How to Become a Spiritual Leader
- You must have a certain personality. Is there an egomaniac, a sociopath, a control freak or a little dictator in you? Do you want to succeed in life as bad as you want to breathe when pulled under water? Is it all about you, and how the world could be made your oyster? Are you prepared to do anything, everything that will make you go ahead? Then chances are you have the very fundamental character traits that are necessary to keep yourself moving forward and drive yourself to become the next messiah, buddha, sensei, shengren, guru, or top CEO.
- You must have a great idea. You need a plan, a system, a manifesto, a mission. If you write it down, you created it. And what is created exists. (Keep this simple rule in mind; you will thrive on it throughout your life.) It can be a book, an unpublished manuscript, an essay, a painting, a diary, a couple of poems, a draft for a constitution, or just a single line of thought, Something. Think about Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book, or L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics. That idea is what you must focus on now; it will be your genius sitting on your shoulders and attending your actions every step; it’s your guiding spirit, your talisman, your protector. And it will forever distract the critic’s eye away from your over-the-top personality toward that genius, so choose it wisely.
- Become historical aware. You must connect both yourself and your teaching to historical events and other persons in history. Anchor you both permanently to reality and you have set in motion a brand-new dialectic. You do so by comparing your idea with already existing ones, ideally from a thousand years ago, as if your thoughts were, say, the logical conclusion of the teachings of the great sages Confucius, Laozi, Buddha, or Jesus Christ or some other famous saint. Your idea, of course, is universal and had been known before by “other great personalities” in word history. In a nutshell, you must add your cause to world history.
- Be a force of creation. To create is to know, they say. If you study any religion or popular movement, you will observe that the great leaders and their followers are constantly creating new connections of themselves and their movement to current domestic, economical, political, or socio-historical affairs. They become a movement. Everything is interconnected, that is the essence of all spirituality: Places, events, people, incidences, movements – everything must be incorporated your own life-work, your existence, your holistic framework – in modern times: your networking. Every person you meet will now be part of your teaching history without even realizing it. They think they just met another person. But as far as you concerned, they just have joined your great movement and became part of your story.
- Keep your socio-economic status high. Your socio-economic status is essential to success because it determines what kind of people you meet, and how they will see you. In short, people want to see you have a job. So you have to establish your credentials either before starting your movement or along the way. Do you own a company; are you affiliated with a university, a religion, or a political party? Are you a professor, entrepreneur, director or president of something? If not, you better become one, or many. And then keep getting ever more great titles. Daisaku Ikeda collected over 320 honorary doctor degrees from universities all over the world. Needless to say, if you don’t come from money or power, you can always marry into it, or anyway mingle with the influential and successful.
- Followers will follow. The truth is there is no planning for followers. It’s the followers that care about the spiritual leader, and that is that. In fact, since by now you are that movement by constantly creating connections to the happenings around you, people are already drawn to you like moths to a flame. You give them a purpose in life, or at least you will make them think about purpose. Every remark they make, every piece of paper they comment, every gesture, every meeting, every conversation they will have about you with others will enhance your own reputation, for good or bad that is. Everything they say and do by extension now becomes part of your story. Obviously, they will shower you with gifts, money, spare time, real estate, and other useful things. Imam Khomeini possessed only $12 dollars worth of furniture when he died, but he practically commanded an entire civilization.
- You must give back. If you don’t have anything, you cannot give. But as a “rich” spiritual person, you have a lot to give, and I don’t mean necessary money or material props, but also more abstract forms of empowerment like access to resources, titles, jobs, gifts, entitlement, or simple the credit of being in your presence. This is an important function of any leader: to distribute resources among his people. Tread all your friends like one big family and distribute among them your favors (or withhold them some times) like you were a king or pasha. Be benevolent and give and you will be given even more.
