“I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.” Everett Dirksen
Whether you voted for him or not, one could argue that Barack Obama is the most powerful social leader in a looong time. What’s so interesting is that he’s not a rock star or an evangelist or an athlete….but a President. In my lifetime (since 1973) the “President” has hardly been anything close to inspiring. Maybe charismatic or intelligent at a high point…and morally inept or evil at a low point. But a President who’s oration leads people to such a charged emotional state?! Millions of people look forward to Obama’s speeches like I looked forward to a Grateful Dead concert or an NBA Finals showdown.
And I fear that not long after Obama’s inauguration, it will all come crashing down…the inspiration, the lofty visions, the resonance. It won’t be long before some of Obama’s initiatives stall, before his critics pounce, before the media picks at his weaknesses. Two years from now, will anyone still hold him on the pedestal he will so proudly command on Inauguration Day? Who knows. But for right now, putting politics aside, one thing is certain: Obama is a very powerful man. And whether or not you embrace his message, there’s much to be learned from his ascent.
Following are three things I learned from the recent presidential campaign which I believe can be valuable life lessons to anyone seeking power, influence, and success.
1. Own up to controversy
“Let your soul be your bookie.” -Sting
When the racially charged remarks of Reverend Jeremiah Wright severely threatened his campaign, Obama hunkered down and gave a powerful speech on race relations. Following is an excerpt:
- “The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.”
His closest advisers told him not to address the situation. But Obama gambled feeling that after the speech, the controversy would either subside; or he would not become President. It was a lesson teaching that in the midst of controversy, don’t back down. Rather stand stronger with your best foot forward. *
2. Feelings are more powerful than thoughts
“The feeling is often the deeper truth, the opinion the more superficial one.” Augustus William Hare
Scientific research shows that people are much more likely to respond to powerful emotions than they are to brilliant thoughts. No matter one’s politics, it can’t be denied that Obama’s message and speeches have captivated millions. The “Yes We Can” mantra, despite it’s elementary verbiage, sparks a primal sense of self-empowerment. The infectious nature of positive emotion made all the difference on election day. **
It’s a valuable lesson I often share in my yoga classes: to come from a place of feeling rather than thinking. When you come from a peaceful and relaxed feeling, you significantly amplify your power to connect and influence others. But when you are stuck in your mind and grinding out the day, you diminish your impact. After all, who wants to be around the person who’s jagged vibration causes them stress, stress, and more stress. Joseph Campbell said, “Life is not about the meaning. It’s about the feeling.”
3. Enjoy Life
In the past, we looked for a leader who could fight wars, debate politics, and boost the economy. And all those thing are of absolute and vital importance. But on par with those strengths is a new requirement for a leader based on the information overload inherent to the modern day: the ability to emanate joy, relaxation, and spiritual wealth.
Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, recently published “A Letter to Barack Obama.” Following is an excerpt:
- “A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.
- Caress Me Down Sublime
- On Call Kings Of Leon
- Bargain The Who
- Before This Time Ollabelle
- Castles Made of Sand The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- If Not for You (Alternate Take) Bob Dylan
- My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) Neil Young
- I’m In an Awful Mood The Smokin’ Joe Kubek Band
- Over the Hills and Far Away Led Zeppelin
- Raining in Baltimore Counting Crows
- Sideways Citizen Cope
- Fuel for Fire M. Ward
- Om Mani Padme Hum Wah