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Lead, Don’t Follow

lead, don't followLife isn’t meant to be a spectator sport.

You are stumbling through life checking boxes. College, marriage, career. But what happens when checking the proverbial boxes leaves you checked out? You want a purpose-filled existence; a life that inspires you and empowers others.

I understand. Here’s my advice: Find your passion. Seize it. And don’t let go.

“But, Matt, I am interested in a lot of different areas. How do I narrow down my passion to one particular area?”

Good question. Here’s my rejoinder: What talent are you most proud of? I have a knack for advising friends on personal and professional issues. Panicked friends, and that distraught women in the aisle seat, confide in me. Not surprisingly, I am transitioning into a counseling/advisor role.

Ever heard of Brandon Stanton and Yvon Chouinard? Probably not. What about Humans of New York and Patagonia? Heads are nodding. Stanton and Chouinard followed their passions. The result: two iconic companies. And, to think, Stanton was once a struggling photographer and Chouinard a humble blacksmith.

As you chart your own course, there are going to be naysayers. They will chastise you for stepping off the conventional, well-worn path. Don’t listen to to them. Stanton and Chouinard didn’t.

You define your life goals. Your path is yours and yours alone. Not your parents, not your Uncle Ted, not the proverbial Joneses.

Some will question your abilities. Shun them. Others will pigeonhole you based on their parochial self-interests. Ignore them. And some will belittle you for disrupting their status quo. Paraphrasing my Minnesota-bred mother, tell them to jump in a lake. Nice guys finish last, but only if you listen to the outside rumblings.

“But, Matt, what about earning a living?”

I hear the unease lining your voice. Rest assured, you will earn a living. You are passionate about what you do because you are skilled at it. Talent trumps. And so does fearlessness.

As you pursue your dreams, establish your priorities. Is travel or title more important? Family or fortune? In my case, life trumps largess. I know what I want out of life: meaningful relationships, international travel, mental health advocacy, and a sense of fulfillment. Once again, you, not the outside world, dictate your priorities.

Doubt assassinates dreams. At a young age, well-intentioned teachers or parents steer us in a particular direction. As we graduate from school and enter the workforce, reality dashes dreams. Spin conventional wisdom on its head. If you have a burning desire to chronicle life’s realities in black and white stills or found an environmentally-conscious clothing company, turn that flicker into a flame.


Lead, Don’t Follow

Matthew Loeb

Matthew Loeb, a Seattle-based attorney, is a mental health advocate. You can contact him at

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APA Reference
Loeb, M. (2018). Lead, Don’t Follow. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 26 Aug 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.