When I woke up this bright, blue-skied Sunday morning, I peered over to the clock.

It was about 8:40 AM which, for me lately, feels about as late as when you’d wake up at 3:00 PM during your freshman year of college.

I rolled out of bed and, also uncharacteristically, turned on the TV.


The bell was struck.

It’s chime marked ten years to the minute of when the first airplane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center — and so, the 10th anniversary commemorations of the September 11th attacks had begun.

That Dark Day; a Calling to Leadership

I woke up this morning knowing that it was 9/11/11. I woke up ten years ago only knowing it was a Tuesday, an ordinary school day during my sophomore year. I was 15.

Tens years ago, the bell to which I awoke was much different; it was a chime in my heart — amid the darkness, pain and chaos of that day — knowing that I had to do something to make a difference in this world.

Ten years later, my alternative leadership book Lead Without Followers awaits to be published by the end of this month.

But this piece today has not to do with me or my book, but our shared humanity.

How to Conquer Inhumanity with Humanity

Lead Without Followers is a lot less about leadership than it is about being human. Leadership — not the word itself, full of stereotypes and misconceptions, but its true meaning — is an intrinsically human want to live for and amongst others.

To truly lead in your life is to literally become “more” human.

And the beauty of that is that our shared humanity knows no bounds — our lives are entwined; our fates are shared; and the love that we sow in this life will reach further and endure longer than any act of hatred.

The light of our love is our answer to darkness — like the torch of Lady Liberty herself, and the towering beams of white light that marked where the World Trade Center once stood.

Inhumanity can be conquered by our humanity.

Peace of our time can be wrought through sheer will, and determined hope, and ever-lasting patience, and the hard work to persevere in spite of the blood and tears shed from acts of hatred.

The Only Question to Ask (and How It’s Answered)

In response to a day of hatred and murder that claimed dozens of innocent lives in Norway this past year, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg declared,

“We will meet this attack with more democracy, more openness, more humanity.”

On this 9/11 anniversary, “Are we safer now?” is not the question to be asked.

Instead, the question to reflect upon — the one to ask that will best ensure our entire species to survive and thrive, freely — is, “Are we more democratic, and more open, and more human now?”

We answer it without examination or debate.

We answer it, individually and together, by living it and breathing it and becoming it — every day.

…With or without followers.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images