This is the fourth installment of six of a blog series about, ”What would I tell my younger self? What advice would you give, yourself?” JR Forasteros is a friend of mine and fellow movie lover. Here’s his advice to his younger self.
Here’s the thing they never tell you: everyone’s insecure.
Okay. Not everyone. But like 99% of people. No kidding.
I know that’s not what it looks like to you right now. You feel like you’re the only one (and yeah, I know. Not the only one. But you see this big gulf between you and your fellow dorks and the “normal people” around you.
But what I’ve learned from a decade of leading people is that all those normal people are every bit as insecure as you are. And most of their fears are the same as yours – isolation, inadequacy, anxiety about the future.
They say knowledge is power (I actually don’t know who ‘they’ is, and Google doesn’t seem to either. By the way: invest in Google. Trust me.). And they are right. This knowledge – that everyone is insecure – gives you tremendous power.
Not power over them (you could – that’s what ad agencies make billions doing, but that won’t be fulfilling). Understanding that everyone is insecure gives you tremendous power to connect with people. To build rapport with them. To lead them.
This is the key to leadership: (okay full discolsure: there are like 1,000 “keys to leadership” and everyone will tell you theirs is the real key. But this is future you, so that should count for something, right?). The key to leadership is connecting with people. Making them believe you understand them and can show them a better way.
When you can name the fears they have, the anxieties and insecurities that lurk in the corners of their souls, people start to trust you. And when you can say “me too!”, that trust hardens into loyalty, courage and even excitement.
When you do this dishonestly, it becomes manipulation. Fear is a strong emotion, so when you tap into it you get strong reactions. That’s why you have to lead out of your own weakness, your own fear, your own insecurity. When you say, “I’m not the only one who’s ever felt this way, right?” what you’re really saying to them is “Me too!”
This is what Paul means when he talks about leading from weakness. When we’re honest about where we are insecure, we’re displaying how we rely on God for our security. When we can be honest and vulnerable, we create spaces for everyone else (who, remember all feel the same way) to be honest and vulnerable too.
The community that forms in these insecure spaces are surprisingly secure. All those fears we share – isolation, inadequacy, anxiety – seem much less real in the presence of all these insecure people who find security in the community they’ve been welcomed into to.
So what’s the “take away” for you, my younger self? Walk across the room. Introduce yourself. Extend a hand in welcome. Invite some people over for dinner and prepare a feast (I know you like to cook). Or for a movie night. Ask to join a table at a coffee shop.
Those people are just as insecure as you are. And they would love for someone to take the lead in creating some community, even in something as small as a hello.
Don’t be afraid. Everyone’s insecure. So say hello. But don’t tell ’em I sent you. You don’t want to sound crazy.