Thoughts from Dr. Joe: To his little leaders …

I was aspiring for higher office, running against Thomas Thouey for assistant patrol leader of the Ravens in Boy Scout Troop 136. Thouey was the vilest kid in the troop. He was eventually the reason I got kicked out of the eighth-grade play. He called my mamma a bad name, so I threw him off the stage headfirst.

Well, I won by one vote. I thought it strange that I would beat the most despicable kid in the school by a mere vote. That was the last time I ever put myself on the line and ran for a position of leadership.

Oh, over the years I've had many positions of leadership, but they were either by Congressional appointment, volunteering, or surviving being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In high school, as a student of Latin, I learned about the solemnity placed upon the charge and responsibility of leadership. The Roman Republic called it the cursus honorum, the "course of honor." Those who aspired to public office underwent a series of assessments to determine the honor or worth of their character. It was imperative that leaders of the Roman Republic have a certain gravitas. Public office was earned not only by deed but also by strength of moral fiber.

The Romans understood that leadership is not a component of promises or doing things right; it's doing the right thing. The moral platitude of righteousness implies honor and, ultimately, honor is the only gift that you give to yourself.

Last week, students at LCHS entered the political arena and ran for student government posts. My daughter Simone attempted to become assistant activities director. Her campaign consisted of speeches, passing out fliers, and a microscopic scrutiny by her peers. She and all the other children running for student government put themselves on the line by entering a predicament where-by risk taking is failure prone. Entering an arena where the potentiality of losing is exceedingly high is a risky proposition for a child. Success sometimes looms as fool's gold because gratification becomes omnipotent.

Of course, as a parent, I hoped Simone would win. She didn't win, she lost, as did many of her peers. So, today my thoughts are for my little leaders who tried but came up just a little bit short.

Our personal vindication over an inbred fear of failure is the root of all the higher forms of literature and is what the romances and civic statutes celebrate. The ongoing battle between our fear of failure and the willingness to take risks sets the stage for our personal nobility. Our greatest glory does not lie in success, but in rising every time we fail.

My little leaders, remember, the person who risks nothing will experience very few of the fruits of life. In life, they will ultimately do nothing, have nothing and become nothing. Subsequently, to dare and try is to risk one's self. But not to dare or try is to lose oneself.

Teddy Roosevelt said, "The credit belongs to the man in the arena." Thus, win or lose, I commend your willingness to try. Consequently, according to Roosevelt, "…your place shall never be with the cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."

In Life 101, I teach my students that we have to know failure; it is an inevitable part of life. It precludes all success and all achievement. In life, I've had a multitude of failures. Failure is what gave me the strength to move forward. Our true character is revealed by how we handle failure.

Richard Nixon's, book "Leaders," examines the stellar contributions of the 20th century's greatest leaders. They share one commonality between them: each experienced considerable failure.

So, my little leaders, keep trying and you too will rise from the ashes, just like the Phoenix.

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at

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