Your Sweatshirt

It’s possible that the main job of a leader is to become free of yourself. Because if you cannot do that then you are destined to play out over and over only the ways of being that you already know. These ways may certainly be a gift in one sense, a strength that comes from you, but in another they will also always be shadow. They will always make you, your organization, your society smaller. They will not enable you to embrace something larger than what you already are; they will not enable others to embrace something larger than what you or they know. And yet, isn’t that the purpose of leadership — to embrace something much larger than we feel we are capable of knowing or being?

And yet if you ask “How?” you may still be problems. Because the self asking how may still be the self wanting to extend and enlarge in ways that simply confirm the need of its existence. And if it gets that confirmation, all the negative patterns and shadows, all the pain and frustration will just continue — although perhaps with a sign posted to the brand, “new and improved.” How many new and improved versions of you can there be before you decide the whole thing needs to go?

The other day I came across the marvelous concept of “sweatshirts” in Claude Steiner’s marvelous book: Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts. He writes:

The sweatshirt is a metaphoric reference to the fact that most persons with [life]scripts can be visualized as wearing sweatshirts over or under their clothes, on which is written a short, two- or three-word description characterizing their existential positions. In addition, just as games contain a sudden switch or reversal, so sweatshirts often have a front and back. For instance, Miss Felix’s sweatshirt prominently read “Looking for a man” in front. On the inside of the back, to be read as it was taken off, was written “But not you.” Captain Marvel’s sweatshirt said “Captain Marvel” on the front and “Unless I’m sober” on the back; another man, a “born loser,” had “You can’t win them all” in front, and “I can’t win any” on the back. The sweatshirt is another way of saying that people have their scripts written all over them….

I believe that are lots of possible scripts for leaders. For example, the front of the sweatshirt might read:

“I’m a really powerful person,” and the back says, “that’s why I never ask for help.”


“Why do you keep asking me for answers,” and the back says, “I don’t even have the right questions.”


“I could probably help you alot,” and the back says, “If I told you what I really think.”

I’m sure you can think of many such lines on your own when you think of others. What would be on your shirt?

And what would it take to find freedom from these lines?


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  • It’s possible that the may job of life is to become free of yourself. I believe in that. I experience it everyday. Nietzsche said it many times. A great leader has to be that way. Or he won’t be great. He usually points to a direction where people want to go because it’s a great cause. He may not go there himself, he may sacrifice his life along the way because he is the first and dangers await those who go there……but then he hasn’t sacrificed much because he is free of himself 😉

  • David Zinger wrote:


    Maybe this is why so many of us buy sweatshirts with logos and things already written on them. We want ready made scripts offered by others that absolve us of slowing down to thinking about the script we are writing.

    I like XL sweatshirts, they are loose, comfortable, and something I can grow into if I eat too much. And there was always the line slightly altered: don’t sweat in the small stuff.

    I always liked the line: some people make their marks while others sign their names.

    Thanks for the post Dan.


  • Laurent

    Yes, it is surely possible to experience this everyday. In many ways it is why I have called this blog “unfolding leadership,” because it is process, a process that can always be called up…and this gives a chance to see what the real impacts are of our learning.


    Cool. I like XL as well — and I your altered line. Thanks for stopping by.

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