Ever since my hometown was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy last week, it’s been a huge change of living standards for me. I’ve had hardly any phone or internet access and haven’t had any power all week. My dog Victor broke his leg running around the backyard and my wife’s car got swamped by four feet of water. At this point I don’t even remember what it’s like to wash my face with warm water!
It’s not my proudest moment, but it all got to me and I broke me down yesterday. Having all of this hit at once, it took me over. I let my circumstances define me. But if there’s one thing we can learn from a disaster like this storm, it’s that there are times in your life when you have to break down to build yourself back up again- and stronger.
Yesterday was one of those moments when I had to surrender. I can hardly control anything about my life right now. I just had to release and let go of that desire for control. It was a very humbling experience to let go. When you think that you’re in control and that you’re invincible, that’s the beginning of the end. It goes back to this: the moment you think you’ve arrived, that’s when the ground will rise up and smite you.
When you surrender, your circumstances no longer have control of you. I was pissed off that nothing was working for me, but it made me realize that I was attached to things working a certain way. I was spoiled and entitled. I was used to conveniences. And when you expect those conveniences to always be there, you’ve set yourself up for a bruising.
It’s getting very cold in my house. Last night, at about 2 AM, I’m up working and eating a pot of soup from my gas stove. I’m covered in blankets. And that’s when I realized: it could be so much worse. I could have lost everything I had. Looking at yesterday’s paper and seeing pictures of people walking in knee-deep water with their houses completely destroyed, it hit me. Normally, I admit that I don’t have much empathy for seeing something like that happen to someone. It would always feel like it happened somewhere else. Now, it’s happened right here where I live. And I don’t live in a hurricane zone or a place you’d ever expect to see a weather-related disaster like this.
The last 24 hours was a massive wake up call for me. I ate a huge helping of humble pie, and I can promise you from here on that I won’t be complaining about my own situation any time soon.
There are 40,000 homeless people in New York alone. I’ve got friends who have several feet of water in their houses right now and all of their possessions – everything they’ve ever owned – has been destroyed. They’ll have to deal with this cleanup for months. What a crybaby I am if I’m complaining about my situation compared to that! It’s a HUGE wake up call for me.
Today, we decide the next leader of the United States in the presidential election. What does leadership mean? To me, leadership means that you take responsibility for your own crap. And you also have the balls to take responsibility for other people’s crap. A leader is willing to take responsibility for more than themselves.
I’m not normally one to talk about politics. But on that topic, I don’t feel it’s leadership if someone feeds you a line of BS just to get your vote. A real leader takes responsibility for a mission in the face of fear – not only for themselves, but for the people around them. Leaders help people out of their problems and speak from places of personal power, because true leadership comes from experience. You cannot lead a movement into something that you don’t have personal attachment or experience in. And there are so many talking heads out there that say whatever they have to say to get votes or dollars. True leaders who lead with humility are very few and far between. (If you’re a U.S. citizen, I encourage you to get out and vote today.)
It doesn’t take a college degree or MBA to be a leader. It’s a byproduct of the actions you take. Whether that’s belief in your own convictions or belief that you deserve more, the moment you take action on that belief before there’s evidence of any results is the moment you start to blaze your own trail. And other people who want that same result will take notice and follow you. And your intention shouldn’t be to have followers in taking that action, but to create something you believe in. That will be something that other people who have that belief can follow.
Here’s my challenge to you (and myself) today. In times of crisis like this, there are so many vacuums for leadership right now it’s scary. In this time of absence of leadership, people are looking for someone to believe. Everyone has a solution. But few of them are truly leading by example. Today, find a way to put out into the world what you truly believe in. Put it on your blog or social media pages. Figure out who the hell you are and stop falling for the next “guru”. You don’t need ANYTHING outside of what you already have inside of you. Do what’s inside you that you know you need to do to be your best self. Forget the laundry list of circumstances that are already jumping in your way to stop you: “I can’t do that because I don’t have power. I can’t do it because I have to take kids to day care. I can’t do it because ________.” Don’t fill in the blank, and there won’t be anything stopping you!
Become the leader of you. You must be able to lead yourself before you can lead others. Follow the core principles, thoughts, and purpose-driven actions of YOU. Yeah, you’ll get dealt a shitty hand sometimes in life, like we did with Hurricane Sandy here in Jersey. But don’t you dare stay in that victim space for one moment longer than you have to. Those circumstances will control you until you DECIDE that they don’t anymore. That’s when you let go and free yourself of them. And that’s how you learn to lead yourself.
Jay Kubassek’s WAKE UP CALL radio show is on Blog Talk Radio every Tuesday at 10:30 am ET (GMT – 5). Join the thousands of entrepreneurs around the world who are waking up to their possibilities every week! Catch this week’s call right here.