Rendered Fat Content


Francis Gilbert Attwood:
General Benjamin F. Butler's Nightmare:
Proposed Procession of the Unemployed

(19th century)

"What if we're already plenty …"

To this day, I am assailed by the same old come-ons promising to make me a great leader. When did this sort of promotion ever have traction? I cannot imagine Abraham Lincoln, who was undoubtedly the most outstanding leader of his time, enrolling with an equivalent teacher to learn the "secrets to success," and not just modest success, but the very best there ever was. This very attitude renders its message untenable and unbelievable, yet they persist. If they did not exist in Lincoln's time, though I feel confident they did, what is it about our time that sees such a proliferation of these? Some skills cannot be taught, for they are not acquired through coaching, counseling, or conventional teaching. Whatever that is, leadership probably stands near the top of this pile. However, above all other topics, it enjoys the most significant proliferation of teachers and preachers, promising what anyone qualified to become a great leader must undoubtedly be able to see right through. This thought leads me to suggest that only those destined to become mediocre leaders need ever apply to learn these secrets, though they'd properly be sworn to secrecy upon acceptance.

The secret about greatness might be that greatness holds few secrets.
It might be precisely whatever it seems, out there and in everyone's face. It's not quietly conspiring. It's probably not even seeking the greatness it feels it doesn't really deserve. It pulls from an unexpected reserve to surprise the critics and skeptics. The great are neither born nor made but accidents and might only ever exist in the past tense. It's not like Lincoln ever figured out the pattern for maintaining his greatness. He possessed far more critics in his time than appreciative supporters. His sense of goodness forced him to reach far further than he imagined he could grasp. He sometimes somehow managed to surpass even his own expectations, but never because he mastered the techniques or ever really managed to learn the underlying secrets to becoming a successful leader. He was thrust upon his successes and woefully unprepared to conquer them. His leadership humbled him.

Yet, I do not see come-on advertising for humbled leadership training. I almost exclusively see the other kind, for aspiring leaders are apparently most attracted to promises of The Best. I'm fed up with the hype, with the presumption. What if someone aspires to become the leader they've already become? No secrets left to seek out, no skills requiring repetitive assimilation, just as they already are. The key to happiness might have always been to aspire for what you already possess. It's not written that one must desire to rise above their station. Most might be best served by more modest improvement right within where they already live, what they've previously accomplished: a remodel rather than a rebuild. What more congruent leader could anyone aspire for than a modestly self-satisfied one, not one expending much energy aspiring but one who knows who he is and desires only for this?

Such an affair might well knock a hole in the whole Self Helpless Economy, as all those holders of the secrets and facilitators of great transformations finally find themselves seeking different sorts of coaches and teachers or no teachers at all. Near the end, after all, the striving and achieving, everyone's left with more or less whatever they started with—some live lives in abject denial, seeking to become anybody but their native selves. The more successful manage to change station and might even revile their modest inheritances. They might have even come to despise themselves, graduates of several conflicting leadership academies, each encouraging the aspiring self-denier. The payoff mostly comes in mammon: money, privilege, and other relatively worthless advantages.

Blessed is the person who accepts a more ModestProposal, one who chooses not to enter the aspiring academy but to enter instead the humbling one promising only the satisfaction of gratitude for whatever one started with. What better diploma than one acknowledging the deep and dangerous personal work anyone who's ever studied themself dealt with? What better training than simply iterating, knowing you're working with what you already have? What greater satisfaction than the recognition that what seemed wholly inadequate at the start proved more than capable of the task? And what better reward than realizing that you didn't need to undergo any wholesale store-bought transformation facilitated by some self-proclaimed outside expert to realize your potential? Some things cannot be taught by any means, and those things also cannot be bought or sold. What if we're already plenty GoodNuff?

(This story constitutes the initial entry into my next series, one I'm calling GoodNuff. I hope to revel in something other than lowly shortcomings and lofty aspirations in these stories. I won't become any Pollyanna in them—those hoop skirts always make my butt look big. I intend to be myself without much make-up and hopefully devoid of self-improvement, not because I'm necessarily perfect—I ain't— but because I might just be already GoodNuff. I'm also strangely attracted to what happens in my mouth when I say GoodNuff. It comes out Good Enough without me actually saying the E. The term includes an actively silent vowel! What other commonly apostrophed phrases accomplish similar ends? Welcome to my next Series, GoodNuff. david)

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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