Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Leaders, Leaners, Loners & Losers

I enjoy a little alliteration occasionally. This title popped into my mind while doing some fitness walking earlier today. Walking is a great time to develop ideas and lay the foundation for ideas. I realized everyone, during parts of their lives, wears each of these labels. Two are positive, while two are negative.

Fortunately, the two positive types, while experiencing periods of the negative traits, usually don't remain in the negative realm long. Unfortunately, the two negative types often spend most or all their lives wearing negative labels.

Have you figured it out, yet? Leaders and Loners are the positive people and Leaners and Losers are the negative people. Remember, everyone will experience periods wearing each of the four labels. So, allow me to give you my descriptions of these four kinds or people and experiences.


Leaders, in my opinion, aren't necessarily those people who might come to your mind first. There are certainly many people who manipulate their way to high-level, leadership roles. That, in itself, doesn't denote they are actually leaders. I could name names in the U.S., state and local governments, private sector industrial, commercial, medical and institutional complex, athletic teams, educational institutions and religious denominations of every variety. But, I won't. I'll leave that to your opinion.

First, leaders are individuals others look up to and respect for their integrity, competence, capabilities and actual achievements.

Second, leaders lead by example. They establish objectives, goals, rules, policies and provide an environment to fulfill the objectives and goals. Leaders also keeps their minds open for the ideas, suggestions and creativity of others.

Third, leaders always take full responsibility for the results of the undertaking. If the venture is successful, those under the leader receive  credit for achieving the positive outcome. If the undertaking is not successful, leaders assumes full responsibility and never embarrass or humiliate those under their leadership. Leaders never publicly pass the buck. Leaders will meet individually and privately with those who may be partially or entirely responsible for the outcome and discuss what happened.

Fourth, leaders always knows that it's lonely at the top. They will not complain, vent or offload their professional or personal challenges, issues or problems on those under their leadership. This is demoralizing. So, the leader is usually a loner.

There are a lot more leaders than many people believe there may be, because a true leader often goes unrecognized. Some leaders may actually be part of the "rank and file" and silently lead their colleagues to successful achievements without need or concern for rewards or recognition. See what I mean when I said leaders may not be the people who first come to mind?


Leaners are those who may have minor personality disorders, difficult or troubling childhoods, low self-esteem or many other possible reasons for their behavior. They can only function when leaning on others for support. I wouldn't necessarily suggest that a leaner is impaired. But, they shy away from leadership roles and usually display little initiative personally or professionally.

Leaners always need some kind of help or assistance. Leaners may whine and make excuses why they can't do something until someone finally offers to assist them. Then they carefully manipulate things so they do as little as possible. Leaners are often joiners, because they fear or dislike being alone. Leaners are seldom doers. They lean on group or organization to support their fragile ego and low self-esteem. Their identity comes from belonging, not from being.


Loners are a very unique group. Most true leaders are loners and that's because, as stated earlier, "It's lonely at the top." The especially unique thing about many, if not most, loners is while they may be alone, they seldom experience loneliness.

Contrary to what may be a popular belief, loners are very often social individuals. They may be extroverted or introverted, but they enjoy the company of other people. But, they don't necessarily need a spouse or partner to feel complete. Loners can usually blend into whatever social or cultural group they may encounter, make friends that often result in long lasting friendships and comfortably participate in the group's  activities.

Loners are seldom lonely because they know there are more interesting people around the next corner or over the next hill. They may not be the "life of the party," but they seek out individuals they most identify with and build relationships that may last for terms ranging from the particular event to a lifetime.

Loners are often misunderstood and even castigated for choosing to separate themselves from what the "majority" of a population consider a mainstream lifestyle. Loners may be nomadic or not. Loners may choose to live in traditional housing or housing that is outside the mainstream's frame of reference. Loners will often gravitate to more simple, natural settings, however, one can be a loner and find a place of solitude within a city or suburban setting.

In my opinion, loners can be just about anyone. However, I believe the common thread is that loners seek as much personal freedom to express their own way of living their life. Unfortunately, too many loners don't discover this until their lives are nearly over. Some may never discover it. Loners take full and complete responsibility for their own lives. While they may lead others in all kinds of endeavors, they are always accountable and seek their personal freedom and the ability to express it.


