The story of Jonah’s Club is one of fulfilling a simple, but deceptively difficult mission:
How do we recover the strength of soul, to live out our life’s mission?
That is, how do we build the mental strengths that allow us to have a life of meaning, of genuine power, and of real happiness?
For as a leader of any kind – whether as a parent, or as an educator, or as a manager of a business – this is especially difficult to realize in today’s world.
Having recently served on a parent-led committee to start a new school, I heard so many stories of parents being disillusioned by what’s now on offer in both public and private education for their children…
There was for instance, a father who just pulled out his daughter from school and did not know what to do. His daughter felt uncomfortable in class with what she was being taught, so she recorded the teacher and what he was saying, for her dad to hear.
What the father heard, was a teacher indoctrinating the class into a particular ‘political ideology’. Furthermore, he was using his power and position to make anyone who disagreed with him to be an idiot.
He came to the meeting then, because he wanted a school where her daughter was taught how to have strength of character, to be able to think well, and not for some ideologue to dictate and to coerce what she should believe.
That father was under the impression that teachers were equipped to do this – especially as he sent his daughter to a private, religious school. He worked hard for those tuition fees, hoping she’d get an education he never got…
After all, it is this kind of education – one that develops the strengths of one’s soul – that fundamentally dictates whether his daughter would live a happy and productive life, or not… i.e.
whether or not she would succumb to the peer pressure to take up recreational drugs and to spiral down into addiction or depression;
whether or not she would be sleeping around, ‘experimenting’, ending up with an STD or falling pregnant;
whether or not she would intentionally harm herself or those around her, or worse of all, contemplating suicide … and on and on.
Yet even at this private school, where he thought she was getting an ‘elite education’, by all reports her daughter gave him, the issues listed above were surprisingly common…
When the father went to talk to the principal about it, he was shocked to hear that she considered all this as, ‘kind of normal teenage behavior’…
Perhaps this has become a new normal for the 21st century. But is this right? Furthermore, what exactly are teachers and principals to do?
For having worked in the Australian higher education sector, and completing a Masters in Education at apparently one of Australia’s best universities, we were taught how to educate, without any thought onto character development.
The video I produced above, is largely based on my research at the time, into our current educational philosophies. It was through this research that I started to notice an appalling lack of knowledge or interest in the question, ‘what should education be for’?
Everyone just took it as a given ‘what education is for’ – i.e. either that education is for getting a good job, or to bring about some imagined form of a more ‘fairer society’.
With that, no further thought was necessary.
Thus, when entering an educational institution, which is set up by government policies and frameworks (thus, the ones who pay the bills) – everyone just falls in line with this set agenda.
As teachers will substantiate, one is just made to get good at writing endless reports on how you are meeting these pre-set government aims. In many institutions, you are required to write up every single day, a series of ‘cover-your-ass’ reports, to demonstrate how you are conforming.
Thus, this process in and of itself, in a sense, conditions you to implicitly agree that this is what education is all about.
So when exactly is an overworked teacher or principal to even have the time to ‘think different’?
Where do you even go to find the resources to help your students develop their highest strengths? (You certainly won’t be taught these in your education as an educator.)
Heck, one is not even able to articulate this question to start with, let alone to know of a place where you can find the answers…
What matters most in academic institutions is what’s most recently published. And how the system is gamed is that you’ll always get funding or employment, if you but suck up to the dominant political party (or fashionable stance) that those who stand to judge you, already agree with.
And thus, the very best insights that civilization has produced throughout the ages – these get buried in avalanches, over more avalanches, of ever more irrelevant and incoherent ideas.
It is not surprising then that the beautiful profession that is teaching is now a leading source of depression and anxiety for many – as teachers at all levels, find themselves helplessly trapped in a cold, conformist educational system.
Most great educators then switch careers. Average educators just go with the flow. And the net result is that both teachers and students are made the poorer for it.
In turn, students then go on to become tomorrow’s workers, tomorrow’s educators, and tomorrow’s leaders – and so the vicious cycle continues.
For like many managers and leaders of organizations also experience, there is an ongoing struggle for how to connect with genuine leadership education, in and of itself. The space has become saturated with cheap clichés that seem little more than ‘feel-good’ virtue signals for one another…
Superficiality abounds. (Just have a look at the short video parody right here, because it sums up beautifully what most leaders encounter…)
The fact that an employee loyalty to a company is at an all-time low, with the average employee switching jobs every 4-5 years, is just one measure of the cynicism that has now become the new norm.
Shows like ‘The Office’, ‘Dilbert’, ‘Silicon Valley’ and so many more, have come about precisely because of the level of hypocrisy and superficiality that present-day ‘leadership and management’ education is currently at.

