A few months ago, I read a quote by Jim Rohn (well, I think it was Jim Rohn) that left quite an impression with me. He stated that adults looking to improve themselves need to invest in their personal growth and development. Granted his statement might be self-promotional as he made a living getting people to invest in themselves by purchasing his books, tapes, and attending his seminar but it makes a lot of sense. He also went on to say, “if you don’t invest in yourself, why would anyone else want to?” For most adults, they spend more on premium cable channels or concerts than they do personal development and investing in themselves. A confirmation of this phenomena is a study I recently read that stated that most adults don’t pursue any personal development or educational opportunities after they graduate from their highest level of education.
After thinking about my budget for personal development and what I wanted to do regarding personal development, I stumbled across “Leader Box.” Leader Box is a monthly subscription service that includes two books, a reading guide, and access to an online forum of other members. I was excited to get my first shipment, and the following are the highlights that I gleaned from the first book I read, “Lead Yourself First – Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude.”
I’ve always been an introspective person and consider myself an ambivert personality type. I draw energy from being alone and being able to think to myself but also enjoy spending time and talking with others. Although, it does take me a lot of time to recharge after being in large group situations. Reading about how other leaders throughout history have required similar solitude to seek clarity and to analyze situations provides me a great source of assurance that the time I spend by myself reading and reflecting isn’t because I’m anti-social, it’s because I require time to concentrate and determine the appropriate response and course of action.
Below are my notes…. Some are fully thought out ideas that I had while reading and I have inserted specific commentary and used “BH” as a way to notate . Others are taken as direct quotes or passages that I found noteworthy. Take it for what it’s worth… but I do highly recommend this book to both introverts and extroverts as I see both benefitting.
Leaders use solitude to find clarity, creativity, emotional balance, and moral current.
I never feel like solitude is something I do consciously… I just naturally do it to seek a state of homeostasis.
A former McKinsey consultant, Peter Crawford, said “he writes memos to himself as a way of clarifying his thoughts. I usually don’t send them to anyone. I’m just collecting my thoughts in a structured way.” BH – This is precisely the reason why I like to write down my notes from books that I read and write blog posts about them as I currently am. Writing things down helps me organize and structure my thoughts on topics that I want to take a deeper dive.
General Dwight D Eisenhower wrote memos in a similar way leading up D Day and throughout his military career. His writing of memos, the majority he didn’t send, served as a way to clarify and provide further analysis into his thoughts on particular issues.
The path of leadership is rarely linear; and with every setback, and every unwelcome surprise, the shadow of adversity grows larger.
General Jim Mathis – Current Secretary of Defense
“Solitude allows you to reflect while others are reacting.” He went on to say, “the leader who neglects to step out of the sweep of events, to contemplate from whence they came and where they might go, finds himself, blown from one thing to another.” But the leader who steps outside events is as a leader who can change them.
If you use solitude to draw on your reading and your past experience, to create some distance from what is happening around you immediately, then it’s well used,” Mathis says.
”We need solitude to refocus on perspective decision-making, rather than just reacting to problems as they arise. You have some external stimulus, then you go back to your experience, your education, and you see what needs to be done.”
One source of emotional turbulence for leaders is not so much the arrival of unexpected adversity, but simply a sense of being overwhelmed by a tangled mass of goals, obstacles, and inputs. It’s possible to use solitude to regain a sense of control.
With great leadership drive comes great risks and great successes, really high points, and devastating little point. Both are emotional jolts.
Excess emotion… Emotion beyond the leaders own limits to control … Has to go somewhere.
Productive solitude is the choice to go somewhere and break down in private and the willingness and to acknowledge their limitations. BH – a great example given in the book is that of Ulysses S. Grant and his response to the devastating loss of life after Chancellorsville. During the battle, as bullets whizzed over his head, he remained cool and calm while ordering his troops into battle. Afterward, in private, he broke down and cried uncontrollably. However, this was only seen by just one of his aides and didn’t affect his standing with his men.
To lead others, you must first lead yourself. The leader who encounters a serious crisis but manages his emotional balance through the use of solitude and other coping methods is precisely what the book is about.
Lincoln, who suffered devastating losses in his personal life, had an enormous capacity to dispel anxiety in constructive ways.
Leadership, like fertilizer, contains elements that can be volatile or nurturing, depending on how one handles them.
In a way, we owe it to the people who tested us and put us in challenging position.
“And wherever men are fighting against barbarism, tyranny, and massacre, for freedom, law, and honor, let them remember that the theme of their deeds, even though they themselves may be exterminated, may perhaps be celebrated as long as the world rolls round.”
Parting Words and Takeaways
A leader has not only permission but a responsibility, to seek out periods of solitude.
It’s important to find space for solitude and even more important to prepare for solitude by percolating ideas and issues beforehand.