The Honorary Pack Leader

Who’s the boss?  The one whose example people actually follow.


As my wife has been finishing up her Master’s program in Childhood Education, she recently opened my eyes to a simple concept I never realized before: Children crave structure.  And when there is no structure, no outlined expectations, no explained behavior guidelines for them, chaos proceeds.  Kids look for the “pack leader” (as Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan explains regarding the dog world) to help instruct them on how to be productive and helpful in their society.

This “aim to please” mentality doesn’t disappear once we enter the adult world.  Though it may be easier to complain about a superior or an authority figure behind their back than it is to praise them in person for keeping us the security they provide, we still recognize them as the pack leader.  There’s still an understood respect we hold for them, because after all, we still crave structure and the pack leader is the main supplier.  And we all have a personal need to be needed.

But in addition to the established leader and teacher of the group, there is the honorary leader, who may have no official important title, but still guides others by his or her actions and attitude.  And in my opinion, this “honorary pack leader” has more impact that the established pack leader: For all practical purposes, the honorary pack leader is the actual pack leader.

In all social circles (clubs, churches, sports, work environments, etc.), it’s the person who establishes what being “on time” means, who sets the work pace for the group because his or her peers mimic the honorary pack leader’s own level of activity, and who has an overall calm-assertive attitude.  In other words, this person knows how to respect the establishment’s own politics (a major key to survival); and yet how to stay out of them as well.

It’s the person who the general population follows by example, not necessarily because he or she is the most outspoken or demands the most attention, but because the honorary pack leader naturally takes the most productive, logical, and sincere path to success (or at least the path of safety from being picked out as the slacker or weakest link).  And others notice.  There are always established leaders in a group, and sure, they make the rules.  But the honorary pack leader makes the rules that the rest of the group actually follows.

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My Rant about Ranting: Blowing Off Steam Vs. Being a Blowhard

Oh, you mean I get to listen to someone rant?  I love rants!  They’re my favorite!

Last October I was searching for pictures of stupid church marquee signs to use as bad examples of Christianity for Holy Smoke (click title to read), which I was writing at the time.  I came across a blog called “My Rant About Religion” and made it half way through the first sentence before thinking, “Who would want to read a rant?… About anything?”  I know I don’t.

In my mind the word rant translates as “whining about something that has no real resolution”.  One of my Rules for Life is that if you’re going to present a problem to me, either provide a realistic proposal to solve that problem so that we can do something about it or be willing to listen and possibly act on my proposed solution.  But for someone to rant open-endly is to simply spread negative energy.  It does no good for anyone, except the person ranting, who lives in the illusion that he or she is actually doing any good.

But a rant is a one-way conversation.  It’s not productive nor does it help human relationships in any way.  And despite the title, which I obviously coined for ironic effect, this isn’t a rant.  Because I am providing a solution with my presented problem:

Ranters worldwide, if you feel passionate about an issue, make it clear what listeners are supposed to do with your information.  Let them know how they can help you specifically fix the problem.  That makes you a leader, a passionate idealist who rallies troops.

Otherwise, you’re just blowing off steam.  And nobody likes a blowhard.

iContact: Behind the Thought Process of Keeping Eye Contact with Another Person

Standing up straight. Having a firm handshake.  Maintaining eye contact. And the greatest of these is maintaining eye contact.

Throughout my life those three tips of advice have been constantly bouncing around in my head, though ultimately they end up like the failed attempts of a person who makes the same New Year’s Revolution every year and never keeps it. Maybe I could be a stronger leader, influence more people, and have more friends if I could simply act on these commonly heard instructions on being a successful man. Perhaps then I could be a successful motivational speaker (one that doesn’t live in a van down by the river). Or the next Billy Mays.

Looking another human straight into the eyes is like staring into the person’s soul. If I’m not thinking about it, I can look a person in the eyes for a long time while I am talking to them. But then I tend to think about the fact that I am looking at them in the eyes.

Then it’s all I can do to just look in one of their eyes because it’s too intense to look in both. Then I wonder if they can tell I’m just looking in one eye. Then I think about what I’m thinking about, but start to laugh because I realized I shouldn’t be thinking this much about it. Then I realize I don’t even know what the person is saying at this point, but conveniently they were saying something that was at kinda funny so my smirk has a purpose.

Eye contact is a learned skill. But sometimes I feel like it’s a natural born talent.

Wearing sunglasses is cheating. If I wear sunglasses, the other person tends to assume I am actually looking them in the eyes. It’s also an advantage to me because they don’t know exactly where to look since they can’t see my pupils so they get distracted. That causes them to agree with everything I say, and laugh sometimes, hoping I was telling a funny story. The secret to being a strong leader, having more friends, and influencing people is to wear sunglasses.

