Blend in. Stand out.

For all my life, given the choice I would always, far and away, prefer to blend in than to stand out; rather melt away quietly, unobtrusively, with the bobbing waves of pedestrians along the city street than to stand upon a soap box and preach to the masses.

But as I grew older, my preference would become challenged, time and again.

There then came handfuls of occasions where, confronted with decision, my heart suddenly became arrested; paralyzed, not with fear or unwanting or hesitation, but from an unbearable calling to not blend in any more, but rather, to stand out.

My breath fell short and terse; desperate for air. My stomach knotted and churned, telling me “Just sit, just blend in,” but it was of little use.

Only upon acting — and forcing down every want and will to just melt away, to just blend in — would my heart be revived from its paralysis and beat once more.

So, I stood up. I stood out. I became an asterisk.

Little did I know at the time that quietly choosing my spots to become an asterisk — rising up instead of blending in, when my heart really called for me to — were the origins of my personal sense of becoming a leader…. even though no one was following.


The Curious Use of Asterisks

The asterisk is one of my favorite symbols. Its used so sparingly in print, that what gives it life and meaning is, in fact, its rarity.

When it is used, it stands out. And from seeing it alone, our minds are called to attention. Eyes dart to it. The asterisk, albeit quietly, conveys so much: an exception to the rule; an outcast, an outlier, an exceptional point in need of further examination and contemplation.

The asterisk means so much, yet it does so little. It is irreplaceable.

Imagine being an asterisk, yourself. Imagine speaking so rarely that when you do, all eyes and ears fixate upon you. And that the words you choose to then speak are so potent, so capable, and so rife with meaning that they captivate the room and spark flurries of fire and good.

This is what it means to be a leader in your life.

And, there’s a simple way to begin to explicitly cultivate your own very personal sense of leadership: discovering what matters to you most; practicing standing up and standing out when your heart calls out to you.

All it really takes is a bit of attention, a bit of willpower, and placing an asterisk next to the tasks, duties and passions that sing to your soul.


How to Use Your Asterisks

Cultivating a devout and very personal sense of leadership begins with knowing what calls out to you. You needn’t conquer the world and every one of its problems; only what issues, duties, priorities speak to your soul.

Imagine a list of ten million duties, callings and jobs; every conceivable position and passion and hobby known to humankind: next to which would you place yourself?

What activities, what purposes, what longings in life would you mark with an asterisk, saddle up next to and make your own? List some. Right now.

This list is what begins to defines your sense of leadership.

Own it. Make it truly yours.

These are your asterisks: when they call to you, stand up. Stand out. Become an asterisk, yourself.

This is your personal initiation into the rank of an unleader revolutionary; a world-changer in less than a whisper; a bona fide do-gooder; a leader without followers.

 Flickr photo credit: PinkMoose