Us vs. Them (part 2): Defining Leaders

I've argued in the past that risk-aversion is what guides a person's decision to stay conformed (1). It's what ultimately shapes a community's standards which all abide by. However, where does risk aversion come from? Our religions preach humility. Our schools tell us we're not smart enough. And it's only through peer-recognition that we're proved "right", prizes are awarded, and we define our purpose in society. No aspect of modern society (outside of our legal framework, thankfully not entirely based on subjective feelings) leaves room for internalized guidance and self-worth because the whole of society is designed to feed into one's need for interaction, but more painfully, acceptance. At the very least, it feeds the perception of whether or not one is worth being part of the society. Anyone choosing otherwise is termed deviant and undesirable and the subsequent "peer pressure" forces conformity onto the individual. (2)

When folks realize that I founded a firm, the reactionary response spotlights my bravery. What bravery? I had no debts, no dependents, no need for instant riches, no peer pressure. All I had was youth, naiveté, and self-worth (despite growing up in church, getting bad grades, and winning just 3 awards all through school). Subjectively speaking, I should have taken a job as a broker or security guard.

Objectively assessing my options, it was almost a no-brainer to choose to do what I'm doing today versus anything else because I didn't recognize that what I was evaluating wasn't something I should have been expecting to do. In fact, even then I knew the stories of older men, burned out from the monotony of a 9-5, bitter at being passed over by life, and slaves to a company that may lay them off at a whim. Although this is what all entrepreneurs claim to want to escape, how does an entrepreneur that's never had this recognize that being an entrepreneur is the best long-term option? How does an entrepreneur not give in to the brutal mental assault of the short-term sacrifices? Hanging up the towel can seem like the logical thing to do, but in fact, recognizing one's own self-worth and the opportunities that lay in the long-term should one stay the course is the actual logical choice.

Self-worth then becomes the nexus of the choices we make. However, it is the guidance in our lives that ultimately shape our self-worth. It is only when one rises above these influencing forces that one is able to truly and objectively assess their own capabilities, rationally evaluate the consequences, and readjust their own pain-tolerance levels. In fact, by regaining control of what shapes our individual self-worth, one also eliminates risk from one's life, since every choice one makes from then on is absolutely controlled by the individual. The variables of everyday life, including interactions with others, is also governed by that individual, meaning that there is nothing that is beyond the control of the individual, and if that's the case, risk aversion is reduced to zero.

No risk = no fear = stupid actions, no? No, since we're discussing the nexus of self-worth, which is the foundation of an objective rational mind, which consequently wouldn't make a choice that would present the risks inherent in "stupid actions".

And what does society think of self-worth? Like being too educated, self-worth is often given derogatory names like smug, pompous, narcissism, conceit, and superiority complexes, while humility and Spartan-like behavior is praised. Although these terms do describe the self-worthy individual that needs recognition of their worth, this person understands that he or she no longer needs society's approval for their actions and acts as he or she wishes.

This self-worthy person is, naturally, a leader, often exploiting society's need for someone to lead them. Leaders are exploiters, and the best of them also exploit those that are more knowledgeable than them in specialized areas. Although susceptible to strong arguments, they're not easily swayed, brainwashed, or distracted by any one occupation or idea. Although leaders always face the challenge of being too aggressive in imposing their standards on others, leaders will also submit when (s)he reasonably recognizes a situation for what it is. A leader then doesn't attempt to change or control the environment, but learn from what's occurred to avoid entering into a similar situation in the future. A leader has their own sense of "style", not dictated by celebrities, fashion, media or other forms of peer pressure. They make decisions based on practicality and the convenience of what best suits them in their daily routine. They are often the definer of style, as others (particularly grunts, or the masses) attempt to emulate the leader in their attempt to rise above their station in life. Leaders don't expect any entitlements other than the opportunity to take action. Leaders recognize that success is directly related to their ability to influence; and they make no mistakes about it, influencing means selling. Leaders are successful only when they are selling their vision. And all this, in turn, contributes to their self-worth.

Write to Al Berrios at



(1) "Us Vs. Them: An Abstract Discussion on Programming Consumers"

(2) Check out that movie "Kinsey" about the biologist who pioneered research into sexual behavior in the early 1900s.


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