#523 The Power of Solitude

Clarity + Creativity + Emotional Balance + Moral Courage

In our last +1, we talked about an exercise to get a little more clarity on the trade-offs you might be making in regard to your top priorities and your tech usage.

Which reminds me of a really (!) good book called Lead Yourself First by Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin—a US District Court Judge and a Westpoint leadership Professor, respectively.

Here’s the basic idea: Leaders have ALWAYS (!!!) used solitude to lead effectively. The authors profile everyone from Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill to Jane Goodall and Martin Luther King, Jr—showing us how they used solitude to lead themselves and, as a result, to change the world.

But now? Now we’re drowning in such a huge tsunami of inputs that we barely have time to think, let alone lead.

Bad news: That’s a big problem.

Good news: There’s an easy solution: Create solitude.

Here’s how they define it: “Solitude is a state of mind, a space where you can focus on your own thoughts without distraction, with a power to bring mind and soul together in clear-eyed conviction. Like a great wave that saturates everything in its path, however, handheld devices and other media now leave us awash with the thoughts of others. We are losing solitude without even realizing it.”

Jim Collins wrote the foreword to this book. One particular paragraph captures the essence of our challenge so brilliantly that I think we should talk about it here. Here’s how he puts it: “We live in a cacophonous age, swarming insects of noise and interruption buzzing about—emails, text messages, cable news, advertisements, cell phones, meetings, wireless Web connections, social media posts, and all the new intrusions invented by the time you are reading this. If leadership begins not with what you do but with who you are, then when and how do you escape the noise and find your purpose and summon the strength to pursue it? This book illustrates how leaders can—indeed must—be disciplined people who create the quiet space for disciplined thought and summon the strength for disciplined action. It is a message needed now more than ever, else we run the risk of waking up at the end of the year having accomplished little of significance, each year slipping by in a flurry of activity pointing nowhere. So take some quiet time, engage with this book, and commit to the hard work of alone time.”

All of which leads us to the point of Today’s +1: What we GET when we create solitude.

Kethledge and Erwin tells us we gain FOUR things when we have the discipline to deliberately step AWAY from the inputs and plug into our own thoughts without distraction.

We get Clarity + Creativity + Emotional Balance + Moral Courage.

It’s only in solitude that we can get the Clarity on what’s truly important in our lives.

With that Clarity, we focus our efforts on what matters and, as we do that in a deep work-solitude bubble, we enhance our Creativity.

As we creatively pursue things that really matter, we’re going to need Emotional Balance to manage the inevitable ups and downs of our heroic quest. That is nourished by solitude.

And, finally, as we challenge the status quo and truly LEAD, we’ll only be able to do that effectively if we have enormous reserves of Moral Courage. No solitude? Good luck with that.

So…

Want more Clarity + Creativity + Emotional Balance + Moral Courage?

Fantastic. Lead yourself first. Have the discipline to unplug from the cacophonous echo chambers of the Input Age and add more solitude to your life.

How will YOU do that a little more Today?

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