And to stand up straight and shake peoples’ hands firmly, like an Alpha Male boyfriend does when he meets a guy friend of his girlfriend who may pose a possible threat because the guy friend is artistic and funny. When the truth is, the boyfriend’s real threat is that the guy friend is a better listener and more sensitive. Seen it happen more than once in college.

Reading (and Leading) People

 There’s a mighty power called “being able to read people” that can be used for good, to lead others… or for bad, to manipulate them.

A sign of a person’s self-confidence level, as well as their amount of natural leadership skills can both be measured, to a great degree, by how often (or seldom) they are in defense mode.  While there are most definitely times to stand up for ourselves, confident in our stance on whatever issue is at stake, if a person is constantly feeling they have to prove their worth by acting and speaking in a default of defense, then there is a problem.

In theory, a person should only have to be in “defense mode” when they truly need to stand up for themselves or for their just cause.

Therefore, I can’t help but have a respect for people who fight for what they believe in, who turn an apathetic cheek to things they don’t feel passionate about by staying out of it (meaning they don’t think they have to be right about everything), and who are savvy enough when it comes to “reading people” that they don’t have to second-guess what a person is thinking. 

Definitely ironic.  Reading people so well that there is no need to try to predict or figure out what someone is thinking.  Because good “people readers” already know what other people are thinking, yet they NEVER admit it or tell the person they are reading.  No one wants to feel that they are being manipulated because someone has figured them out- though their fear is often indeed true.

So I’d rather be the one in the driver’s seat instead of the sidecar when it comes to the issue.  I’d rather attempt to become a leader (when there’s not already an established one) than become a follower of a corrupt or weak leader; one I don’t respect. 

That’s the whole brilliance in reading other people- the way to manage other people is to steer them into the desired direction without having them realizing what’s happening.  A secret self-taught art that entertainers, politicians, CEO’s, teachers, managers, and pretty much anyone in any type of leadership position learn to master: Do unto others or they will do unto you.

A leader who is a good “people reader” knows the limits of others- what can be asked of them and what they are willing to do to accomplish the goal.  Leaders also know what motivates their team members- how to let them thrive in their skillsets, talents, and creativity. 

To make sure I speak in confidence, not in doubt, I am very specific in the phrases I chose not to say (and type).  In my own vocabulary, these are blacklisted:

“My point isn’t that…”

 “Wait, I know what you’re thinking…”

 “Let me explain, you see…”

 “Here’s what I meant…”

 “See, what I believe is…”

All of those phrases seem to preface the rest of sentence in a way that negates its own validity.  Often when I write, I am making a point based on my own opinion.  As I do this, I have to carefully address the exceptions and any naysayers’ concerns by building on them (You Missed a Spot).  In other words, by “reading people” to where they don’t even get a chance to heckle me with a “yeah, but what about?…”

For example, when I was writing the “sleeper hit” post Must Not Mustache (currently my 5th most popular, surprisingly), I was explaining that most men under the age of 40 can’t be taken seriously if they have a mustache.  Yet, there are exceptions and I needed to be the one to address them.  So I did.  And instead of the exceptions taking away from what I had to say, they complimented it instead.

I keep this original proverb in mind daily:

Speak with authority and direction.  And if you may be wrong about the issue or haven’t done your research, just shut up.  People often mistake silence for wisdom. 

My inspiration to write this post?  This past Sunday night’s episode of The Celebrity Apprentice.  I like learning from other people’s follies and successes- even if it comes from a reality TV show.

What Movie Rating Does Real Life Get? (G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17)

If your life was a movie, what would it be rated?

I recently watched a documentary questioning the secrecy and allusiveness of the MPAA movie rating system, called “This Film is Not Yet Rated”. While I’m not opposed to the American movie rating system because I see it as a decent way for parents to decide which movies are more suitable for their children, I also admit there is some humor in the way that movies are arbitrarily given ratings.

In general, more than one f-word grants an “R” rating. “Artistic or comic nudity” can land with “PG-13” or even “PG”, but if the nudity involves romantic or sexual content, then the movie will be an “R”. A panel of judges make a living off of making that call.

By now it’s pretty obvious that most studios want the majority of their films to be rated “PG-13” because more people will be able to see it. “PG” is for young kids and “R” weeds out the kids who are not smart enough to pay for one movie but walk into another.

The thing that most stood out to me from watching the documentary was this:

Compared to Europe, America has it backwards when it comes to sexuality and violence in movies. In Europe, sex scenes are portrayed in a more matter-of-fact/this-just-part-of-life manner. An absence of chiseled abs, large breasts, and steamy music. Not glamorized.

