Kiss a Leper: Leadership and Self-Contrarianism

This post is part of my leadership lessons from history series.


Leadership requires courage of conviction. Working up to that strength requires overcoming your personal fears.


The Franciscans are a Catholic order that is impressive by many standards.  They somehow continually convince people (currently 14,000 friars) to give up every personal comfort.  They sponsor numerous universities.  They are respected by people of many faiths.  Their influence is felt around the world.

This global organization started with a leader who was a truly remarkable man.

Francis attracted followers simply through the force of his personal conviction.  He always did what he believed was right, which attracted people to his cause.

Francis felt that God told him to do the opposite of what he had done and felt in the past.  He became a self-contrarian.

He was raised in wealth, so he chose to eschew money.  His father taught him to care for assets, so he tossed all personal possessions.

In one story, Francis had an intense aversion to those with leprosy.  He could not even look at lepers, and avoided areas where they lived.  He was one day riding a horse and passed a leper.  He dismounted and kissed the leper on the lips.  (In another version of the story, he kissed the leper’s hand.)  Through this act, Francis was able to overcome his revulsion and happily live among lepers.


To become a great leader and start a movement lasting hundreds of years, maybe you should also become self-contrarianism.

Try doing the opposite of what you have always been taught to do.  Only make decisions with sufficient data?  Try following your gut.

Plan each day to the minute?  Allow some spontaneity once a week.

Have a policy against hiring uneducated people?  Embrace real diversity by hiring someone without a degree.

Prepare extensively for important meetings?  Try opening up a meeting to someone else’s agenda.

Generate ideas through brainstorming meetings?  Try accepting the research that proves brainstorming is ineffective, and try crowdsourcing or individual idea generation or idea contests or word-association games.

What is the ONE thing you most fear?  Phone prospecting?  Arising early to exercise?  Speaking in public?  Talking about your feelings?

Do that thing now and get it over with.


::: Be fierce. Be kind. Be knowledge-hungry. :::

Stay Off Santa’s Naughty List

In my country, people practice a pretend belief in Santa Claus.  This mythical person delivers gifts to well-behaved children.  Naughty children, in theory, receive nothing.  

The definition of good vs. bad is fuzzy.  It is subjectively determined by parents in each household.  

In practice, however, poor children receive less, regardless of behavior.  Bounteous gifts are given by parents who are wealthy (or are divorced and trying to win affection, in competion with ex-spouses).


As adults, I wonder how we can stay off Santa’s “naughty list.”  How can we be better?  These are four common sins we can stop committing:

1.  Be less busy.  We need to put down phones, turn off televisions, and listen to silence.  Creativity requires quiet time.

2.  Stop using the Law of Small Numbers to make decisions.  Humans tend to make hasty generalizations based on small sample sizes.  We generalize about a race of people based on a single example.  And everyone knows someone who had a mean father, so we hate all men and publicly engage in gender shaming of boys.  Potential entrepreneurs often plan businesses based on what a group of friends might want to buy, and they fail.  

3.  Eat better.  To improve brain function, we should eat less meat and more vegetables (and no dairy).  Almost everyone should eat less sugar. 

4.  Be more humble.  Learning begins with humility, because only teachable people learn.  


That is my list for the new year.  Have a great year of continuous self-improvement.  What sins are you working to avoid?

My Former Life as a Secret Agent

I have never told anyone this.
When I was 9 years old, I experienced a stressful event which caused me to partially withdraw from society.  I built around me a cocoon of imagination.  My whole life was fake.
I imagined I was a secret agent.
For some reason, my country needed a small boy with no athletic ability and no skills to save them.   Enemy soldiers had infiltrated our land, and I–only I–could stop them.
Sometimes soldiers entered my classroom to seize me.  After winning a gun battle across desks, I would escape.  I jumped out the window to draw off any remaining enemies, to keep my classmates safe.
I lived to fight another day.  (Spoiler alert: because I am typing this now, you know I did not die)
The Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler called this Compensatory Fantasy.  We all have weaknesses.  But instead of overcoming them, some people retreat into fantasy.

I am concerned about the current wave of superhero films.  They can be fun for most people. But for some people, the films provide escape from creating a life.  So can video games.

My plea: don’t spend too much effort in building a game avatar or an imaginary persona.   Instead, build your own real-life skills.
Once you have found your passion, invest in becoming expert at that passion.

:::  Be fierce. Be kind. Be knowledge-hungry.   :::

The Future is Bright. Again.

33827D53-A51E-47E3-BAD5-445E75CBB4B7In 1976, my school teacher said the world was past Peak Oil.  She said I would never obtain a drivers license, because no cars would exist.  Petroleum would be too scarce.

The world was ending!

So I gathered all my money from delivering newspapers.  I invested it all in bicycle parts and repair tools.  I bought wrenches, a wheel spoke tightener, a chain repair kit, and a pile of spare parts.  I hoarded.  I prepared for the world collapse.

0037A3CC-0147-4AFE-A607-E08C61928310But we found more dead dinosaurs.  We have burned gazillions of barrels since then. And the known reserves are far greater today than in 1976.  We were saved by a MIRACLE.

The world ended again in 1997 (currency crises), 2000 (Y2K), and in 2008 (mortgage crisis).  Each time I bought extra food and toilet paper.  But miracles occurred.  New futures arose.


The world today is messed up.  Almost every developed country is insolvent. Governments falsify statistics to justify more invasive policies.  The foundations of ethics and morality are crumbling.  A cycle of violence might be starting, similar to the one that started early in the 20th century.  The world is ending!  Again.

I choose to believe in miracles, because I have seen them so many times.  I believe that if we are good and wise, another miracle will rescue us.  I choose optimism over gloom.

What’s the most important thing you can learn?

Hot air balloon over landscape of Bagan, Myanmar.

I have been studying human performance for a very long time.  I hold a PhD in human capital development.  This blog’s purpose is to encourage you to teach yourself to be successful.  Various topics are covered.  But what is the most important thing you can teach yourself?

That thing is a different thing for each person.  What is yours?

Please message me.  I will research topics for you.


:::  Be fierce. Be kind. Be knowledge-hungry.   :::