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Greatness is never a given – it must be earned

Much has been said and written today about how President Obama’s oratory “inspires” and “moves”, how what he says and how he says it encourages us to be better people.

But what about you? If you spoke to inspire the people around you, how would your world change? Would others take you seriously? If not, why not?

As entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, we must first focus on making sure we are an example for others to follow. By “being the change we want to see” in the world, we start to build our tribe, our community of people who value what we have to offer and who are ready to commit to it, with their time, their energy, and their hard-earned money.

We are in the situation we are in, because too many tried to take shortcuts, a fast-track to riches. Instead of doing the hard work, they discovered that growth by steroids leads to a cancer of the soul.

I have no doubt that being elected President of the United States, of course, involves lots of power-play, money and back-room politics. However, I do believe that at his core, the 44th President has always stayed true to his values and his vision. This is what gives the power to his words – it is clear that he speaks from integrity, that he truly means what he says, that he walks his talk. I hope and pray that he can continue to be grounded, even in the bubble that is the White House.

How can you and I aspire to have as much impact in our little worlds as President Obama has in his?

Walk your talk. Speak from integrity. Be the model of the kind of person you yourself would look up to. Be generous. Demand excellence from yourself. Explore your full potential. Under-promise and over-deliver. Be the kind of person who is the reference, the standard, the example for what being a good citizen is all about.

I especially was moved by this part of President Obama’s inaugural address (emphasis mine):

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Full text of President Obama’s inaugural address (NYTimes.com): http://is.gd/gCpm

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