autonomous: 1.) having the right or power of self-government (Merriam-Webster dictionary, online, February 28, 2022)
synonymous: 1.) …alike I meaning or significance, 2.) having the same connotations, implications, or reference. (Merriam-Webster dictionary, online, February 28, 2022)
What does this mean??
You might be wondering what the heck this means regarding man’s dignity. I was as well when the idea woke me up during the night.
When I thought about it, it made sense. A lot of sense.
Think about society today…
We have an entire society who looks up to their favorite expert, motivational speaker, athlete or movie star. Each has their own reasoning behind it, but all of them have no idea who they, themselves, really are. They haven’t either the time or taken the time to figure that part out. They see what they perceive is their idea of perfection in another human being, then try to imitate them.
How many middle aged women dress like young teenagers? How many young men try to be as ripped as a popular athlete? How many people follow verbatim the methods presented to them by their business coaches when trying to get promotions?
Do any of them work? Do they look, act, gain the same great strides as those they admire?
And how many of those idols have fallen?
To follow someone who is admired is one thing. To try to imitate them is another.
When someone copies someone else, the methodology of the admired person often doesn’t align with the individual trying to imitate them. Their body is shaped or operates differently. Their processing of information or how they approach a problem isn’t the same. They aren’t as young as they think they are. The expert isn’t as perfect as advertised.
To try to become “synonymous” with another human being is to ignore the real person locked inside themselves. They become clones of something they think is what they want to achieve. But it rarely works.
When I started by first two businesses many years ago, I read up on how to get great leads. You are supposed to do a ton of cold calls; give the “elevator speech” (tell someone in less than a minute what you do and why you are different than a competitor); buy all the right office, computer equipment, and software; set up your office; send out flyers and advertising (no internet back then); do good work; eventually word of mouth. And people will come to you for their work.
Awesome! I was sold! On a dream. Someone else’s dream.
I ended up with about three great clients. It seemed like I could really do something!
I even got someone I thought would be a good employee, since I had a great lead with an engineering firm.
The “employee” turned out to be an alcoholic and did such bad work that I lost the work. I was mortified!
And they rightfully fired me.
Then one client folded. Another left the state. And the last one disappeared.
That was the first company.
The second attempt, I contracted out my computer skills to local architectural and engineering firms. I’d learned better how to do the job right by then.
Another client was a publishing firm. They supplied the equipment and software. I wasn’t familiar with the Apple computer at that time. But the owner was really nice, believing in my abilities, and encouraged me to learn a new skillset. And I did.
All was right with the world!
But, for financial and personal reasons, I had to return to a corporate setting. The income from my business never gained traction no matter how hard I tried. But the skills I’d acquired helped me to get into an advertising department which, had I stayed the course with only what I originally knew, would not have happened.
I learned that who I was and what I was didn’t align with everyone else’s expectations of building a business. Their methods never worked for me. But I didn’t understand that at the time.
Plus, I needed to grow in different ways that I couldn’t do on my own. I’d grown as far as I could on the technical side. Now it was time to learn other skills from people better than myself.
I’m not designed to be like everyone else and deep inside I knew that. Working in a setting that never felt comfortable wasn’t working. But I didn’t know why.
One day, decades of frustration later, a department manager offered everyone a book to read titled “Clifton Strength Finders 2.0”.
I took the online test. It was unlike any I’d taken before (all the other tests I’d done, like Meyer Briggs, and etc.), I realized that this information showed me the core of who I was. It didn’t cater to a skillset that would land me a job.
I was excited. For the first time, I found a means to find out why I never seemed to fit in to anyone else’s view of who I was or what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
And I was the only one in my department who took it further.
Finding out a coach in the field, I signed up. Months later, I learned who I was.
Then, the light clicked on.
I wasn’t meant to be someone else. My mind didn’t process information in the same way. And for the first time in my life, I was okay with that.
When I realized that my differences were what made me unique, the world opened up. What I had been doing with my life became uncomfortable and frustrating. The work I was pursuing wasn’t my dream…it was society’s dream.
Success had been defined as “having a good paying job”; “climbing the corporate or business ladder”; making loads of money; changing who I was so I’d “fit in” to the corporate model of the “perfect employee”; having a job – something I have always hated hearing.
Suddenly, the burden of being what I wasn’t was lifted.
And I never took it up again.
So what does this all mean?
