  You choose a direction for yourself. 

Begin with the End in Mind: There are many ways to discover and understand for yourself the principles on which a successful life might be based. Join a community of practice.  Join groups who share your chosen values. 

Put first things First: You remain the only source of committment to your values in the context of your world.  You have to do practical things to make those ideals real.  If you do nothing those ideals will wither. 

Think Win/Win: Each group is sustained by rules or principles of membership.  Those principles are also the means to achieve a win/win solution. 

Seek First to Understand: Avoid projecting your vision onto others.  Attend to what they say and take the risk of understanding why they believe what they do. 

Synergize: In the creative space between the views of others and the objective you have, there is room to invent a solution that makes nobody worse off. 

Sharpen the Saw: On the internet, if you choose, you are connected to a conversation about how we can best understand and adapt to the world.  Engagement in that conversation is your connection to your own open future©.

There is another summary of www_link The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People here.

Steven Covey has also suggested an 8th Habit, "Finding your Voice".  That makes a lot of sense too.  The next section makes that plain. 

Five Steps to Success

The Five Kabissa Principles: Kabissa is an african word meaning "complete", in this case a complete programme for becoming Internet literate.  There is a book written for distribution in Africa which is www_link available for free download here.
The five steps are:

(1) Connecting: Getting online, and learning how to use , maintain and protect your system. (It's been reported that many users don't adequately protect their systems.  e.g. Firewall's and anti-virus protection.)  The skill set at this level includes downloading and installing new software from the Internet.  Creating and maintaining a practical system of files in "My Documents" and "Shared Documents".

(2) Accessing: Accessing web sites using search engines, and using email to exchange letters and documents or photographs with people you know. This includes swapping jokes and downloading music.  Creating new secondary email addresses for web use.  Using the Internet for banking transactions, and for making credit card payments online. 

(3) Interacting: The third stage is accessing and interacting with groups online.  This involves finding interesting groups, joining, keeping up with the correspondence and becoming a contributor to that correspondence.  It involves subscribing to newsletters, and participating in online discussions.  Perhaps contributing to a wiki.  These are the skills you learn in social networks or communities of practise.  These participatory skills are the key to membership of the peer group of skilled users.  In addition the ability to use Web 2.0 tools with confidence adds not only to your own effectiveness but also helps other people. 

(4) Establishment: To establish your own online identity (organizational and personal) , and to be responsible for your own online image.  This means creating a blog, or several blogs, maintaining a personal web site, and making yourself generally visible.  (There will be some people who will choose not to do that, but if you are not present you can't be found and you can't participate.  So invisibility is a legitimate choice with it's own cost.)  Visibility makes it possible for people who share your particular interests to find you.  Joining a social network is an efficient way to meet people some of whom you'll choose to work with.  You will create a page that tells people who you are.  You may also begin to produce a personal or business newsletter. 

(5) Advocacy: To become an effective advocate for whatever concerns you.  ("Finding Your Voice", Steven R Covey) This will involve building a large number of connections to other people online.  You will maintain several address books for different purposes.  You'll have extensive links to people in interest groups, communities of practise, and on social networks.  You will know lots of people and in turn you'll be known by many people.  It's at this stage when people who have developed the knowledge, confidence and skills to be "Internet Literate" begin to be valuable to their companies, or organizations, and when their activities begin to impact on the community they live in.  It's also the time when you can use the internet to promote your business or hobby, or any social, political or environmental cause you may care to support.  Quite likely you will be responsible (or share responsibility) for a web site, for the content at least, if not the actual design. 

The book www_link The Virtual Handshake; Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, is available for free download , and from the best bookstores. 

Do What You Can Do

The world we live in is increasingly mind crafted, the result of people applying their ideas in the real world.  We are all artists or players in that world.  We participate best when we accept the personal responsibility for the choices we make.  You have to take power to control your own life, rather than live a life defined by the demands of other people.  So what is your story?  I hope you reply that your story is not fully developed yet, that you are working to a plan, the fulfillment of which remains uncertain. 

In that plan you choose what principles to follow, and what objectives are appropriate.  You choose who you will work with and what organizations you will be a member of.  In the process of living your life you will make 1000's of choices, each one taking you closer to your chosen goal, or further from it.  There is nobody else who will carry forward your ideals if you don't. 

Traditionally people who live as "artists" in our community have had poor and uncertain incomes for most of their lives.  My assumption about the future, is that in a knowledge driven society the proportion of people who live that way will increase, and that most of us will have several years when the work we are doing is exploratory and probably unrewarded.  It's not sensible to imagine that your life will never have a downside.  People who grow significantly in their lives have often experienced a long period of apparent failure.  Did you choose to follow appropriate principles?  Have you committed yourself honestly and enthusiastically to those ideas?  What's missing that you need?  A mentor? 

Good ideas are often rejected in a real world.  It may take courage and personal committment to carry a rejected idea through some lean years to general recognition.  Paradigm's shift slowly, seemingly not at all in the beginning, and then suddenly they reach a tipping point and a whole range of new possibilities become viable.  It would be good to be on the right side of that sort of change.  One can't ever be sure that your choices will make that so.  Your only real option is to honestly pursue the principles you've chosen.  If those principles are well selected, that should protect you from your own foolishness.  Even so, people find it hard to change, and even scientists who are supposed to be convinced by good theory backed by experimental evidence, have demonstrated a remarkable facility for denying that evidence when it suits them.  To be aware of that trap, might be one way to avoid it. 

You have control over what you know, or choose not to know.  You have control over who you shared ideas with, and which ideas eventually became part of your plan.  You had control over which team you chose to join, or who you invited to join your team.  You had control over your own input, how much work you put into the concept.  With all this "control" you still can't guarantee the outcome you intend to have. 

There is a lot of nonsense written about success.  The most disturbing for me are the "abundant wealth" claims of some people.  We are all sometimes successful and sometimes not.  Most of the time we are doing what needs to be done, and that is success.  It's also true that most of the time while we do well, we are not seeking to be perfectionists.  That sort of committment destroys other parts of our life that are important to us.  Just as you chose your own principles and goals in the beginning, you have to decide in your own eyes if you have been successful or not.  Did you have the courage to choose some life goals?  Were those good choices, and did you make an honest contribution?  I think that's success.  Are you physically fit and healthy?  Is your family together, making a contribution, and living full lives?  Are you active in hobbies and social engagements?  Do you have a home you can call your own?  When you speak to groups or write to a COP where you have been a member for some time, is your view understood and respected?  Have you become a thought leader? 

Beyond Your Own Action

You can only do what you can do.  If you choose to do the right things, and you do that well, you've played your part.  Each of us in our own field, can become a thought leader.  There may be other players, hiding hands, movements in the market, changes in the political climate, riots, floods or earthquakes, that make what you did null and void.  You don't have strong control over wide recognition of your work, acceptance of your innovations, or market success for your products.  But you do have the ability to contribute. 

Making that personal contribution makes all the difference.  Someone sees your effort, and adds something to it, or offers you a partnership, and suddenly the whole picture changes.  Spectacular success is also often the product of hiding hands, market changes or political changes that were chance events.  Unexpected success often creates difficult times for people.  If you don't understand what you did "right" it may be difficult to keep the success running. 

For most of us, ordinary success is making a living over a long period of time, and finding ways to adapt who we are and what we do in a changing world.  To create an Open Future© for ourselves we need to break out of a cocooned life and live in an open communicative environment.  Each of us can do that, it's a choice. 

John Stephen Veitch (Google me)
+64 3 352-8372
Skype Name: johnsveitch