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At TPA we have a vision of #better – of bigger. We are clear on our vision – on how we make a difference.

Wangari Maathai. Mahatma Gandhi. Rosa Parks. Harriet Tubman. Inspirational leaders who brought about spiritual, social, geopolitical, and cultural change on a global scale.

Change is inevitable. Continents move. Things evolve. We transform. It’s the natural course of life and while everyone will change, not everyone will change the world. Not everyone wants to change the world. Not everyone should change the world.

When it comes to change at scale, I – we as TPA – believe that leadership matters disproportionately. It’s why few lead many. It’s why we need leaders and followers. It’s how people work and the way we function as a collection of societies.

But why do some individuals multiply exponentially? What makes them achieve change at scale? How do we anticipate and harness this capacity to scale personal change into global transformation? Is there a formula – an equation for visionary leadership?

“Poor kids with big dreams”

Joe Weider – bodybuilder, founder of the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB), and creator of the Olympia bodybuilding contests – started his life out rejected by his mother at birth (she’d wanted a girl child). Growing up unwanted and tolerated by his mother, Joe forms a strong connection with his little brother Ben – a bond they’d hold on to their whole lives. Bullied by anti-Semites, but not one for violence, Joe starts to work out in an effort to become bigger, to deter his bullies.

As he grows bigger and stronger, he feels better and gains confidence. He builds his own makeshift workout equipment, starts to train his brother, and becomes obsessed with the human form. Beyond mere workouts, Joe dives into unpacking every aspect of becoming bigger. Fixated, he starts to draw and redraw the perfect human physique. At 21 he publishes his own magazine, attracting attention from industry players. As he applies himself to achieve every possible gain and challenge every aspect of building a body, he starts to find a love and flow in the process, pushing him onward.

As this passion becomes a driving force in his life, with his brother’s help and companionship, Joe’s legacy starts to take shape. His magazine reaches a distribution of 50 000. His passion for bigger so defines who he is that he ends his marriage because his wife doesn’t share this drive. He cannot stay married to someone who does not share his vision of continuous change, of becoming, of more.

Joe is maniacal about his vision of bigger; the brothers end up with an empire of 13 magazines, numerous books, nutritional supplements, gyms, gym equipment and Joe with the esteemed title of the founding father of clean eating. They form their own competition – Mr Olympia – and start a new bodybuilding federation when they experience resistance and hardballing from mainstream industry players.

Image of Arnold: Image of Arnold and Joe:

Manifested into being in 1970 when he wins the first of seven Mr Olympia titles, Arnold Schwartzenegger embodies the perfect physique Joe sketched 30 years prior. Joe goes on to coach multiple multi-award-winning bodybuilders and become one of the most successful coaches of all time.

While Joe doesn’t achieve all of his objectives (bodybuilding is still not classified as an Olympic sport), he is responsible for the world reimagining bodybuilding as a legitimate sport and lifestyle, changing lives, rebuilding a vision of the human body that continues to dominate Hollywood, popular culture, and health and wellness across the world.

“We didn’t start out to change the world, but that’s exactly what we did.” Joe Weider, Bigger, 2018

Joe Weider – like many game-changers, world leaders, and revolutionaries – doesn’t start out wanting to change the world. He starts out with a need for acceptance and love. He tries to create that for him and his brother, and it becomes his purpose, embedded into the fibre of his being.

As he identifies with this creator aspect of his character, he experiences a sense of fulfilment; one which drives him to engage more deeply. It becomes a passion – something he wants to share, to help others experience the same sense of becoming. It’s not just his muscles that grow bigger, but his ability to serve others, his sense of confidence in doing so, and his impact on the world.

What Joe doesn’t do is assume that his passion makes the journey easy or constantly pleasurable. This assumption distracts those who live for the fantasy, instead of for the purpose. Rather, applying passion to purpose requires deep effort, endless struggle, and pain. All of these are anticipated by visionary leaders; not avoided. This manifests as maniacal focus; one which can shock and appal those who don’t share a similar drive. Even as he faces bankruptcy Joe is still focused on what’s next.

Joe Weider walks every step and manages every achievement as if he never actually arrives at that moment of accomplishment. He lives in a constant state of becoming rather than being. He does not settle; he does not accept less than. He is fanatical; he exhibits a deep dedication that permeates all aspects of his life.

“Bodybuilding is essential to nation-building.” Joe Weider, Bigger, 2018

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This is the journey – the becoming – of a visionary leader. Purpose becomes vision as you experience passion and submit to it with maniacal focus and dedication.

This is the kind of leadership that changes the world. It requires a context and environment which make priorities clear. It requires a need and a dream. It requires hard work, resilience to overcome obstacles, and an unshakeable, overwhelming knowledge of what actually matters. It requires imagination, the belief that there is always more, better, bigger … always becoming never settling for being. This mania becomes the cause to which the leader dedicates themselves; the vision that grows from a seed.

At TPA we have a vision of #better – of bigger. We are clear on our vision – on how we make a difference. We enable organisations to create the context for people to grow into the leaders they need to be; for themselves; for their people and for the world. Leaders who inspire other leaders. Leaders who go places others won’t, who take risks, do more, go bigger, who embody becoming.

At TPA #better is inevitable. What is your inevitability?

© Natalie Maroun


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