ShadeShifter

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
— Jim Rohn

From as early as I can remember, I've sought role models.

Men and women whom are examples of behaviour, personality, grit, perseverance and even masculinity.

People that have achieved things I want to do, been to places that I want to go, or have the lifestyle that I want. And It's always made sense to me that if I emulate them, or set the same conditions that I could do the things that they’ve done.

 

It began at the start of my professional career – as a military policeman given responsibility after just 9 months of training. Joining my unit in Northern Ireland and expected to behave as an experienced and knowledgeable advisor to elite infantry units, I sought to emulate those around me who seemed to do it effortlessly.

And then one day, someone asked me how I'd prepared for a marathon.  It was in that moment that I realised that we all influence others – for better or worse.

Jamil - leader of the 'Kabul Boys' Parkour team, hails his team as the driving force behind their recent success in achieving media coverage of their efforts.

Jamil - leader of the 'Kabul Boys' Parkour team, hails his team as the driving force behind their recent success in achieving media coverage of their efforts.

If your actions inspire others, you’re a leader.
— John Quincy Adams

In my professional life, I’d been taught a lot of leadership theory - why we follow other people. But I always felt like there was something missing. I'd be taught the mechanics; how to behave, how to talk, how to dress, even how to stand (apparently leaders don’t slouch) - but it always felt that something was missing. Some of the most influential people I'd ever met in the military weren't in leadership positions.

 

As young Royal Marines Officers in training, we'd study great military leaders, whom had shown gallantry, bravery and heroism in the face of physical danger. But my problem with this is that you start to associate leadership with monumental ‘outlier’ events - which sets unrealistic expectations of what everyday influence actually looks like.

 

I started to dislike the word ‘leadership’ altogether. It felt both false and forced.

Zahra - one of two female mountain bikers in Afghanistan, quietly stands up for her rights.  Even just riding with boys brings security risks to her and her family - but she chooses to accept this and sets an example to others - a true 'shadeshifter'.

Zahra - one of two female mountain bikers in Afghanistan, quietly stands up for her rights.  Even just riding with boys brings security risks to her and her family - but she chooses to accept this and sets an example to others - a true 'shadeshifter'.

Now, I see the truth couldn't be more different. Everyday, we quietly set examples that influence the people around us, not just in the extreme circumstances.

 

It was around this time that I'd start to really think deeply about all the people I'd followed in life; they had something that I liked or respected; a character trait that I wanted to develop in myself.

 

People notice the things we do, even if it's not visibly shown or openly acknowledged. And I'm not just talking about our constructed public lives on social media - this can be designed to show anything you want.

 

            Your actions influence others, whether you intend to or not.

 

By challenging myself to become the best version that I can be, I hope to show others from a single parent, working-class background, that they can achieve remarkable things with some hard work. And I purposely use the word remarkable because if I aim for absolute perfection, I might never start for fear of failure.

 

We won’t all stand on top of Everest or row an ocean. However, if you surround yourself with enough ‘shadeshifters’ - people who will dare – they’ll change your mind and you’ll soon see a way.