This is the end of the line. Losers, in my opinion, are those who simply do not fit into the other three descriptions. They have low self-esteem, choose to lean or live off others for their entire lives, have no ambition, fear failing so they try little or nothing, are never responsible for their past, present or future circumstances or actions and will do nothing to be responsible or accountable for themselves.

Their definition of freedom is finding ways to get everything, or as much as they can, free. Other names for losers are freeloaders, goldbricks, moochers and leeches. They live off the system (welfare), others like family and friends or on the streets looking for handouts. They have no initiative, no goals, no known exploitable gifts or talents or special knowledge or skills. Amazingly, any number of the people I just described are educated. They may have experienced a set back, chose to self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or some other addictive behavior and simply gave up. They expect someone else to assume responsibility for them.

Leaders, Leaners, Loners & Losers

So, to wrap this up, as stated earlier, during your life and my life, we have worn each of these labels. I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's just how life works. Leaders and Loners will figure it out and within a short period of time move out of the Leaner label or even recover from being a Loser. There are many stories of the Phoenix arising from the ashes.

I can only suggest if, through your own introspection, you find yourself wearing a Leaner or Loser label you take some time, look deep inside yourself and find out who is really in there. If you can't find anything but darkness, then you may be a lifetime Leaner or Loser. But, if there are sparks of light somewhere in there, seek them out, rip off the Leaner or Loser labels and join the legions of Leaders and Loners who await your metamorphosis.   

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How To Avoid Being Lonely And Embrace Being Alone

One of my father's favorite songs was "Have You Ever Been Lonely." It was written and first recorded in 1933. I don't know which of the many artists who recorded the song inspired my father. I always thought it was Hank Williams, but he never recorded it.

I remember, as a kid, when my father would play his guitar and sing that song. Some of the words were, "Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever been blue? Have you ever loved someone, just as I love you?" Another line in the song was very prophetic. "How can I go on living now that we're apart?"

As I've looked back over the years at my father's short life (died at 42 by his own hand) and my life, the words have some deeper meaning to me. My parents, like many married couples, had their problems. As a young man, just coming of age when my father died, I didn't know how lonely his existence was.

Also, I didn't know my mother was asking for a divorce and the prophetic line, "How can I go on living, now that we're apart?" would ring true. I cannot imagine how lonely he must have felt during those final days and moments.

Have You Ever Been Lonely?

I don't have any polls or scientific data to back up my thoughts. I feel reasonably safe in saying everyone must experience some periods of loneliness. We are social animals. We live in tribes, hamlets, villages, neighborhoods, towns and cities. We socialize through religious beliefs, schools, work, families, friends and neighbors. Probably the most powerful social bond is the monogamous mating pair.

Being lonely can be realized in a variety of ways from not having any friends, being ostracized at school or work and in some cultural structures by exile from the tribe, community or family.  Whatever the circumstance, it is a feeling of emptiness. Being lonely allows too much time to focus inward on feelings that one is not acceptable, loveable or worthy of being part of a group.

Whatever the cause may be, it can be overcome and, I'd go as far as saying it must be overcome. Every single person is a "designer original." There is not another person who has ever lived or among the seven plus billion on the Earth today who is like any other person.

The Joy Of Being Alone

There is another side of the picture. Again, I have no polls or scientific data, but it is my firm belief that every human NEEDS some alone time. Being lonely and being alone are very different. Lonely is a time of low self-esteem, low self-worth festering in one's mind because he or she may have been rejected or excluded from some relationship or grouping. Being alone is a positive time when one can focus on their own positive self-worth, dreams, goals, objectives and it raises self-esteem.

I have experienced a lot of very lonely times. It has even been when in the company of my former mate, family and various groupings. I experienced another kind of loneliness when my marriage crumbled and I was living on my own again after about 20 years. It was an emotionally painful time. I began to understand more about the action my father took at age 42 and the prophetic words of the song. I made mistake after mistake attempting to prove to myself that I was a desirable person. Typically, I chose the wrong people. This only caused more pain.

Finally, and there was no great flash of light or burning bush or revelation, I realized that the person I was missing in my life was . . . ME! That's right! I had, for so many years, bought into the idea that I needed someone to "complete me." But, each of us is a complete person. We can enhance someone else or someone else can enhance us, but we can neither complete or be completed externally.

