Choosing blog topics is a weekly or bi-weekly adventure for me. Normally, something in my relationships, research or practice will trigger a subject that begs further exploration and marination. Often, on the advice of family members, I limit what I want to say. My spouse especially saves me from errors, inadvertent typos, overstatements and unnecessary puns. More things end up on the cutting-room floor than are posted. That is a good thing.
There is a long list of subjects I would like to expound upon that, in truth, probably deserve little more than a paragraph or two. Certainly not my usual thousand-word essays. So this effort, perhaps one of several in the future, is devoted to some simpler but nonetheless intriguing matters of interest that, one day, may emerge into full-blown missives. The nice thing about this blog is that I can espouse on a variety of different topics.
Planning vs. Doing. Many with whom I work utilize their precious time and effort endeavouring to construct much needed action plans, only to fail spectacularly in executing them. They are superb on the architecture of their intentions but lousy on the follow through. Dwight Eisenhower, the great military strategist and President of the U.S., said “Plans are useless but planning is everything.” And Peter Drucker, a guru of management theory, said “Whats without hows isn’t planning, it’s just wishful thinking.” When we lack definitive plans, we become subject to an aimless life with no barometer for measuring progress. While goals are necessary, without specific, measurable and sufficiently flexible steps that can adapt to changing realities and uncertain resources, plans are destined to fail. To accomplish something meaningful, we actually have to do something meaningful. This simple notion is lost on a great number of people. Even the most well-conceived plan is rather pointless without timely execution.
Smart vs. Lucky. We tend to believe hard work pays off, that anyone with gumption, talent or perseverance can become successful. So what about those who made it to the pinnacle, like the very wealthy? Did they get there by the cut of their jib, being special or their unwavering determination? Or were they just fortunate? The answer is the latter. A 40-year study of highly successful people concluded luck is the single greatest determinant in wealth acquisition. Throughout the world, 20% of people own 80% of its riches, which means the other 80% must fight over the remaining 20%. Eight billionaires own more wealth today than do over three billion people. We like to think talent equates to success. The evidence suggests otherwise. The vast majority of the top 20% are not the most talented. They happen to be exceedingly average.
Learning vs. Growing. Learning is acquiring new knowledge; growing is translating knowledge into understanding. Growing is a transformational shift in one’s perspective. It happens when we change how we think about what we know. Growing is more difficult than learning – we have to lose who we once were in order to become what we might be. To grow, we must acknowledge our limitations, what pushes our hot buttons and why, and be more realistic in our expectations. We must design new ways of thinking to support what we seek and develop the capacity to take on greater levels of complexity. We learn new things every day; in truth, we can’t not learn. Learning is making possible tomorrow the things that were not possible yesterday. Growing up, on the other hand, is entirely optional.
Deception vs. Delusion. Deception is lying, trickery, pretence and treachery. Delusion is a self-imposed belief that contradicts reality – it is misconception or misinterpretation. The biggest lie (deception) we tell is when we tell ourselves we don’t lie (delusion). Everyone lies. We are hard-wired to do so. It is not always our conscious fault but it is our genetic fate. Because we maintain a list of lies in our subconscious that defines who we think we are. Reality is quite different. The capacity to screw up is who we are. So we lie in different ways. We obfuscate and lie by omission to avoid confrontation. We lie by exaggeration. Telling yourself you’re in the top 10% of drivers is probably a blatant falsehood. We lie by misrepresenting the things we haven’t done but like to think we did. What books have you told others you’ve read but actually didn’t? We also lie for social reasons – when you say you’re “okay” when you’re really not, are you deceiving them or deluding yourself? That said, we don’t have to lie to ourselves. It may seem a tall order but it’s doable. Acknowledging the reality of your deceptions will free up your humility and augment your personal power.
Us vs. Them. Being part of a group or being excluded from one can alter your life. We sort people into categories all the time – by ethnicity, religion, culture, class, character, status, age, etc. Then we use these categories to understand and predict behaviours. We also invent categories, like Type A personalities, ‘difficult’ people, extroverts, feminists, racists and others. We like those who are similar to us and thus find them more trustworthy and competent, even when they are not. We live in a world where these beliefs matter more than fact and where perception becomes reality. This is not a new aspect of our media-soaked century but rather an eternal element of human nature. It’s not who or what people are that matters, it’s what they think they are. Knowing what group or groups you belong to is a way of measuring the value of your life and therefore the choices you make. It tells you what you must have or not have, what you must do or not do, what you are entitled to or responsible for. Fewer and fewer people today believe that their identity is their destiny. They too are delusional.