Simon Peter understood Christ’s counsel, and put his angling skills to work fishing for men’s souls. Both were great leaders. How do we modern Americans replicate their core Conservative values and beliefs? How do we not get hooked by poor exemplars—and take the bait only from worthy leaders and teachers? Because only then can we expect to restore America to greatness.

Funny thing is, you don’t have to discern which leaders are the best. You have to lead by example yourself. When 11/12ths of the disciples did just that – dedicated themselves to becoming worthy of role modeling and mentoring others – a great movement began. Our movement toward our very salvation. Talk about re-engineering the world from the ground up!

When I was kid, a looong time ago, I remember how difficult it sometimes was to strive for the kind of perfection Jesus displayed in the midst of an imperfect world. Seemed to me the disciples were more relatable. You know, just simple fishermen, tax collectors, tent makers. My father was that guy. Mr. Cavagna, my boss and mentor at the Brooklyn Eagle; Mr. Lombardi, my boss at his small market in Park Slope—they were those guys. They solidified in me the most valuable lesson I ever learned: Clean Your Own Area First.

Even earlier, in Mrs. Lambert’s fourth-grade class, there was a sign on the wall that said, “Keep Your Own Area Clean.” Not sure whether they still teach kids this essential rule of life. I do know that many of us forget or ignore in adulthood this basis of core Conservative values. Personal responsibility is just that—personal. You build it from the ground up. Our national re-engineering project starts at home, with our own lives. Think local (personal), and long-term (life-long). That’s how we return America to greatness.

So what do we do? We start that project today, at home, in own backyards. It doesn’t cost a dime. It pays huge dividends, compounding exponentially. I’m talking about Cleaning Our Own Ground Zero First. If we all do this in our own lives, imagine how quickly we could return America to greatness! That could become a revolutionary social movement second only to that begun by those great men in a Middle Eastern desert 2,000 years ago.

So re-engineer yourself into the person you want to be, based on your values. Scrub your own desk before tsk-tsking at your neighbor’s. Don’t expect the rest of the country to clean up its act until you straighten up your own backyard. Don’t ask, “Who is fighting to restore American family values?” Be the one modeling that, every day.

Focus first on the local and personal where your power is greatest, and you have the most potential to dramatically improve your life and that of your family. That, of course, helps all other boats rise, and positions you better to tackle wider challenges outside your own immediate circle. Think of your world as a series of concentric spheres with you in the center. Your aim is to focus your initial exertions, energy, and resources where you already possess the most influence. Some of those efforts, of course, can be toward widening those spheres.

That’s how 12 guys in the desert spread a message of morality, justice, and goodness, to all corners of a corrupt globe.

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