Alone And Free At Last

That was the day my life changed. For those with deep Christian faiths, you might say you were "saved" or "born again." And that's exactly how I felt. There were no angelic choirs, flashes of lightning or any other paranormal manifestations. And, it wasn't instantaneous. It was a growing feeling of contentment and fulfillment and joy of just being ME. I became my own best friend. I accepted myself with all my flaws and inadequacies as well as my gifts and talents. I'm not perfect, I'm just the perfect me.

I also decided to adopt an - what you see is what you get, attitude. You don't have to like me or live with me. I like me just fine and I'm the only one who has to live with me. 

I became aware of all the gifts I'd received over my lifetime. I found  being free allowed me open ended options of becoming very close to certain people and not as close to others. I gave up being judgmental.

While no person is an island unto himself or herself, each of us has to be self-reliant and not co-dependent. Enjoying a relationship with another human being is one of the great gifts and joys of life. Becoming co-dependent on anyone else is giving away one's personal freedom. The three most valuable gifts we receive at birth are life, time and personal freedom.

If you're lonely, and I know some of you are, then begin seeking your best friend inside yourself. Accept yourself and your unique gifts and talents. Explore your gifts and talents. Little by little you'll find you'll begin attracting other people to you, who, like you, are on a similar journey. Let the joy of being alone begin. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Grades Just Don't Matter All That Much!

An old high school friend forwarded a YouTube video to me a little while ago. The title of the YouTube video was "Ten Minutes of Wisdom." Well, I'm right in the middle of a bunch of little detail stuff, plus composing another article to post, so I didn't think I'd take the time to watch the video right then. But . . .  I was curious and so I clicked on the link.

It was a presentation by a speaker at a college in Abilene, Texas. Frankly, I'm very glad I stopped and took the time to watch it. And, I'm giving you the link to watch it, too. The Link

This was an opening address to students at Abilene Christian University. Now, if you're not a religiously oriented person, don't let that stop you from listening to what this guy has to say, because he really hits a home run in my book. I think this should be required viewing at the beginning and end of every school year from the beginning of high school through college, graduate school and any other formal education or training.

One of his points about the formal learning process is that "grades" just don't matter all that much. The speaker had earned two degrees from this university and as he put it, he never got a B and graduated in the top of his classes. But, the only person in his entire life that cared about his  GPA was his mother. No one else cared.

I've often said the same thing about my two degrees, a bachelor degree and a master degree. In both cases, no one - and I mean NO ONE - has ever asked about my degrees, cared what fields they were in or what my GPA was.  No one cared that I was inducted into the honor fraternity for my undergraduate major. Did the education matter? Yes! It mattered to me because it helped prepare me for the future life I would lead.

But, did you notice I said that it "helped prepare me for the future" life I would lead. It didn't fully prepare me (or even close to prepare me) for what I would face in my life. The speaker made that point, too. Another point he made was when we graduate the best of our life is ahead of us. But, the worst of our life is also ahead of us. Believe me, this guy really imparted some vitally important life lessons during the ten minutes.

I relate to everything he said. I don't honestly remember one lecture from my 5+ years of higher education (let alone any from high school). I don't recall any of the papers I wrote - save one that I turned in to complete my masters degree - because it was actually a business plan that I prepared for a group of venture capitalists I was hoping to have back my business idea at age 24. What I do remember are specific teachers, professors and classmates who impacted and inspired me and I carry that with me to this day.

I also remember two important points that an English prof. imparted in about 1 minute in the very first class of my first semester of my freshman year in college. I've never forgotten those two points and they became the cornerstone of what I wanted my son to learn to carry him through his life. Here are those two points --

1. Learn to Think Critically

2. Learn to Burn the Candle at Both Ends (I interpreted that to mean learn to be a Survivor - do whatever it takes to survive)

That's what I wanted my son to enter his adult world with. I wanted him to be able to think critically and to be able to survive. He did and I feel I accomplished my objective in making him a productive, capable, competent member of society. He is, without question in my mind, my single greatest accomplishment.

Grades, smades - deal with them whether in school or career, but don't allow them to control your life. Learn to think critically, be a survivor and live and enjoy life to the fullest. When you reach the end of your journey, like everyone will, all your grades, all your awards, all your money, houses, cars, etc. won't really count for much of anything.

People will remember you for how you lived your life as a parent, sibling, friend and, possibly, as a colleague. What you'll remember are your memories. Listen to what this guy says as he sat at the bedside of numerous dying people. I hope it inspires you to live your life joyfully, not work your life toilfully.