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Why Everyone Should Be Talking About Following Instead Of Leading

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Why Everyone Should Be Talking About Following Instead Of Leading

Leadership is all the rage. If you want to be a better leader, there’s a whole genre of books out there to tell you how to do it. Thousands of web articles have been written on the topic. Entire organizations have arisen with the purpose of training people how to become more effective leaders. No one ever stops to ask why we would even want to be leaders. The assumption as that it’s something we should strive for–that leading is better than following.

But is following really all that bad? We don’t see many books or articles written on “followership.” Not many people are interested in becoming better followers. The very notion strikes at our sense of autonomy and self-respect. Why would we want to learn how to follow people? What good would that do us? Well, I’m glad you asked…

1. Following Helps You Learn More

Followers are learners. The more you follow, the more knowledge you gain. As a leader, you may begin to think you’ve got it all figured out. Following brings you back down to reality and enables you to continually teach yourself new things.

Followers use social media such as Facebook and Twitter as a news feed to gather information rather than as a broadcast platform to promote their ideas. Followers go to networking events to collect business cards and learn about other industries rather than going to distribute business cards and promote themselves.

Followers are students. They’re always looking for an opportunity to learn rather than an opportunity to teach. And, as we all know, knowledge is power.

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2. Following Gets You Mentors

When you focus exclusively on being a leader, you miss the opportunities to learn from other leaders. Adopting the posture of a follower allows you to find a special guide that will teach you how to navigate life.

Mentors have the power to inspire us to become better human beings. If you ask many of the great thinkers, creators, or leaders what they attribute their success to, they will probably mention a mentor who showed them the way.

When you declare yourself a follower, you open up the door for a mentor to take you under his or her wing. There are always people out there willing to show you the way; you just have to be enough of a follower to let them.

3. Following Fuels Your Creativity

Creative people aren’t so much creative as they are resourceful. The most innovative people will freely admit that they’ve simply built on the insights that came before them.

Creative people borrow. Painters follow the techniques of other painters. Writers follow the literary devices of other writers. Superman, our most iconic of superheros, was fashioned from the creators’ obsession with the pulp fiction and detective stories of their childhood.

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If you aren’t following other people and ideas in your field, you simply will have no fodder for your creativity. Inspiration doesn’t arise from a vacuum. It comes from other creative people making things that they too borrowed from other people. If you aren’t following, you aren’t creating.

4. Following Engages You with the Community

Leaders can become detached from their communities. You don’t engage much with other people when you are on the high horse or in the ivory tower. Interaction happens on the ground level.

When you are a follower, you interact with other followers. Being part of the “fan club” is less about being a “fan” than it is about being in the “club.” You share ideas with people and build relationships that will last a lifetime.

Following makes people like you. It says to those gathered around, “Hey, I’m one of you.” When you follow, you become part of a community of followers. And we’re social creatures. The community is everything.

5. Following Increases Your Accountability

When you follow a certain set of ideas, values, or rules, you become accountable to those concepts. Whether it’s a religious group, a political group, a professional group, or a social group, you take on responsibility when you become a member of the tribe.

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When people are counting on you, you become more disciplined. You manage your time and tasks more effectively. You become less lazy and more motivated. There’s nothing quite like somebody watching you to convince you to get stuff done.

Following makes you responsible. If you want to continue to be accepted in the community of followers, you’ve got to contribute. You’ve got to be dependable. And, as you become more accountable to others, you will also become more accountable to yourself.

6. Following Enables You to Adapt

Many times, leaders will persist in a certain direction even when it doesn’t make sense. They feel like they are tied to the decisions they’ve made and changing their minds will make them look weak.

As a follower, you always have an out. If necessary, you can always abandon the cause in favor of more noble ones. You can always pivot into a more profitable direction. No one is looking at you, so you can more easily make a change.

Following enables you to be nimble. It gives you the flexibility to dodge obstacles and travel down a series of paths that make the most sense. When you are following, you choose what you follow. Leaders don’t always have that luxury.

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7. Following Makes You a Leader

The best leaders start out as followers. You become a leader, not by asserting your authority, but rather by spending a lifetime following the right things. Leaders are people who have mastered all of the things mentioned above: learning, being mentored, fueling their creativity, participating in the community, increasing their accountability, and being willing to adapt.

Leaders are people who have mastered followership. They have paid their dues and now people see them as someone worth following. Followers are leaders in the making.

As you can probably gather, I am not suggesting that you blindly follow whichever person, organization, or idea that you stumble across. “Blind” following never did anyone any good. But, if you follow with intention–with the desire to grow and better yourself as a person, the results will blow you away.

The key is to follow the right things. And when you can develop the wisdom to know the difference, following will change your life.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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