- You need your own channels. This is about constant public relation management. At first, you publish your ideas in magazines, journals, newspapers. In modern times, social networks, blogs, websites, videos, or mini-productions firms all help to brand your name. The key is to treat each publication like it was holy and invaluable. That said, in order to speed things up, you have to “self-publish” because it is fast, accurate, and the best way to promote your creation. Now, let me explain what I mean by “self-publishing” to avoid a common misconception. Self-publishing is more common than you think, although it is not always labeled as such. Self-publishing means that you (and your organization) are in total control of the publishing process. All successful companies in the world have marketing departments, which is in essence are in-house self-publishing houses. Prestigious scholars initiate their own academic journals under the disguise of unbiased scholarship of course but, really, all they want is to publish fast and without too much resistance. No true leader wants to send 100 submission requests and receive 99 rejection letters. Better even, think about your own newspapers, magazines, book clubs, television shows, or media corporations.
- You must become a founder. Few leaders reach this step, but if they do, they all did it the same way. You now establish an institute, a method, a research center, a foundation, a non-government organization, a political party, a religious movement, your own country, whatever suits best, and the more the better. You flank that with your own media channels. You are now a spiritual entrepreneur, and your “employees” work for your cause. Have them regularly conduct brain-storming sessions. Their ideas are obviously yours. You have the resources to publish them, they don’t. Next you build a library with all your favorite collections, you publish your memories, you exhibit you family photos, you venerate your ancestors, you let people know your favorite dishes, your travel anecdotes and philosophies, your dreams, the illnesses you’ve overcome, as if you were a global celebrity. You are your own brand now, or better: your founded your own little empire. Werner Erhard founded The est Training, Das Forum, the Hunger Project and Landmark Education. Just as companies like Google or Apple are putting out new software products and patents, so your spiritual enterprise, too, must constantly produce new consumer products, publications, motto, word-creations, and secure the authorship.
- You must become an exemplar person. If you can, become a hero. Save little children from starving in Africa, help the victims of natural catastrophes in Japan or Indonesia. And let the public know that you helped those homeless. On the other side of the spectrum, always remember to connect to important people and world events, and let people know about your connections. Your life has turned into a work of art. You are now a force of nature, and you believe, like all people with great power, that you have the highest ethical standards anyway. Write more books about it. Go on TV.
- You must engage in diplomacy. Like head of states do. Search dialogue. I assure you, it’s been road tested. You are now in a different ball game than most of humankind. Meeting with ordinary people gives you nothing intellectually; you must search for those very few who are exactly like you. Presidents meet other presidents, CEOs meet other CEOs, spiritual leaders meet other spiritual leaders. The effect is bombastic: two people talk, maybe a documentary is filmed, a book will be published about it, and then it will be translated into various languages, and published and distributed by the leaders through their own channels and sold to their tens of thousands of followers. Their own affiliated newspapers, journals, radio and TV stations feature them. Talks will be given, the word will be spread. Dialogue between great spiritual masters is essentially the greatest promotion tool of spiritual leaders that exists today.
- You must carefully plan your legacy. If you have done everything right so far, your accomplishments may have bought you, say, hundred years, maybe two hundred years of fame. But to become truly immortal, you must be ever-presented in the eyes and minds of future generations. Architecture, statues, temples, tombs, schools, kindergartens, universities, institutes, films, documentaries, valleys and park benches in your name, and history books about your rise can do that for you. You must lend your name to as many static symbols as possible while you are still alive; or have agencies in place that will do that for you, like your own non-government-organization or religious community. Don’t take your money into the grave. That is stupid. Think about Alfred Nobel and donate your wealth to a public trust or foundation. In the end, it all boils down to this: People must feel that it is their fault, and that they should have known you. You must lay claim on future history so that people who are born later, are thrown right into your scheme.
- People have various talents, strengths and weaknesses; they also come from different countries, live in different times under different circumstances. Still, successful spiritual leaders have much in common: they have powerful personalities who experience similar developmental stages in order to be recognized by society as truly remarkable spiritual beings.
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