Learn by leading

We're raised in a society where much is institutionalized (e.g jobs, educational system, etc.). The sheer existence of these institutions stands as a signal for us to follow a certain path and the mass following of that path reinforces the legitimacy and presence of these systems. And while systems are necessary for the development of a mature society, they encourage somewhat of a lemur mentality: the idea that you just follow the guy ahead of you. The result is an ass-view of the world and a society void of strong, present leadership that seeks to innovate. A civilization of people unwilling to raise their hand, stand accountable and create.

All my life I participated in extracurricular activities: SALE (extra schooling while in 4th and 5th grade, complete with added projects for "advanced children"), student government, sports, theater, etc.  The benefit of these programs, particularly SALE, was that they trained you to balance large work loads, be artistic and differentiate yourself.

Although the metrics don't quite convert to the real world (A's don't equal a certain income level or peace of mind), it taught me to be creative, productive and resourceful while living up to and beyond a certain level of quality. But that was only one program in the 17+ years of my schooling and when I graduated, what awaited me was a 9-5 job that expected me to follow the pack.

Where was my SALE program then? Where was my chance to innovate as rapidly as I wanted and needed to? Where were my peers that wanted more out of life than a time card and a pension?

There wasn't one.

So you have to create them.  You have to form opportunities to work with others on projects that you find valuable and that stretch your mind and imagination.

That is how you learn and grow. That is how you form your tribe. That is how you change the world.

There's no manual, there's no formal class. You learn by doing.

The scary part  about nominating yourself as the leader is that no one has officially chosen you so when people ask for your 'credentials', your experience, vision and confidence will be your only testaments, until of course, others follow suit. You don't get to validate yourself with common social signals like college degrees. And that can be challenging, especially in the beginning.

The result is that you have to actually do something and you can't hide behind institutionalized substantiations (degrees you earned by following the pack), because they don't exist. You have to do progressive work even though we've been taught to do busy-work the majority of our lives.

And just to be clear, progressive work is the work you do that pushes yourself and the world around you forward, because it doesn't matter how hard you work if all you're doing is toiling away in the same spot. What I'm talking about involves climbing the mountain, not jogging in place at the bottom...