Leading by example depends on the example

And I don’t just mean the obvious examples of misconduct. I also mean the kind of examples that involve one cleaning up after himself.

Ever since we were kids, we’ve wanted the benefit of playing with toys minus the cost of cleaning up of after ourselves. If someone else did the cleaning for us, good.

I see this play out in my household, in which my displaced in-laws now live with me, to include our combined total of three cats and three dogs.

I not only clean up after myself, my morning and evening routines consist of cleaning up the household. It feels very much like an individual effort.

Not only do I spend all day working, I come home to now do the cleaning and sometimes cooking. In addition, I’m still trying to make time to pursue entrepreneurship, personal development, and adequate sleep.

The result? A challenge. An extreme challenge in not taking out how fucking pissed I am onto the wrong target.


Not only do I try to do my part, I also seek to do more, as a way of leading by example.

Leading by example is overrated.

My in-laws pick the examples they want to follow, and they pick within the narrowly limits of benefiting themselves at my expense. As if they somehow have a right to my work effort, and are exempt from doing any work for themselves.

They’re poor, obese, and poorly educated… yet that doesn’t stop their snobbery. They’re too good to clean up after themselves.

If the example means greater responsibility for one’s condition or for his environment, fuck that – they won’t be following that example. They’d rather play the victim.


When I was stationed at Kaneohe Bay, 2001–2004, I lived in base housing, or on-post housing. I had a section of grass around my housing unit to mow once a week. The boundary lines were unclear on the lawn but defined in the housing contract.

To make sure I did my part, I chose to do a little more than the articulated limits, and a little more than my previous week’s effort – just a little beyond where it looked like I stopped last time.

As the months went by, my part of the grass became larger and larger, as my neighbors decided to stop mowing where I stopped, rather than mowing up to the limits articulated in the housing contract.

Problem of the commons. Externalities. Mission creep. And the type of example that leading by example inspires a “fuck that” response. Leading by example has a rough time outweighing the laziness in others.


Internalize the externality. Hold the other accountable. Property rights. It’s easy in concept. In practice? I’m still working that out. With adults.

On this, I like the saying that one of the best ways to help the poor is to not become one of them. Much like making it better means in part, not making things worse. I’m all about helping. I don’t believe that “help” means do it for the other.

It’s different with children. They need grooming. Parenting. Modeling has a stronger impact with them, but in my experience, when it comes to cleaning up after themselves, that’s like asking them to perform rocket science.


I found that one of the best ways to avoid a parasite is to simply be unavailable. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t respond to email. And deny ever having any time or resources to contribute.

Just don’t be there.

Sometimes winning at gambling means not losing money – not gambling in the first place.

Winning a fight sometimes means not fighting to begin with.

Avoiding abuse sometimes means avoiding the situation, and the pre-situations leading up to the situation, well in advance.

Does that gas station looked crowded with beggars? Don’t go there.

Does the Walmart parking lot have loiterers? Are the loiterers hiding behind or inside vehicles? Shop elsewhere or shop another time.

Is there someone hiding behind the columns near the ATM? Go to another ATM.

Is the only time your sister-in-law interested in texting you when she needs money? Then don’t respond.