Steve Jobs once said, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
As Herman Cain, a Republican candidate for President and the former Godfather's Pizza tycoon, has risen dramatically in the polls the last few weeks, I sat down and read his autobiography. It is a quick read, not a deeply revelatory tome, and strikes me more from the self-help genre or the Tony Robbins of this campaign. One thing I did note though was his consistent idea that we can't look at ourselves as victims and get trapped in our victimhood, and that in order to succeed or be happy in life we each need to become, as he says, a "CEO of Self."
Like Steve Jobs -- and readers, no, I am not putting the two on the same plane -- he believes we need to follow our own path, our own gut, and run our own lives in the way we believe is best. We can take in a lot of information, and seek counsel, but in the end we need to own our own lives and make decisions from a place of inner strength and direction.
I think this is a very important lesson in our personal lives and in politics today. How many family members or friends do we know who are stuck in bad relationships or even abusive ones, or careers they can't stand or jobs which drain their energy because they can't see their own worth or don't feel they have the power to make a change?
Many of us Americans today in this economy feel anxious and frustrated and see ourselves as victims of overwhelming forces in the world that we don't understand or feel we can't confront. And whether it's in our personal lives or our professional lives or how we look at the economy, we look for someone to help us see the best in ourselves, to help show us we have the power to change, and to help lead us to a better place. We don't want someone that is going to sit in our victimhood and only get angry with us; we want someone who strongly and joyfully grabs our hand and says, "Stand up, we can find the way," and boldly walks into a new frontier and helps us drop our victimhood.
As I watched President Obama's press conference this week, I was struck by how beleaguered and beaten down he looked and came across. He even used words to that effect, talking about the dings and scars he had received during his time in Washington, D.C. I got the sense that, while he is trying to lead, he is doing so from a place of being a victim, and he did not seem to be enjoying his leadership role. With that psyche, he will never be able to restore the confidence Americans and businesses are hungry for. Americans are looking for a happy warrior. Somebody who is passionate, is willing to fight the good fight, and bring us together. A leader who gets up everyday, says, "Rise and shine," and excitedly says, "We can do this, let's go."
And in watching the Republican debates thus far, the only candidate I have seen who consistently come across that way emotionally is Cain. He has no organization, no real money, no real plan, but he is rising in the polls, and I believe mainly this is tied to his brand of leadership, and that he actually is the one who comes closest to Ronald Reagan's style of communicating, or even Bill Clinton's, actually.
Cain will probably falter along the way because of his inexperience, and many of his issue stands are either unformed or too overly simplistic, but you can't ignore that he has struck a nerve in this race and shown something that many are hungry for and want to see in a leader.
He, more than anyone else, believes that if we stop looking at ourselves as victims, together we can find a way. And that way can either be to a new economic model, a new job, or even the fulfilling relationship we always wanted. And to go back to Steve Jobs, we all need the courage to follow our heart and intuition.
This post was originally published on National Journal.