Genius Catalyst: On Being Self-Led

By Michael Neill

Choose to act "in spite of."
by Michael Neill
"What you act on grows in power."
-Lyndon Duke

Over the past week, I have been participating in an intensive program called "The Linguistics of Productivity" taught by Leah Be ( and based on the adversity research of Dr. Lyndon Duke. Many useful distinctions and models were introduced over the course of the program, but the idea of being "self-led" instead of "problem-led" surprised me by the difference I could make with it in a variety of situations.

Essentially, problem-led behavior arises "because of" internal or external triggers. Self-led behavior occurs "in spite of" those same triggers.

For example, imagine you are driving on the freeway and someone cuts in front of you. What do you do? More importantly, why do you believe you do it?

If you are in a problem-led mode, you might honk at the person, mutter under your breath and roll your eyes in disgust, or even chase the car without any real idea of what you intend to do if you catch it. If someone asked you why you reacted that way, you would tell your story about how you'd had a hard day, and they endangered you, and "because of all that," your response was natural and understandable, if not quite something to be proud of.

But what if you'd made the decision to be self-led in that same situation?

You might still choose to honk at the person, but you also might choose to let it go. You might decide to attribute a positive meaning to their actions ("maybe that was a world-class brain surgeon on the way to the hospital to operate on a blind orphan"), and you might even decide to wish them well and say a little prayer for their safe arrival at wherever it is they were in such a hurry to get to.

You would be unlikely to make any of these decisions "because of" what had happened. But any one of them can be made of "in spite of" your story.

Let's take another example. Perhaps you would like to have a better relationship with your children, or your parents, or your spouse. That voice inside your head points out how futile it is and how hopeless you are and how you've tried in the past and failed. Do you give up because of that, or do you step forward in spite of it?

Have fun and learn heaps, in spite of any reasons the world might give you not to. Worst case, you'll have fun and learn heaps. Best case, you might just change the world! 

An experiment

1.    Think of a difficult situation in your life.

2.    Talk or write for a minute or so about what you are drawn to do "because of" the situation.

3.    Now talk or write about what you could do "in spite of" the situation.

4.    Decide what you will do and do it. Be sure to acknowledge yourself both for taking the time to think things through and for taking the action you choose

to take.

5.    Reflect on these words by educator Kent M. Keith:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

Michael Neill is a life coach and the author of "The Seven Myths of Success," an audio program. Hear him Thursdays at 11am on HayHouse Radio or visit his website,

This article was originally published on July 27, 2007.