But what is beyond the shallowness of pretending that with yet another ‘creativity hack’ you too can be like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk?
What is beyond the transactional relations that most organizations have fostered, where the money is the only real motivating force for employees?
Why is it that we today lack a common vocabulary, for what it takes to engage upon a heroic project and to journey it together?
It has been concerning questions like these that Jonah’s Club has emerged.
Jonah’s Club is here to reverse the poverty of ‘soul’ that our present-day education has stripped away from us.
Today we’re lost in a sea of meaningless pleasures and distractions, precisely because we have thrown away the heritage of our greatest and brightest thinking…
We are like artists who do not look at the best-of-the-best anymore – like Michelangelo or Rubens or Rembrandt… So deprived of models of greatness, we seek to reinvent the wheel anew, and in turn, produce ‘stick figures’.
Our belief is, is that we ought to know what the brightest minds in our history had to say. We ought to be trained and educated by the very best, so we may live out with strength, our authentic soul’s story…
For it is not right to be a passive pawn in someone else’s plan for your life. We don’t deserve to be short-changed by our education.
Our great-great-great-grandparents have wished with their whole heart to share their best wisdom with us – and detested those who would keep us ignorant of the most valuable knowledge there is – i.e. the knowledge of how we can make our lives truly happy, strong, and meaningful…
Our education ought to give us this ‘best of’ philosophy and to help us to practice it.
This is what we believe.
And this is what membership into Jonah’s Club is all about.
Until next time,
Carpe Diem,

* ‘Notes from the Underground’ was the title of a book by the great Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The book was a reply to another book from around the same time, titled “What Is To Be Done?”, by Nikolay Chernyshevsky. This was a national ‘bestseller’ capturing the imagination of many Russians at the end of the 1800s.
“What Is To Be Done?” was championing the idea of a future utopia, of a society that was organized by small socialist cooperatives, ‘collectives’, which ushered in a society of total equality and ‘eternal joy of the earthly kind’.
It was written as a kind of new ‘social science’ insight and was the precursor to the idea of communism. It was a major cultural movement in Russia, and many credit this book, (and not Karl Marx), to have had the biggest influence upon what would later become the Soviet Union or USSR.
Dostoyevsky saw the great evil that lay hid at the heart of this ‘Trojan Horse’ and his ‘Notes from the Underground’ were written as a counter-response and a warning – in the hope that it may prevent a cultural catastrophe.
Unfortunately, Lenin picked up ‘What Is To Be Done?’, read it several times, and the rest is now history… tens of millions dead and hundreds of millions made utterly miserable.
The arguments made in Notes from Underground were of course true. The ideas from ‘What Is To Be Done?’ were a trap, and the communist ideology would bring about the very opposite of what was promised – ‘deep suffering of the earthly kind’.
In the same spirit then, these ‘notes from the underground’ are a continuation of this tradition – seeking to preserve some sense and reason, against the cultural assault at play with us today.
For the best response we can give to bad ideas, are better ideas.
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© 2023 Jonah's Club by Center for Meaningful Leadership Inc - A Non-Profit Organization


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