To the Younglings, Episode I
Lead, you must.
I finally got around to watching the last episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan is on his way to Tessen with a 10-year-old Princess Leia and some of the Rebellion. Darth Vader and the Empire are hot on their trail. Firing round after round at the tiny rebel craft— the motivator is shot, and the shields are failing. Obi-Wan asks Roken how much time he needs to make the repairs. He reply’s, “More than we have.” Obi-Wan turns to see Leia letting a young boy play with her droid. She walks over, holding her droid; she explains, “He was scared; she keeps their minds off of it.” To which Obi-Wan replies, “Maybe I should borrow her too.” Leia’s face of confidence turns to worry as she sees fear in the man she is following. In the next scene, we see them; Obi-Wan explains the new plan to Leia, Roken, and the rest of the rebellion. He is going to take an escape craft and lead Vader away from them. They’re upset; they need him. Looking at them, he says, “You are all the future.” He turns to Leia, “You are the future. You’re what needs to survive.”
The fear Obi-Wan has is not that he won’t survive but that he will fail to protect the people he is leading and therefore fail to preserve the future. Leadership is a responsibility not to be taken lightly; it’s filled with tough choices that not everyone is equipped to handle. Obi-Wan sees Princess Leia’s leadership ability and decides it’s best to protect her than himself. Leadership is successful when it is passed to the next generation. That got me thinking.
Over the past year or so, I have met a lot of younger people who have distributed great leadership skills. I’ve talked with them at coffee shops, read their substacks, and had lunch with them on their college campus. So many thoughtful, engaging individuals out there I thought it might be nice if I shared what I have learned in my 37 years about what it takes to be a leader. You might be doing some of these, and some may be new.
If I had to start over, this is the path I would give myself.
Step One: build yourself.
Read. Reading is the best way to digest complex thoughts. It teaches one to think of others and reflect on others. It teaches one to be patient. When one reads the past, they have opened up a world of knowledge for themselves, and it puts them one step ahead of everyone else. To read is to be prepared. Always do your homework.
Write. When one digests a lot of information, it needs an outlet. Writing is the outlet best suited to relieving an overflowing mind and/or heart. Writing helps one reflect on themselves and what they’ve learned, whether it's poetry or prose.
Think. Take time just to think. Don’t write. Only thinking. Let your mind run wild for 20-30 minutes a day. Challenge and debate with yourself. Humans are naturally competitive; learn to compete with yourself instead of others.
Perform. Performing allows others to reflect on what you have to say. Performing helps craft a voice that can be heard. Find an open mic or spoken work night and read a story, share a poem, or just riff.
Step Two: build relationships.
Get married. Marriage teaches communication and compromise. One learns how to adapt ourselves to other’s lives. A strong partner will challenge and support. A strong partner can provide reflection from our blind spots.
Have kids. Raising children allows us to see human behavior in its purest form. Children provide the best reflection of our own behavior. Children help us understand others and ourselves better.
Talk to the people who serve you and your family. We live in a service world. When we go out to eat, we are served food. When we take the family van to the auto shop, they serve our car. When we take our kids to the pediatrician, they serve our family. Talk to these people, show them respect, and build relationships with them. Learn from them and teach your children to learn from them. Make friends with them.
Step Three: build a community.
Talk to strangers. People are yearning for communication. They want to be heard. You’ll be surprised by what you can learn when talking with people who have varying different perspectives. Find them where you are. Make friends with them. If you want to build a community, you need to understand it and be part of it.
Write a substack. This is the easiest way to share what you’ve learned with the community you want to lead. Share yourself and your ideas, and let those who read decide for themselves. Encourage others to write back.
Serve. Volunteer at your kid’s school, at your church, or at a community center. Serving is leadership through action. It is leading by example. If you serve, others will serve.
Each step is the same process repeated into a different moment of life. Prepare. Reflect. Communicate. Act. It’s important to remember steps one and three are fluid. These steps cannot be completed or checked off if you are leading. They are continuous, and depending on the size of the community you’re looking to lead will depend on how much reading and writing you will need to do.
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