There is something I don’t share that often, but I would like to share it now. Sometimes I feel very, very anxious. There is something very human in me that tells me I can’t share my ideas, that I should not speak in public and that my dreams and goals are futile. And yet, I choose to make my living as a motivational speaker.
This anxious voice is not who I am, it’s not what I stand for, and it’s not even my enemy. It’s simply a voice that sometimes pretends to be me. When this voice gets an audience, I tend to want to give up and sink down into anonymity.
I am not that voice, nor are you.
At a logical level, the pessimistic, cynical world view that encourages hopelessness seems completely rational. You may want to read Mark Manson’s book, Everything is F*cked, to get a take on the darker narrative. Or you could listen to the late, great comedian George Carlin, if you want to have a laugh with a rational cynic. You might grab a copy of Steve Salerno’s book, SHAM, which unpacks the BS in the self help and personal development industry. Through these, and many other sources, you will see that the voice is not unfounded, the voice is quite rational. I like a lot of what all these people and the voice in my head say. I like how they throw rocks at the social and institutional Goliaths. The problem for me is that I simply don’t believe the premise that all is lost. It’s a bit too nihilistic for me, and that little anxious child in me is not actually me. Indeed, we are rarely the voice in our heads. To put it ontologically, we are not our thoughts. This may seem ironic again as it comes from the person who founded Thought Leaders and wrote the book, Think. But this article explores an idea that is trans-rational—the idea of hope!
Hope is an idea that goes beyond logic. That’s the danger of it, of course. It is often outside of, or beyond, reason. Sometimes it is unreasonable to have hope. I think that’s the point of this article. It is unreasonable to believe, to hope, to dream and to rise up against the status quo but that’s no reason not to do so. They might impeach Trump in the House because it’s right, regardless of whether the Senate can or will do anything about it.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
All through my life I have found the giving and receiving of messages of hope to be symbolic of moments of great personal and collective transformation. The courage to stay the path when everything around you suggests otherwise can have a super-charging effect.
Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Nun, has recently written a book called The Time is Now (A Call to Uncommon Courage) and her message is clear. Rise up. Stand up. Take action now, no matter if the odds are against you.
I know that pessimists are generally more accurate than optimists but I don’t care. Despite the deep anxiety I might feel or the evidence stacked against a project or cause, I choose to live in hope… and it’s for this reason that I am writing this today.
A few years ago, I published a book titled Amplifiers, which was designed to help leaders understand how to become hope merchants. You can grab a complimentary digital copy here. Amplifiers is a ‘how to’ manual, while this article is a ‘why to’ manifesto.
This article focuses on the idea of hope and optimism, less as a learned behavior—as posited by Martin Seligman (check out Learned Optimism)—and more as a courageous choice. Not as an either-or proposition, but rather as an and-also one.
It starts with a decision to spread hope and optimism.
If this resonates with you at some level, then it’s time.
Time for what? you may well ask.
The truth is that you already know what I mean.
If you stop and hear these words, feel these words, you could fill in the rest of the sentence yourself. You could tell me exactly what it’s time for, couldn’t you? If I looked you in the eyes and gently yet insistently said, ‘It’s time’, what would your answer be, how would you finish that sentence?
It’s time for [insert your big idea].
Your answer to the question ‘what do you decide it’s time for?’ is how you get to experience the rest of your life. This question is an inflection point, a moment of truth—this moment right here is you being a leader. First, answer the question then begin to lead your life in the direction of your answer. After this, you will start to lead the rest of us, knowing that some will follow, and some won’t. So what! Rise up.
So, what is it that you decide to stand for? To paraphrase Dr King, ‘Show me a [wo]man who doesn’t stand for something, and I’ll show you one who will fall for anything.’ So, what positive, hopeful idea do you choose to rise up for?
What is it time for you to do? What do you choose to lead? I choose to lead this precise moment; this privileged moment where leaders rise up. I choose to encourage you in this moment right now. I choose to witness the moment that you step into leadership.
It’s time for you to put down what you are not and completely own the impact that you have on others. Remember that your past does not equal your future. The future is never real. It is only what we imagine it to be.
Rise up, right now, and lead.
Time for you to lead.
Time for you to help us be our best.
Time for you to be your best.
Time to put down the stories you tell yourself about why you can’t.
Time to stop telling others they can’t.
This is the time for that small but powerful feeling—hope—to take charge.
It’s time for you to:
Stop playing small.
Stop hurting yourself and others.
Open your mind to new ideas and open your heart to people who are not like you.
This is not about learning something new. True leadership is not a capability, it’s a state of mind. It is a moment of deep conviction where you step into a new reality.
It is time you led us.
Rise up, right now and lead us.
Remove our fear and replace it with confidence.
Replace our confusion with clarity and mobilise us all in pursuit of a better future.
Right now, in this moment you get to choose to lead, to serve, to love, to inspire and to teach.
You don’t need a course to be a leader.
You don’t need a promotion to be a leader.
You don’t need a team to be a leader.
You simply need to decide to be a leader.
Then you need to be a leader.
The rest, what follows now, on the other side of that decision is admin; what follows now is a life of service to others, a life of more love, more kindness, more joy and more compassion.
Leadership is a choice.