Last Thursday, I saw the news, like the rest of the world. Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord. I read through the papers online into the evening, feeling a sense of disconnect, shame, anger, and betrayal. “Where I asked”, was our Leadership? When I woke Friday morning I felt slightly nauseous, like I used to get when I drank too much alcohol. I felt as though someone had kicked me in the stomach. My head ached with a dull thumping and a dreaded notion that I had done something embarrassing and I didn’t remember the details. Then it all came flooding back to me. I realized I hadn’t kissed someone else’s wife or kicked the neighbor’s dog. I am simply a citizen of a country I used to believe was a country of world leadership. A country that was a beacon of morality and cared for people less fortunate, regardless of race or religion, caring for our planet and one that could be counted on to do the right thing, or at least try to. But apparently that is no longer true and I struggled with that fact.
Time for a Change
I’ve been working the past week on a piece for my new website, Joe-Robinson.com. The title is “5 Things You Can Do To Save The Oceans”. It began with me naively thinking it was a piece that I could knock out in two or three hours. After all, I am involved with ocean conservation and know a thing or two. But I have now worked on this for over a week solid and am finally getting close to finishing it.
When I began, I realized I wanted to create something that would be really useful to people. Something that would talk not only about recycling and reusing, which are both extremely important, but also about a change in consciousness we need have in order to impact the problems our oceans and world face. I found lots of wonderful articles, websites, and videos resources. The more time I spent, the more important it became for me to select the best information available for people to learn and have choices.
This Leadership hangover was partially due to my focus on the website piece and changing consciousness and the stark contrast of these with Trump’s announcement left me shaken. My reaction was similar to my initial reaction to many recent decisions — I felt powerless! I think many of us face this feeling of powerlessness lately. The nightly talk shows make fun of his actions, the news outlets seem addicted to his antics without any real sense of shock and the majority of people simply feel there is absolutely nothing they can do.
Lead By Example
I thought about past leaders who I respect, who have made a profound impact on me. Being a child of the 60’s, my initial thought went to John F. Kennedy and his ambitious expansion into space and call for personal service. I thought of Mahatma Gandhi and his leadership through non-violence and I thought of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his brave quest for equality. Then my soul appreciated Abraham Lincoln and how he led our nation through difficulties and preserved the union. I remembered Teddy Roosevelt who established the national park systems we enjoy today and then I thought of Jimmy Carter, who might not be remembered for his presidency but who by example to help the less fortunate among us and his leadership after his political life, represented the best of the America. I remember a country built on giving selflessly, caring for the poor and underprivileged. They lead with a moral compass, respecting others and trying to always do the right thing for all the people, not a few.
Those were great leaders, and the one thing they all had in common was a dedication to helping others and helping our world. Our country is in a dark period now with the leadership driven by fear. We see the use of greed and fear as a weapon to take care themselves first, regardless of how it affects the many.
How to cure a hangover
My hangover victim mentality didn’t last long. Actually, it lasted until I did my morning yoga and meditation and sat down to write. I realized that I can be a leader and I can affect change, significant change, in my life and the lives of others. I can speak. So, if my voice CAN be heard, YOURS can too. I can continue to produce my film work, portraying the beauty and problems of the oceans, including climate change, and suggest ways by which we can make a difference. I can speak in small and large groups about my experience and call to action. In addition, I can teach children and others by coaching and telling stories in a variety of forms. And we each can play our part of being leaders in how we live our lives.
I went back to thinking about the piece for my website. How many folks will download it or read it or use it? By creating it, I am now a changed man. I will walk around today with a changed outlook and changed consciousness about what I can do this minute, this hour, this day to make my neighborhood or this ocean or this planet, a better place. Isn’t that really what leadership is all about? Isn’t it about having the emotional intelligence, empathy, and awareness to gather the best information possible and commit to a reasonable path forward, realizing that I am 100% responsible?
Leadership Step by Step
Today, I am the person who can make a difference. Today, I recommit to being the voice of reason. I will take the steps of action I can take to make this world a better place for all of us. I will commit to being an example to others. We don’t have to follow heartless leaders, no matter who they are, especially when they govern with fear, greed and a disrespectful attitude to those they govern. These are the follies of a narcissist and I choose not to accept or condone his actions.
I wonder, how can you be a leader today?
Where can you make a difference?