My Axe to Grind with Occupy Wall Street (Or, When Quiet Speaks Louder than Noise)

“What we speak becomes the house we live in.” ~Hafiz

Quiet? Silence?

How could quiet speak louder than noise?

When could silence trump commotion — especially in the battle for attention?

Remember, we’re talking about leadership here. Human leadership. Examining, questioning and reclaiming what it means to lead, for all the right reasons — and in ways that effortlessly endure.

So, when it comes to the power of quiet, let’s think over these vital questions:

  • Are you in this game to build something that matters — something that can last?
  • Do you work, hustle, live and breathe and speak your leader’s voice to change lives (while helping to change your own along the way), or because you just want attention?
  • Are you “all in” for the good of others — and to live your best life you can — first and foremost?

If you answered yes to these questions (and why wouldn’t you! if you’re here, you’re an unleader), I’m relieved — your “leader’s drive” exists to lead, first and foremost — with followers, finances and fame all coming secondary to the will to be a catalyst for positive change.

(If you want to be a leader to gain a quick pay-day, an “I want to be the next Facebook!” story, or a mostly-related-to-ego claim to fame… my alternative leadership message is not gonna vibe with you. Sorry!)

No, you lead for the betterment of people’s lives — and to create a flourishing life for yourself.

And whether your leader’s voice is driven by creating social change, elevating your game or microbiz to become a looked-to resource, or stirring the entire world to your cause, your strategic and game-changing mind might not, at first, jump to think that “silence” or “quiet” is your sure-fire way to lead brilliantly.

We think bullhorns. Rallies. Campaigns with poignant, heart-arousing commercials and billboards overlooking Times Square. Big picture. Big exposure. Eyes. Ears. Minds.

After all, how else could you grab that mass media coverage, hit the cover of the Wall Street Journal or dish on Oprah’s couch?

But, back to the question at hand: Can quiet speak louder than noise? Could silence trump commotion, even in the fierce battle for public attention?

Yes, they can — and all you need to do is look to the Occupy Wall Street movement and see how, over the span of only months, the fever-pitch of mass media coverage and international attention given to an underdog’s movement (one that epitomized the modern leadership problem in today’s world) would fizzle with a whimper:

The movement was dependent upon noise and commotion, and when the noise died down, so too did the movement.

It’s attention. It’s credibility. It’s worth.

An entire movement’s purpose (and its very sense of being) died as soon as the commotion died — before, and in one final and desperate grab to make noise again, ultimately resorting to disgusting fear-mongering tactics this past May Day like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum.

Yes, silence can trump noise. Quiet can beat out raw commotion. Because when you build a movement from silence, you build from what matters:

  • You hand-craft meaningful building blocks of love that stir hearts, not incite others to anger, fear, or hopelessness.
  • You provide quality and value to customers through resourcefulness, innovation and practicality, not exploit raw consumerism and a social addiction to “more”
  • You provide, teach and even sell to people the tools, methods, and philosophy to create change in their own ways, by their own desires, and in forms that resonate passionately with them, personally.

When you form a mission from quiet, you let the idea speak for itself — rather than forcing it to depend upon a constant source of loudness that cannot be forever maintained.

When you live by noise, you die by silence.

As a leader, if your purpose, your mission, or your sense of being are wholly dependent upon rabble-rousing and disruption, then by consequence your purpose, mission or sense of being will necessarily wither when you can’t continue to sustain the noise.

And here’s the kicker: the state of our universe is silence. It’s quiet. That’s the natural status quo — that noise cannot be maintained forever. As loud as you may scream, you’ll eventually need to stop and take a breath.Noise is intermittent — the commotion is a sporadic product, what comes in between natural peace. Noise is only a tool: its communication, its art, its a product, an outcome.

Noise is a method.

A means, but not an end — and definitely not a purpose. When your purpose or mission depend upon noise, you become an addict to the noise, attached to a constant attention that cannot be maintained, and fearful as hell of any moment of silence, of quiet, of peace.

There must be something more.

Something deeper, more fundamental and intrinsically human. Something that lives when the noise dies down. An element, a principle, an infectious idea and sticky concept or obsessive “Aha!” that fuels the human spirit — that makes people feel so damn driven, fueled, alive.

A movement that lasts is born from a core element of shared humanity: dreams, drives, ideas whose times have finally come to be made real in the storied evolution of human civilization.

This is your mission. Your goal. Your purpose.

This is the core element of your leadership: what drives your everyday life, the influential voice of your biz and the world-changing aspirations you dream of.

Quiet can speak louder than noise. And, yes, noise can still speak louder than quiet. The question to ask yourself, my friend, is if you truly wish and intend for your leadership to endure longer than raw noise, itself.

P.S. — Dig this take on modern leadership at the intersection of pressing issues in today’s news headlines? Check out my new speaking offerings on the leadership problem and more!

P.P.S. — Wanna learn more about the power of quiet? Check out Susan Cain‘s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (afil). Planning to read this soon, and have heard awesome things from friends :)

Flickr photo credit: Shira Golding

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