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Bad Leadership, Freedom, & (Over)Delaying Gratification

By: Michael Blankenship |

Greetings from LA and Oahu!

This week we’re talking about five freedoms that everyone has (always), the deadly dangers of ignoring influence, and how delayed gratification can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. 


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Exercising Your Freedoms

When you hear the word “freedom”, you might think of a certain political alignment. 

But here we’re talking about personal freedom — the ability to do what you want, say what you want, and feel what you want, regardless of other people’s opinions or reactions. 

Virginia Satir, a pioneer in family therapy, constructed what she called “The Five Freedoms”. These are freedoms that you always have, in every moment and every environment. Take a few moments to think about each… because they are where your personal power dwells. 

1. To see and hear what is here instead of what “should” be, was, or will be.

2. To say what one feels and thinks instead of what one “should” feel or think.

3. To feel what one feels instead of what one “ought” to feel.

4. To ask for what one wants instead of always waiting for permission.

5. To take risks on one’s own behalf instead of choosing to be only “secure” and not rocking the boat.

Irresponsible Leadership

Not all leaders who do damage are evil. 

Sometimes they just refuse to take responsibility for the impact they have… and so they unintentionally cause harm.

At Astroworld 2021 — a rap music festival in Houston, Texas — 50,000 people surged toward the stage at the prompting of Travis Scott, an American rapper known for inciting violence in his followers. Eight people were killed in the scuffle (via trampling or suffocation), including a nine-year-old, and many more fought desperately for their lives. 

It was a disaster that only became clear after the dust settled, and Travis Scott was shocked and distraught at the outcome. But what else should he have expected after encouraging violence and aggression in his followers?

To be fair, when a leader takes their influence for granted, it rarely ends in the death of those who follow them — but the loss of their integrity or even the loss of their influence altogether? How about emotional harm for them or their followers? That has happened more times than we can count. 

Leadership is a big deal. Having influence is a big deal. And we all should honor that responsibility, according to whatever capacity we lead others.

(Over)Delayed Gratification

We’ve talked a lot about delayed gratification at The Tonic. 

It’s an important part of living a life of impact, success, and fulfillment (as illustrated by the infamous marshmallow experiment).

But like anything, delayed gratification can also be taken to an unhealthy extreme. 

In Die With Zero, Bill Perkins argues that many of us go too far in delaying gratification, sacrificing valuable experiences for the “long-run”.

In fact, talking about the famous marshmallow experiment, Perkins writes, 

“Many three-year-olds might say they’d rather have two marshmallows in 15 minutes, but once that tempting marshmallow is in front of them, many can’t wait. Adults usually have a better ability to delay gratification — very often to the point where delaying gratification no longer serves them well. In effect, they are opting not for one marshmallow now or two marshmallows in 15 minutes, but for one and a half marshmallows ten years later!”

He argues (quite convincingly) that the “golden years” aren’t during retirement, but in your 20s, 30s, and 40s. He urges each of us to maximize our enjoyment and experiences during each phase of our lives because “it makes no sense to let opportunities pass us by for fear of squandering our money. Squandering our lives should be a much greater worry.”

His argument is a good wake-up call for those of us who save more than we spend for fear of not having enough during retirement (he also explains how most of us need far less for retirement than we think we’ll need).

If you want, a good starting place is what Perkins calls “time bucketing”.

List out the experiences you want to have in your life (can be literally anything!) and bucket them into the age range where you want to have them. 

That will give you a better idea for when you should do the things you want to do — and it might surprise you to find that there’s still a lot you want to do. 

Get to it!

You only live once, after all.

To learn more, pick up the book and read it for yourself (I, Mike, literally read the entire thing on our flight from Oregon back to Hawaii). 

This Week’s Photo

Xie Mingfei / VCG / Getty

“People visit the 125-foot-tall (38 meter-tall) statue of Zheng Chenggong (also known as Koxinga) atop Daping mountain on November 21, 2021, in Quanzhou, Fujian province, China.” via The Atlantic

This Week’s Riddle

Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!

What is in seasons, seconds, centuries, and minutes but not in decades, years, or days?

This Week’s Question

Answer this question — either privately or by replying to this email. If your answer inspires us, then we’ll ask for permission to include it in a future email!

What’s an experience that you want to have within the next 5 years?

Here are some of the tribe’s answers to last week’s question: What’s a boundary that you’ve had to put into place with family members or friends? How did that help make the relationship healthier?

“Recently, I’ve had to set boundaries that were, at a time, not that important to me. In order for others to respect what you have to get done or the journey you have to experience, you must respect yourself! Be aware of your worth! Know that you can only be good for, and to, others if you are good to yourself! Love yourself!” – Jenee M.

This Week’s Challenge

Read the “(Over)Delayed Gratification” section above and take 15 minutes to list out experiences you want to have and bucket them based on the age you want to have those experiences. Are you on track? How can you start getting more enjoyment from your life?

Until next week, 

Mike & Alec

Riddle Answer: The letter N.

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