Barack Obama – Leadership, Happiness and Success

Advice from Alice Walker on Success & Leadership

Today, I watched, along with everyone else in the world, the inauguration of the 44th American President, Barack Obama. Ever since Mr Obama was nominated for the Democratic candidacy, he has conducted himself as a genuine and principled person. Mr Obama has inspired a level of faith and hope in people that is frankly uncommon in politicians.

Today, America got a new President, and, even more importantly, the world has a new leader. Because of Mr Obama’s breadth of vision, and his abiding sense of purpose, I believe he will serve the world well. And, therefore, I wish you, Mr Obama, and your family, every success.

The day after Barack Obama won the Presidential election, Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prise-winning author, poet and activist, wrote the President-elect an open letter. I was deeply moved by Alice Walker’s letter, and have since shared it with hundreds of people who have attended my seminars. In her letter, Alice Walker offers wise counsel to Mr Obama on the challenges of leadership and the difficult times ahead. You can read the full transcript at The Root, or, if you like, see her read the letter on Democracy NOW, a daily radio TV show.

Here, I will share an excerpt from Alice Walker’s letter, which highlights the integral relationship between personal happiness and true success.

It reads:

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life.

To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large.

We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors.

This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax?

From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job.

That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

When I read these words, I felt like Alice Walker had written them for me. In my work with Success Intelligence and The Happiness Project, I have learned that, happiness creates success.

In other words, when you cultivate a sense of joy inside yourself it helps you to access a whole new level of inspiration, talent, resilience, and support. Success can lead to happiness; but most of all, happiness leads to success.

Psychology research backs this theory. Longitudinal studies, which follow the well-being of people over many years, show that inner happiness helps to promote career success, loving relationships, good health, financial prosperity, and a rich spiritual life. Your inner happiness is the key to authentic success.

Alice Walker goes on to talk about leadership, forgiveness, and the need to lighten and brighten our world. She finishes her open letter to Barack Obama with the words: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” Her letter is really addressed to us all.

While Mr Obama takes his Presidential oath, and makes his acceptance speeches, let us use this occasion to reflect on how we can take a lead in our own lives. On some level, we are all world leaders, because on some level we all create the world. My prayer for today, therefore, is that we may all step forward so as to be even more of the person we came to be.

And so be it.

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