Webster’s online dictionary defines leverage as, “the action of a lever or the mechanical advantage gained by it; power, effectiveness; the use of credit to enhance one’s speculative capacity.” I think of leverage as the use of a portion of something to gain a disproportionate effect. In employing leverage, you are essentially using a small part of something to gain a result that could typically not be had under normal circumstances. The volatility is greater, that is to say, the dispersion of results around the mean are greater, but so is the potential for high reward. The time to use leverage is when your conviction about an event unfolding in a certain way is so strong that the only possible result you can achieve is the way you see it unfolding.
The reason for my description of leverage is twofold: first, I want to explain how we can use various parts of the resources that we have access to in order to produce great results for ourselves. We can use leverage to achieve greater results in our lives by borrowing part of something to which we have limited access to gain a result as if we had full access to it. And second, I want to use the definition of leverage to make a point about definitions. Webster defines leverage in one way, while I define it in another. While I understand the Webster version, based on my own experience, the definition I have for leverage is one that is more relevant and speaks better to my experience. There are many definitions that get pushed upon us – of happiness, success, fulfillment, fitness, beauty – that might not be serving us. Therefore, it is up to us to reconstruct those definitions to make them more relevant to the context of our lives. A definition is just a guide; it is there to help us come to terms with something that we might not be particularly familiar with. But once we’ve had enough experience with something in our lives, then it is up to us to update definitions to better fit our own blueprint of the world and that allow us to take ownership for our own emotional relationship with that term. We might have grown up thinking that success was a high-paying corporate job with a pension plan, but if after following that model of success for a certain period of time, you decide that you have a better definition that is more effectual for your life, then that is the one that you need to use.
Back to the use of leverage. We can create maximum effect by leveraging our resources to produce a desired effect with minimal up-front capital – whether it be monetary, social, or intellectual. I believe that the greatest source of leverage – and the greatest resource, for that matter – is one’s own resourcefulness. Resourcefulness is the greatest resource because it implies creativity and making the most of what you have. When you make assets out of qualities that most people take for granted, that is called resourcefulness – in effect, leverage. As I’ve stated in previous articles, wealth is not so much about what you have, but how grateful you are for what you have. You can be the richest man in the world, but if you don’t value what you have then you are bankrupt. However, a man with gratitude can be wealthy beyond belief, because in many ways, wealth is all in the mind, and how you feel in your mind is how you will interact and take action in the physical world. Whether it is the ability to get out of bed and walk to the kitchen in the morning, speak the English language, know how to do simple multiplication, or read and write, these are all tremendous resources that can either be huge assets if we recognize them as such, or be completely useless if we take them for granted.
In thinking about resources, think about becoming more resourceful. How can you leverage the contacts that you have, the knowledge you’ve gained, the experiences you’ve cultivated to produce a greater result for yourself than the one you are currently achieving regularly. The days of waiting for someone else to do something for you are long over. Businesses are struggling, government has tremendous liabilities, but you have your creativity and ability to do what you can with what you have and turn it into a tremendous advantage. Is there someone that you can call who has a job that you want and get advice on how to start a career in that industry? Is there a language skill you can learn, a class you can teach, or a blog you can start that will allow you to turn your passion into a calling that allows you to earn income and change people’s lives? We have to be willing to understand that the single greatest resource that we have is our own resolve to figure out problems and create opportunities out of situations that might seem bleak and fallow, but that are actually fertile in promise. Never let any definition dictate your life experience. You are ultimately the one with the resourcefulness to create a definition that serves you better and to leverage your resources to make the prospects for something that seems so small produce a return that is disproportionately powerful and gradiose. This is leverage and this is what happens when you come up with a definition that is comprehensible to others, but that resonates most loudly and clearly with you – and your heart.