It’s 8:45 am on a Saturday morning at the Equinox gym. I’m passing the time as I wait watching some guy get stretched out by his trainer. I can’t help overhear him ask why a line has formed that snakes through the gym. “That’s Omar’s class. He has a following. People line up early to get into his class and they follow him from gym to gym”. And so, my interest in just why someone had a “following” was born.
Although I never became a follower maybe for a lack of access to all clubs or lack of time, I became a follower in my heart. Although it’s hard not to notice him or the people who line up for him, right from the start, I noticed more than his body in Superman inspired neon spandex. Since I like nothing better than to notice what’s not obvious, I notice what he says, doesn’t say; what he does and doesn’t do. This has been a very silent but fruitful exchange for me as it has spurred massive amounts of reflection and speculation that have brought clarity on major subjects of interest to me.
Coinciding as it did with my pursuing a Masters degree in teaching ESL, I started to wonder what kind of teacher I would be one day. Would I ever become a teacher with a following? I wondered if there were universal characteristics of teachers who inspired this kind of devotion. Although it might seem obvious, what kind of people become followers? Did I really want to inspire a following? So much to think about while doing renegade rows! It was hard to maintain my perfect form and focus and not drop an 8 lb. weight on my foot.
I brought my daughters into this thought process because I am fond of thinking of them. JuJu, who trained as a competitive gymnast in middle school and now frequents SoulCycle, would be a definite candidate to be a TM follower. JaJa on the other hand, always our resident couch potato, often could not motivate herself off the couch to the eastside for a movie with friends. (BTW, as their mother, I love their differences.)
I came to a preliminary conclusion that it comes down to what kind of motivation you inspire. Omar’s brand of tough love has the capacity to make me smile with some of his priceless trademark expressions. “If you don’t work hard, you are dead to me” or “I want to make you work so hard that you puke”. JuJu, who could climb ropes in a V straddle, would love this. JaJa would be kicked off the island first round.
I once worked for a yeller boss, one of those guys who threw his weight and self-importance around because, I would guess, he was insecure about something. During my tenure at that job where fear was a constant, I thought a lot about what it takes to be a good leader since he was not. My experience and observations tell me that a good leader knows how to stir up the pot enough to create a perfectly controlled storm. Fearing for your job daily is counter-productive while being on your toes can be highly productive. At the other end of the spectrum, an easygoing leader’s laissez faire style won’t inspire hard work because innovation requires forward moving energy.
If we think about it, our life experience is enhanced by the presence of attainable goals. This is what a good leader or teacher provides. They keep the bar appropriately high but not unattainable because tasks miles beyond our reach will discourage us. Since I l like to reach beyond my comfort zone, encountering a person who offers this kind of inspiration is rare and special.
Actually this kind of inspiration is mythical. I’ve always been enchanted by the idea of the Nine Muses in Greek mythology as they are deities who gave artists, philosophers and individuals the necessary inspiration for creation. They are in their own right goddesses of music, song and dance. They were brought to life to help people forget their sorrows and the evil in the world. So in the end, maybe I’ll never have a blog following or a student following. Maybe I’ll aspire to inspire and become someone’s Muse.