This is a word-for-word journal entry that I wrote one restless night when I was living alone in Washington, D.C., shortly after graduating college.
I had just completed a summer internship at the White House and was struggling to find employment — let alone, the purposeful and fulfilling employment I so desired — as the international economic scene plunged into its still current “great recession.”
On this night, I couldn’t sleep. I felt sick. It wasn’t very late, but my spirit — perhaps, my muse — was longing to be heard. I rolled my computer chair onto my apartment balcony and began to write by the light of the District street lamps, below.
That night, I stumbled upon a revelation.
That night changed my life forever.
October 6, 2008
“It’s nearly 1 A.M. I stand on my balcony in the cold, writing in what dim light I have from the street lights below. The air is cool, clean, crisp.
The streets are vacant from life. All is quite quiet. A few cars buzz down Connecticut Ave. A fountain churns like a gushing waterfall nearby. Some TVs illuminate bedrooms across the street.
My eyes wander toward the sky. Red clouds quietly float through the black night. Stars shine. I look to them as if for answers. They divulge little. Again to the stars. Again, Silence.
I feel wholeheartedly that I am on the cusp of some breakthrough revelation or guidance on my path. I’ve now spent at least a month reassessing everything: career, education, love, life, politics, myself. I know in my heart I am a leader. But, who am I to lead?
Can one lead, without having others follow?
Is the most successful leader the one who depends not on those whom he leads? Could one man be a leader, without his followers realizing it? This is, in some ways, how I live my life. Loving compassion. Trust. Inherent optimism. Positive energy. Giving beyond your means and at your inconvenience. Smiling at strangers who seldom smile back.
Perhaps, in this way, everyone can in themselves be leaders. It is to lead by example in the most genuine but common of interactions, those we routinely experience, every minute of every day.
For one to lead in all aspects of her life is to unduly influence positive love in her “unknowing” followers. Leadership spurs a trickle-down effect. It’s positive influence self-perpetuates amongst followers and gives cause to good things. Take a Steve Jobs and such a CEO’s influence on his employees. Yet, an everyday leader is not similarly driven by profits. Love of money and want of “more” make a CEO’s leadership easy: his desire for more is in itself his leadership’s eternal source.
The everyday leader leads not in the name of profits. His motivations must therefore be deep and committed. He must work every day, constantly conspiring to lead by loving example.
Because her leadership takes quiet form, she must be patient and confident that her leadership will take root in others in due time; she must remember that other good souls, many too lost in the rat race of life, will not quickly see her loving leadership and recognize its powerful effect.
They might never.
But if they do, if they reassess their lives in even the slightest way that manifests in a form of loving compassion, kindness, and charity, she has won a lifelong follower. Unbeknown, even, to the soul who now follows her quiet example.
In this way, our leader can never fail, and never fall. Politicians rise and demise. Musicians and movie stars age and fade. Mortals die. The leader who leads quietly, who does not depend on followers to carry on, truly lives forever, because loving compassion never dies. This leader’s influence will self-perpetuate for the rest of time.
I may have had my breakthrough. A revolutionary book on leadership. Quiet, unselfish leadership based in optimism and goodness.
It’s 2 A.M. The fountains across the street shut off and the night becomes beautifully quiet.”