It means that most people go through life living like someone else or living someone else’s dreams. They take up the characteristics, beliefs, approaches, body language and dress, cues, and suggestions of those outside themselves. They never listen to the quite voice deep inside.
They don’t want to “rock the boat” with those around them, so they communicate in a style that wasn’t suitable with who they are. They try to be just like everyone else so they fit in. They choose to believe people who are considered authorities because everyone else does.
These people do not think for themselves. They do not govern themselves according to their own standards.
They are not autonomous. They have become synonymous with those with whom they surround themselves.
So what does autonomous look like?
To see autonomy in action, we need look no further than history. We will find those who bucked the system, who stood out from the crowd. They were not the followers.
And leaving out the dictators and those who betrayed the rights of every human being under them, these were the true leaders.
The environment they created around themselves was uplifting, inspiring, not toxic, not demanding, and gained recognition for the gifts they had. Others wanted to be around them and would follow them to the ends of the earth if need be.
These people came in all sorts of forms, shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds. They weren’t afraid to be themselves. They were humble about their successes, and were great teachers , showing others that it is okay to follow their own unique dreams and amibitions.
Their approaches were unique. They didn’t force their way to the top. And they didn’t ask or promote anything they, themselves, weren’t willing to undergo. They knew their limitations.
These leaders weren’t afraid to admit their mistakes, and they displayed a great deal of resilience in times of difficulties.
Rising above what was seen as a societal limitation was not uncommon. These leaders wouldn’t bow to the whim of what anyone else thought. They went their own path unabated.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Pope John Paul II, Warren Buffett, Albert Einstein…the list goes on.
Characteristics of leadership…
A leader isn’t necessarily someone who is famous. You probably know a few people you’ve encountered in your lifetime who are quiet and shy, but are very confident in themselves. They don’t try to be someone else.
They may be the computer geek in the corner who loves doing his job and enjoys sharing with others. It might be the guy who takes care of the septic tank or is in charge of the county dump, and just loves to interact with others. It could be the teenager who is behind the counter at the local fast food.
The one thing they all have in common is that they know themselves. They have goals and dreams. And they haven’t let anyone else tell them what they need to be or do in their lives.
They threaten those who are in leadership roles because they aren’t afraid to be who they are.
Others admire them and tend to gravitate toward them. Even if these individuals aren’t in business-defined “leadership” positions, these men and women lead by their example.
And that example speaks volumes.
What they have in common…
They aren’t swayed by the latest fads or ideas. They think for themselves. And they seek out new ways, constantly, to improve on the gifts they possess.They know they aren’t perfect, so they always are willing to learn to strengthen what areas in which they are weak, from those who are better than themselves.
But most importantly, they don’t follow the crowds.
These quiet leaders question the information given to them and make up their own minds. To take the word of self-proclaimed or society-deemed experts without eschewing the information these experts spew out is not going happen with them.
By knowing themselves, then know that no one is infallible. So they don’t follow without understanding what the position or cause is.
These real leaders are self-governed. That means that they have a set of boundaries and beliefs inside themselves that are far more important to them than what everyone thinks. They rule themselves by those, and are very little swayed by others opinions.
Peace is something they exude. They are comfortable with who they are. And their mission is sure.
Somewhere I heard about something called “stewardship discipleship”. It means that in order to follow something, one must also be willing to give something away. And vice versa.
If you are wealthy, then you must give generously. If you give generously, you must have enough to give away. Being a servant is also to be a leader. Being a leader also means you must be willing to serve.
People are drawn to leaders who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They instinctively despise those live in ivory towers, claiming to be for the people, but won’t lift a finger to live or work among them.
Inspired by this concept, I created a plaque that sat at my desk for many years. I doubt anyone ever saw it, but it stated my mission, my goals:
In my last few years working corporate, I abided by these principles. I made it my purpose to share, to guide, and to give to those who wanted to learn. That it wasn’t always accepted wasn’t my problem. And it didn’t really matter what anyone else thought.
What mattered was only what was within my circle of influence…nothing more.
It still is.
Perfection wasn’t my forté. I made a lot of mistakes. I still do.
But to be perfect wasn’t my goal. To give and share knowledge was my goal.
And share I did.
Learn who you are. Find ways to uncover the valuable gifts you bring to the table. Use tools like the Clifton Strengths Finder 2.0.
Then give it all away.
It will return to you in ways you never dreamed.
Follow your dreams, your passion.
Be autonomous. Be individual. Be yourself.