Everybody’s got a hungry heart. – Bruce Springsteen
What is the longing within leaders to reach audacious goals, to “make a dent in the universe,” to leave a legacy? We are designed with this longing, and only freedom will lead us to our destiny.
Plato described the human predicament as a desperate interior yearning that arises from the depths of our humanity for all that is true, good and beautiful. Reflecting on Plato’s perspective, Dominican father and playwright Peter John Cameron wrote,
There is no escape from the burning desire within us for the true, the good, the beautiful. Each of us lives with the inextinguishable expectation that life is supposed to make sense and satisfy us deeply. Even the most jaded atheist feels cheated if he doesn’t experience meaning, purpose, peace – in a word – happiness in this life. But just where does this universal expectation for personal fulfillment come from? It isn’t something we drum up or manufacture on our own. Rather, the burning yearning for “what is real” is incorporated into our design.”1
Bruce Springsteen resonates with this “burning yearning”. When he inducted U2 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, Springsteen said,
A great rock band searches for the same kind of combustible force that fueled the expansion of the universe. They want the earth to shake and spit fire, they want the sky to split apart and for God to pour out.” Springsteen continued, “It’s embarrassing to want so much and expect so much from music, except, sometimes it happens.”2
There it is. This burning desire is an intricate part of our design. It is the basic instinct that we’re made for something more. And that “something more” is beyond us. It eludes us. But whatever “it” is, we want it. This burning is within each leader.
Attraction of Infinity
Seven years ago I started Freedom to Lead International, an organization focused on cultivating leaders to reach their divine destiny. I chose that name because much is at stake in the way leaders practice freedom in light of our longing. “Freedom is the capacity for infinity,” writes Lorenzo Albacete, “I am free each time I walk along the path that moves me into infinity.”3
In other words, true freedom is what enables me to reach my infinite destiny. However, as Albecete observes, “If I choose to act in a particular way that separates me from my infinite destiny, I lose something of my freedom and move closer to the abyss of not being free.” This is what often happens when leaders don’t know where to direct the fire that is inside. They settle for shortcuts. They abuse people in pursuit of success or good reputation. They compromise principle for profit. To satisfy this desperate desire, they end up burning others or getting burned.
Leaders can be rescued from the abyss, observed Albacete, “only when the attraction of infinity wins over whatever is attracting me away from it. This is the redemption of my freedom.”
True freedom satisfies our ultimate longing, and guides us into our highest potential. This is the real freedom to lead.
1 Magnificat, December 2001.
3 Lorenzo Albacete, God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity.