Following Leaders

“In a certain sense, whether the road leads or we follow, it makes no difference. The important thing is to be on the road.”

Edward L. Shaughnessy, Confucian & Taoist Wisdom

I wrote for a while on this site, basically as the archetypal literature character, the reluctant leader. I had people call me a leader and I denied it. I had people tell me I couldn’t deny it. And still I denied it. As more people started reading and reacting to what I wrote, I began to understand. Whether I wanted it or not, I am a leader.

It puts some pressure on me. It gives me an ideal that I want to live up to. In a good way.

Recently, people have been emailing me, telling me I’m a savior, and a hero, and a lot of other nice, but really overstated things. Things that really should not be associated with me.

I observe a lot. I’ve been through some things. I think a lot. I have the ability to put words together on paper. I am a good guy at heart. I try to bring out positive things in others. That is really all. The word hero and savior make me uncomfortable.

What if one day, I do something really dumb? Something so unbelievably against my character as you know it? Something that goes against who I attempt to be? I emphasize the word ATTEMPT. What if one day I get arrested? Or what if I do something really wrong? Like morally wrong. What then?

I’m not that far away from any of that. We’re all one bad decision and bad timing away from catastrophe. And I struggle…with a bunch of things. What if one day one of those struggles took me down the wrong path?

I write this, to remind you to be mindful of the leaders in your life. And to remind you to not blindly follow anyone. You don’t know the real person underneath the image they portray. You don’t want follow the devil where he’s going. No matter how sweet or moving his words.

While I am not the devil…I’m as human as they get. With all my flaws, I am overwhelmingly human. Know that if you are following others, that they are human too. Leaders are not always right. They are definitely not perfect. They don’t know everything. They have flaws. A lot of flaws. Use your own mind and challenge them whenever you feel they should be challenged.

After reading the Shaughnessy quote above, I realized whether I am leading or following, who cares? As long as I’m doing the right things, and on the right path…nothing else matters.

We are on the right path…here…together. I am doing both, leading and following. You may not realize it, but you probably are too.

I humbly ask you not to follow me, but follow the Way. I am not worthy of your following. The Way is worthy. You can follow the Way through me. Or follow how I interpret the Way. But use your mind and think about the Way for yourself.

Use this mentality with respect to anyone leading you in your life.

Then, when one of your leaders falls, stops, or stumbles, you will continue on, unscathed. Because you are not just following. You are leading your own journey, carving out your own Way.