What inspires leaders? True north

Note: The following short essay was originally posted in a Linkedin discussion: What inspires leaders?  I was asked the following question.  Some minor edits have been to this version.
August 6, 2012
True north

Ted Burnett
Hi Ted, So, what is your true North?

The short answer, but a radioactive one is “God”. I’m speaking in the spiritual sense, not in the religious. Everyone has their own concept of God, our Creator, a Higher Power… or worse one has been given a concept of God in religious terms. The founding document of the United States isn’t the Constitution, but instead it’s the Declaration of Independence.

I think most politicians, pundits and even scholars have forgotten that this document gave us our argument for independence from England. It also gave us a vision of equality among men and a purpose for living each day…”Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These qualities are matters of the human spirit. We’ve forgotten them.

Money, power and fame are matters of the ego. Our institutions are concerned more with these values. I may never become rich, famous or powerful, but I do have control over whether I live a free and happy life on a daily basis. Our materialistic and shallow society has stripped most of us of our power, only one’s buying power remains for the economy’s sake, not for ours. Oh, yea we get to vote every two years, for democratic theater.

I don’t believe Thomas Jefferson’s ideals for America are reflected in how our institutions operate, their unquestionable place at the top of our society, how they repeatedly tell us what to think and how to live. Their values, not our individual values are driving our dysfunctional society.

It’s no wonder that “drug” addiction runs rampant in the U.S. We’re drunk, we’re high, we’re fat, we’re gamblers, we’re materialistic, we’re nymphomaniacs, we’re religious and we’re overworked. We’re unhappy and an enslaved lot. It’s no surprise that 60% of U.S. workers, either, dislike or hate their jobs, according to a recent survey.

It’s all very troubling and it tells me that America’s crisis runs much deeper than a stalled economy or a jobs problem. We’re bankrupt in every conceivable way. I grew up on the water, the Gulf of Mexico, and I obtained a bachelor’s degree in forestry. If you’re going to set sail in the open seas, walk through the forest or walk through life you have to be properly oriented. You have to know your directions of N, S, E and W before setting a course. You need a compass.

Our God-given instincts are our internal compass. It tells us how to sail through life, how to solve a problem, if we will simply stop to listen and have the courage to follow through with what this voice is telling us to do. Following this compass can be scary business, but it’s the straightest line through life and leads to emotional and spiritual growth, quicker. It forces the truth to the surface in every situation. If practiced repeatedly and enough times it, ultimately, leads to wisdom.

Too often most of us ignore this little voice for the voice of a parent, a spouse, a preacher, a friend, an employer… We ignore our compass instead trusting the guidance of an authority figure’s word or someone else’s. We defer responsibility for our own life, for our problems by acting on the advice of others or we choose to take no action at all and simply ignore the growing problem. This results in the problem negatively impacting one’s spirituality (harmony), integrity, dignity, sanity, finances, freedom and/or happiness.

In life, there are many great perils as there are on the water and in the forest. Only the lovers of the truth will subject themselves to life’s storms and its many cruelties, heartaches, insults while continuing to “tack” back and forth along the line of True north (0 degrees). It’s a constant struggle for all involved.

In knowing the truth, in speaking one’s personal truth does one finally set himself free. Happiness is a byproduct of personal freedom, it’s an emotion that comes over us. Freedom has to be maintained daily or else our happiness is lost. We can have all the money, power and fame in the world and yet be miserable. 

Copyright © 2012. All Rights Reserved. “True north” by Ted Burnett.
My other essays can be viewed at my blog – http://www.toxicnation.blogspot.com/. I can be contacted via email at – tebjr1@yahoo.com. My biography can be viewed at http://www.tedburnett.com.

I'm an American thought leader and pioneer on the subjects of human, organizational and societal development and health. I write about the role that integrity, dignity, sanity play, as well as, on the topics of spirituality, faith, freedom, happiness, problem solving and risk taking. I produce and deliver original, world-class commentaries on business, political, social and spiritual matters to a global audience of world leaders, chief executives and key decision makers, top faculty and notables in the fields of academia, banking, business, foundations, government (including heads of state, lawmakers and governors), healthcare, media, non-profits and policy institutes. Website: www.thesageofmobile.com