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Looking Back to Look Forward

The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership was first published in 2004 and has become the cornerstone of my body of work. In preparing for the launch of the 10th Anniversary edition (coming in September!), I found myself looking back through my original notes and scratchings from twelve years ago, when I was first giving birth to this thing.

As an avid reader, I always find it fascinating when I can get a glimpse into the creative process of writers I admire, but I’ve never shared my own process with anyone else.

Until now.

In celebration of the impending release of the new edition, it’s my pleasure to open up my notebooks to you with you a series of revealing–and sometimes awkward, sometimes inane–snippets from my personal archive of handwritten scrawls.

Maybe it’ll help you get some insight into your own creative process. At the very least, you can have yourself a chuckle at mine.

Here now, is an entry from my notebook on November 19, 2002.  (I’ve transcribed it into a text that you can actually read, too):

Farber Notebook 11 19 02

I feel stuck. Is the story moving in a way that makes the essential points of Extreme Leadership? The Extreme Leader’s journey is extremely personal – maybe the essence is to bring one’s self fully into work – show who you are with boldness.  Make Janice more guarded to begin with. Make my character more despairing to begin with. Character/leadership development is a process of self-discovery and self-revelation (i.e.: reveal yourself publicly) and focus that powerful intent on an audacious mission (change the world).

Cultivate Love, Generate Energy by understanding/discovering/re-connecting with your deepest motivation, individually and collectively; Inspire Audacity by expanding your intent beyond the “normal constraints”; Provide Proof through bold, consistent, loving, urgent action (What can I do today to prove I mean it?)

Cultivate Love by desiring to do so; finding the lovable in people, products, company; lowering your gratitude threshold; expressing your appreciation; putting your attention on the good in people; building relationships.

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  1. TJ Brensel says:

    There is a phrase here that I don’t think I’ve seen before:

    “lowering your gratitude threshold”
    Everyday I work with people and stress the power of recognizing others. One of the most common responses I get is that the existing recognition tools in our organization require a truly amazing act (even though there is no such standard anywhere and plenty of messaging to the contrary!)
    Dozens of wonderful things go on around us every day and we so rarely notice them. We need to appreciate more and show people they matter, that their actions have touched and inspired us, otherwise how can we possibly expect them to have the energy to do the audacious things that are required to truly change the world? Recognition is like this giant glowing billboard that gushes out, “You-are-doing-the-right-thing-and-please-keep-it-up!”
    I love this idea of lowering the threshold. It is not lowering the bar of what we expect of others, but raising the bar in regards to our own level of accountability to cultivating love and generating energy. People are desperate for that feeling of significance. Just a few words typed up in a letter or better yet (as Steve suggests) hand-written can be the juice for that person’s whole day or week.
    To take this to a personal level, I’ve had a pretty nasty week. By chance I went into an old email account and realized that Steve actually replied to my comments (and even quoted me) under the trust entry he wrote a few weeks back. That recognition of the value in what I had to say by one of the greatest personal heroes in my life wiped out all the bad and got me 1000% fired-up to continue changing the world.
    Oh, and sorry if that is embarrassing Steve. You changed my world and I’m going to continue paying forward that debt for at least the rest of my life! I imagine by now you are getting used to changing lives for the better.

    • Hi TJ…no, not embarrassing–very, very humbling. Thanks so much for the kind words and for your great contribution to the discussion. Your comments have made my day, and you’ve inspired me to bring more energy to bear on all the projects I have on my plate right now. Thank you, my friend.

  2. John Morgan says:

    “…the extreme leader’s journey is extremely personal.” That’s the crux of the book which isn’t overt but is what everything is built upon. You nailed that foundation early in the book’s creation. I suspect had you not been able to get to that core, you would have had more difficulty bringing the rest together. In fact, you couldn’t. It is a hard lesson in that it is mostly getting people to both accept and admit they can’t approach the leadership to which they are called as an external force. It is extremely personal and it takes great courage to face that.

  3. Steve, thank you for this. I am wondering how you think about discernment with regard to what is truly important. I am always excited when I read your work, have read all three books (in hardcover) and I refer to them often. They are now proving a wonderful way to think about the work I do with parents. How would you address the question of making choices. Finding the lovable yes, but not everything is as lovable as the next. I look forward to hearing you more about this. Yes, you have a wonderful story in the Radical Edge—we each have our mission. And children are the prime examples of those we want to be Greater than Ourselves. .

    Ah. I keep thanking you.

    • Niels…thanks so much for the gracious words.

      You’re right, not everything is as loveable as the next. And much of
      it is situational. And, there’s such a thing as tough love, too.

      Discernment should ultimately be based on which choice has the greatest congruence with the values or value we hold most dear. Closest to our frequency. But it’s rarely easy, especially when two important values seem to be in conflict with each other in a given situation (success at work to provide for the family vs time with the family, is a classic in our modern era).

      All we can do, I believe, is strive to hold ourselves accountable to our own words, values, and commitments–and encourage others to do the same with theirs–and then learn from our inevitable mistakes along the way.

      • Thank you Steve. I like the connection based way of thinking about this. I don’t just have to be clear about my own commitments and values, I have to share what they are with the people that matter (wife and child, co-workers etc.).
        For one thing, it is easier to make excuses for myself than it is for others. Or, to put it more generously, I can move back and forth between various areas of commitment for myself more easily than for my spouse who is much more clear on my priorities, because I expressed those to her.
        Thank you.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Steve! I also enjoy getting insight into the behind-the-scenes efforts of creative works.

    I’m looking forward to seeing more.

    • Stay tuned, Gianfranco! I have boxes of this stuff. Don’t worry, though–I’ll try to be selective with what I post.


  1. […] In anticipation of the release of the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Radical Leap, here’s another entry from my hand-written notes on the original manuscript. (Read the previous post here). […]