Lead Yourself First

Everything we do displays our own values, sends a message to others, and sets an example. We have a responsibility to take an active role in society by leading by example. The only way to become a leader is to lead yourself first—and if you’re doing something that others find valuable or interesting, some may follow.

Leadership also means personal responsibility. We are all responsible for our own actions, and we must resist the temptation so pervasive and so encouraged by our culture, to divest responsibility to an anonymous “they,” to parents, genetics, circumstances, or to some substance. Certainly, there are some—many!—things beyond our control, but our own behavior is not one of those things.

In my case, I resisted for years the truth that I was responsible for how hopeless and lonely I felt and for how lost and depressed I was. Certainly, my parents, my friends, teachers, peers and others all could have done more, or otherwise, but regardless of anyone else’s intentions, only you can act on you own behalf.

I wished and wished for someone else to do something, to take control, to take care of me, to help me and fix me. I was so lonely and sad, and my only thought was that anything I did, or thought of doing, I would have to do alone, and my tragic loneliness was enough for me to justify not doing anything. It seemed less lonely to do nothing, and therefore continue to exist as I was, rather than do something alone, that might change my situation.

I had to muster the courage and the will to move myself off my rock, to start to see some other possibility. In the depth of my drinking and depression, although I could not see any possibility of a different life, I did finally want to change so desperately that I was willing to work on making change possible. On doing something, even if I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, or what what it might result in.

While it’s true that only I could act for myself, and as I’ve written, “Nobody Asked Me“, but I did have some help. Some friends, and some therapists and coaches helped quite a lot. And so, while I did have to choose to act, I didn’t have to act alone. You are not alone. Nobody could change me, but I could and did enlist others to work with me. Finding teachers is a practice like anything else. Now I seek peers, guides, mentors, teachers and coaches whenever I have the opportunity, and I love working with others. Most of us are much more creative in collaboration.