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What We Can Learn From President Obama's Dignity

Well who would have thought one of my own life's philosophies would mirror one of President Obama's foreign policy principles?

I was reading Fareed Zakaria's Obama pursued transformation as Republicans chose to self-destruct article in The Washington Post, and truly identified with Obama's precept for his presidency in general, but within his foreign policy in particular. I think it's a valuable lesson in dignity and decent human conduct, which many could learn from.

In the article, Mr Zakaria illustrates how President Obama hit the ground running immediately upon his election win in 2008, and has subsequently focused on getting the job done. At no point has Obama allowed himself to become distracted by his Republican opponent's varied and multiple exploits. Zakaria writes: “From the first month of Obama's presidency, the GOP decided that he was a socialist radical who had to be opposed, no matter what”. This opposition-no-matter-what agenda has only served to repeatedly shoot the Republican party in the foot, ultimately leading to the self-inflicted implosion we see before us now. By way of example, the Republicans rejected Obama's generous budget negotiation concessions - the like of which they are ever likely to be offered again – and quickly resorted to insinuations about Obama's race, religion and patriotism. You know the argument has been exhausted and won when the attacks become personal. Who remembers Donald Trump's bile spewing invective during the 2012 presidential campaign, demanding sight of Obama's (Hawaiian) birth certificate? How curious Mr Trump now appears unwilling to submit his own.


My overall point is about President Obama's example in dignified, composed and focused leadership, and the positive results these qualities will inevitably achieve. Transpose Obama's "opposed-no-matter-what" experiences into your own life. Do you identify with President Obama's endeavour to complete a huge undertaking, whether it's running your own business, a busy family dynamic or conquering a serious health condition? Do you have small minded, ignorant and resentful naysayers snipping at your heels and sniping at your every move, salivating at the prospect of your imagined failure?

This is where one of President Obama's foreign policy principles mirrors one of my own life philosophies: don't do stupid stuff, think. Don't merely rise to the snipping and sniping, rise above it, transend it and focus on your goals. Understand you are worth more than sinking down into a cesspit of – what will inevitably be – irrelevance. You do not have to attend every argument you are invited to. It's a wise policy to never argue with those whose opinions you don't respect, because life is too short to argue with fools - they will only drag you down to their level, and beat you with experience! Have you ever considered how your snipers may want to distract you, to weaken your A-game to solidify your failure? Why would you allow this? Well of course you wouldn't if you realised what they were doing. The trick is to stay present and mindful in each moment, maintaining your awareness, discipline and focus. You can't control their thoughts, actions and behaviours, but you can control yours.


Let me bring a Wile E Coyote and Roadrunner metaphor into the discussion. Whilst I applaud Wile E's eternal perseverance, there's another lesson to be gleaned. The Roadrunner's goal is to get from A to B. Wile E's goal is to devour the Roadrunner. Look at how focused Roadrunner is at getting from A to B, nothing stops him; and it's fair to say Wile E tries everything to stop him. Now look at the time, energy, risk and money (for all those Acme products) Wile E is prepared to commit to his goal of capturing and dispatching Roadrunner. How does it end...every...single...time? Why does Wile E fail? Wile E fails because he's not focusing on himself, he's focused on destroying Roadrunner's existence, which leads to his own calamity - blowing himself up, much like the Republican party has done with their opposition-no-matter-what agenda. The Republicans didn't focus on how they could strengthen their own party, their own policies or their on polling numbers (the positive option). Instead they focused on trying to destroy President Obama and anything he was working to accomplish (the negative option). Now we are watching the Republican party overshoot the cliff edge, before their eventual free fall into probable congressional impotence, post 8 November.

I am a strong advocate of constructive conflict, because sycophancy only encourages an over-inflated sense of value and omnipotence. We can all benefit from the services of a devil's advocate, but I'm talking about the negative entities that wish and invite failure upon us. These people and entities must be passively cast aside, as per President Obama's example, and allowed to self-destruct in their own time. Let them expend their energy and resources on chasing you around like the calamitous Wile E Coyote. In the meantime, you must focus on you and your endeavours alone. You must do the best you can and when you know better, do better. It really is that simple. Keep your karma and conscience clean at all times and you have nothing to fear, all will work out beautifully in its own time.

By not rising to the Republican baiting about his race, religion or patriotism, President Obama has acquitted himself well, and has accomplished a great deal whilst in office. The Republicans meanwhile have self-destructed and appear unwilling, or unable, to stop Donald Trump's divisive and ego-charged presidential bid. This will be detrimental to US politics because without credible, authoritative opposition – without discernible constructive conflict – absolute power corrupts absolutely. This in turn has UK and global ramifications, but that's a blog for another day.

Run your own race. Focus on your path from A to B. Let your detractors, naysayers and opposition do what they've got to do, but don't ever take your eye off of where you're heading. Don't do stupid stuff, think and focus on you.


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