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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Anwar el-Sadat

". . . the gravest injustice done to the Egyptian people was the cultivation of fear . . . rather than trying to build up the inner man, we did everything we could to make him feel frightened.  Fear is, I believe, a most effective tool in destroying the soul of an individual — and the soul of a people."

— Anwar el-Sadat
Egyptian President
1918 - 1981

Many years ago I read these words in In Search of An Identity, the autobiography of Anwar el Sadat, President of Egypt from 1970 to 1981, and since then I have been sharing his words with my audiences in my motivational speeches on leadership.

Fear is a powerful tool for destroying the soul of a person and the spirit of a creative artist.  Rulers have used it for centuries and so have parents.  "You better behave or the bogeyman will get you."

Ask yourself what you are afraid of?  What fears control your actions?  What fears are holding you back?  Are you afraid of snakes?  Heights?  Success?  Math?  A blank piece of paper?  Silence?  A blank canvas?  The neighbor's dog?

Creative leaders must learn to shake off the chains of fear.  Fear can prevent us from taking risks, trying new ideas, exploring new ways of thinking.  Each of us must find the courage to do what we desire to do despite our fears.

In 2010 my daughter and her husband moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota without jobs.  This is something I have never had the courage to do — to simply pick up and leave.  It took them six months to find jobs, but they did it.  I am sure there were many moments of fear, but they had the courage to keep going.

Anwar el-Sadat, Jimmy Carter
and Menachem Begin
at the signing of the treaty
at the White House.

During these days when Egypt is all over the news, it is important that we also remember history.  Anwar el-Sadat was one of 13 children born to poor Egyptian parents.  Sadat participated in the military coup that launched the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.  He served under Gamal Abdel Nasser who was President until 1970.  He became President when Nasser died and served for eleven years until he was assassinated in 1981 by military officers.  His vice-president, Hosni Mubarak, became president.

Sadat signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1979 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  He said at the time: "Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of equity and truth."