But when it comes to violence, Europe leaves a lot more to the imagination. They’re more offended by violence and less worried about sexual content.

In America, our movies are infiltrated by sex any time there’s a slight opportunity for it. But it’s so fake. Women have the sex drives of men. The atmosphere is perfect. The lighting is just right. And of course both participants have perfect bodies that could be (and often have been) featured partially nude on a health magazine cover. For me it’s just not believable.

Yet despite our obsession, compared to Europe, we’re much more offended by sex in movies. Culturally, America is a Christian nation. So we’re much more likely to be bothered or affected by heavy sexual content in a movie.

So we shy away from sex in movies, but indulge in violence. And not just grotesque stuff like the Saw movies.

We love war movies. We just do. Because there’s nothing more American than seeing the good guys kill the bad guys.

Like any James Bond movie for example. Loaded with countless murders by gunshots. Yet a lack of blood. Therefore, James Bond movies aren’t rated “R”, but “PG-13” instead.

The theory is that violent movies have this undertone that speak to teenage boys and young men: “Just imagine, if you fought in the U.S. military, you could be the one with the gun. Protecting our country. Killing and defeating the enemy.”

The regular presence of violence in American entertainment desensitizes us to it. The more we see it, the more we’re used to it. And it’s not really a moral issue to us.



While we may not be willing to be part of the firing squad that executes an American criminal convicted of murder and rape, our conscious doesn’t bother us as much about killing the enemy in a war who happened to be born in the wrong country with a dictator who is forcing him to fight against us. Yet he may have never killed or raped anyone. Until now, he could be just a another normal family man. But if he doesn’t fight for his corrupt political leader, his life will end anyway.

Both the sex and the violence are fake. We know this. But our conscience doesn’t really bother us about watching Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers (which neither really contain any sexual content).

I’ve noticed that Baptist preachers can mention Saving Private Ryan during a sermon to drive home a point and no one in the congregation thinks twice. We’ll overlook the vulgar language and bloody deaths in the name of war. Yes, it’s violent. But it’s war.

The point: Even Baptist preachers don’t mind violence, as long as it’s associated with war. I know this because I’ve been in the congregation enough to hear it. But if a movie was rated “R” for any other reason than war violence, it would be taboo for the preacher to admit he even saw the movie.

I get it. It makes sense.

America excuses violence. But has a tough time with the other stuff.

Now that I’ve established that America is okay with violence, I will quote Michael Tucker. He is the producer of the 2004 war documentary film, Gunner Palace, which shows the everyday lives of soldiers fighting in Iraq. This film is unique in that it received a “PG-13” rating, despite it’s 42 uses of the f-word and brutal violence and imagery. Tucker had to appeal the MPAA because of course they originally rated his film “R”:

“When a little girl was running down the road in South Vietnam, burnt by Napalm and she’s naked, is that PG? Is it PG-13? Is it R? You can’t rate reality.”

Great quote. I’ve seen the exact photograph he’s referring to. It’s awful. And I’ve seen even more hellish pictures from The Rape of Nanking during World War II, when Japan occupied China, raping all females and killing all men they could find in that city.

That can’t be rated. It’s so worse than “R”. Worse than NC-17. Yet those photographs can easily be found in Wikipedia or in any History section in a Borders or Barnes and Noble. It’s not fiction. It’s not art. It’s reality.

Michael Tucker is right: You can’t rate reality.


In the back of my mind I’ve always wondered what my life would be rated if it were a movie. The question is, how would my life not be rated “R”? Just considering an average workday. Even on a tame day, I know the language I hear around me would be rated “R”. As it definitely was in high school.

I guess I’ve always thought it’s ironic to hear a handful of f-words in a movie and know the movie is rated “R” because of the language itself. Hearing that language has become normal to me. Which of course defeats the whole idea of certain words being vulgar. When they’re common, they can’t truly be as vulgar as we let ourselves believe.

One of my biggest reasons not to use profanity is for that very reason. It just seems cliche to me. I can’t bring myself to do it.

Yet watching a movie than contains a few f-words is at least a little bit offensive and shocking. Why? Because it’s not in real life? Isn’t there a double standard somewhere in there?

Why, in real life, is it not a big deal to us?

Because it’s not real. Watching it happen to someone else in a movie makes it worse. It’s magnified. We pay closer attention. We’ll except it in real life, though.

It’s a funny thought.  To give a movie rating to real life.  Especially your own.

Related post by the same author:

Mixed Reviews  http://wp.me/pxqBU-2y

The Ball  http://wp.me/pxqBU-fv

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on this, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one