There is a petty debate the takes place in my mind whenever I am looking to hire a new person at my firm. I have a scholarly, facts-based angel on one shoulder, reminding me of one of my favorite maxims: if you cannot measure it, you cannot understand it. If you cannot understand it, you cannot manage it. If you cannot manage it, you cannot improve it. This angel believes surveys, data and academic wisdom rule the universe of all truth.
Contrast that with an angel on the other shoulder in jeans and a T-shirt, sweaty and marred with the messiness of being real. This angel is saying personal experience is far more valuable than numbers, surveys and empirical data. Been “there,” done “that” is far more significant than surveying “there” and analyzing “that.” Real-world experience is the giver of all truth.
These clashing seraphs debate to this day. Do I hire the candidate out of a very good school with an MBA or computer science degree, yet comparatively little experience? Or the applicant with little schooling but deep and relevant work know-how?
The best academics in the world they will tell you that deep, scholastic knowledge is critical. Yet, are they the most objective source on the subject? Then on the other hand, if you listen to those who trivialize formal, scholastic education, they are often those who do not have the degree, honors and diploma in hand. For me the answer, like most answers, lies somewhere in the middle. I am not trying to duck the heat; I sincerely believe that in life, we need to be careful of those who would suggest that it is this way or that way. I hate either or type decisions and answers. Very rarely is it black or white. More often than not, there are infinite shades of gray.
While writing, I will often find these two angels arguing a similar debate. The facts-based angel is pessimistically whispering in my ear “Art, who are you to be writing this blog, telling others about life, leadership, fatherhood and such? You are no trained psychiatrist, therapist or family counselor. Heck, many may argue that you need serious aid from the above-mentioned experts. You cannot teach others about knowledge and truth. Truth is learned by conducting research, looking at that data and drawing empirical conclusions. Faith, experience, inspiration and stories will never give way to the all-powerful certainty of science, strength of reason, evidence and data.”
But here again, my innate inner voice is telling me that truth can be found in many methods. Whether you conduct a massive survey, analyzing the results and drawing conclusions or individually making the mistakes, taking corrective measures and learning through hard knocks, truth can be learned in a myriad of ways. Both contribute to a vast reservoir of knowledge that we can draw on when faced with life’s most pressing challenges.
So while I have inner demons telling me to stop writing, no one cares. “Who are you? No one wants to hear your thoughts and opinions.” They are just that — thoughts and opinions. I remind myself that life is not all about ones and zeros, blacks and whites. I do not live in an either-or world. This way or the highway. I live in a world where we need to come together as humans; we need to feel inspired. We need to laugh, ponder and at times pray. We need to hear each others’ stories.
I am a storyteller. I tell stories. I believe stories are the most powerful medium to teach others. While the data might cause your head to think, it is not what motivates you to act. That is done when the story or emotional side of the equation is triggered. When the heart is convinced that the head has it right, we are motivated to move. I believe faith and science can co-exist. In fact, I begin to worry when someone argues one side more vehemently more than the other. My BS antenna goes sky-high when I meet a scientist who scoffs at faith or the clergyman who snubs factual evidence.
So in this blog, I write stories, many of them personal in nature. Not because I think I am anyone special, but because I can tell these stories with passion and a personal perspective that only I can bring.
So here is another story. I love saying that. Notice I did not say “here is a mountain of data that quantifiably proves another maxim.” “No,” I said, “here is another story.” I hope you can imagine me smiling.
What if my child were to ask me, “Daddy, do your words say what you mean?” It’s silly to think I would respond with anything other than “yes, honey. they do.” When I ask you to clean your room, do your homework or feed the dogs, that is exactly what I want you to do. I would think that the bulk of parents would answer this question with the same fervent “YES” as I would.
Certainly, most parents believe that their words truthfully convey their opinions. But what if we were to alter the above question slightly? Try this question on instead: “Daddy, do your words say what you do?” Whether your child is vocally uttering these words or merely thinking them, I promise, they are being thought. This question is a much more difficult one to answer. Truth be told, while I do most often mean what I say, I will sometimes do something else.
My youngest daughter Mackey is into all sorts of crafts, including origami, drawing and friendship bracelets. A few years ago while relaxing in my recliner after work, she asked if I wanted a rubber band friendship bracelet. I said “sure.” She then eagerly showed me my color options. I chose purple, white and gold, my high school colors. (Yes, I still bleed Monta Vista High School purple and gold.) She sat down beside me right then and there and weaved together a simple rubber band bracelet. She excitedly said “here Dad, we are now BFF’s (best friends forever).” I said “WOW — that is really cool!” I put it on and she beamed. While getting ready for bed that evening, I sat it on my dresser along with my mobile phone, keys, wallet and other personal items.
The next morning as I got ready, I inadvertently left the bracelet on my dresser. It sat there for about a month. One morning as I was brushing my teeth, I saw Mackey out of the corner of my eye via the mirror, staring at the friendship bracelet still sitting on my dresser. My heart instantly dropped. Did she think I was not her friend? Was she doubting my enthusiastic “WOW — that is really cool!” comment? Did she doubt our commitment to be “BFF’s?” Was I walking my talk?
I quickly spat out my toothpaste, rinsed, spun around and said “there it is… I have been looking for that.” Yes, I admit — a little white lie, but it was all I had at the moment. I quickly put it on and asked if it goes with my shirt. She just beamed and I said “I will take that as a yes.” “Still BFF’s?” she nodded. The entire day, I wore her bracelet, along with her smile.
Our talk is important. But our actions carry far more weight. Ultimately, our actions will validate what we say! If our words do not align with our actions, our words will soon become white noise. Others will hear you speaking, but the words themselves will be void of all believability.
When someone says one thing and does another, they lose credibility with those around them. It happens to me, it happens to you and happens to everyone. Knowing that Diet Coke is not all that healthy for me does not stop me from drinking it. This trait is common in all humans. The fact is that we all fall short at times and do things that do not totally align with our knowledge or words. Walking the talk is one of life’s most weighty challenges. Do not beat yourself up when you stumble and fall. Do not get discouraged when your words and actions are not in utter harmony. Just keep trying.
FYI, I looked for some empirical, professorial essay sighting heaps of evidence on this subject and came up short. My friendship bracelet story will have to do. (Teasing grin.)Tags: angel, angels, Art Coombs, BFF, children, computer science, daughter, Don't Just Manage -- LEAD!, evidence, experience, facts, faith, family, friendship bracelet, inner voice, little experience, Mackey Coombs, MBA, professors, quantifiable, scholarly, scholarship, science, storytelling, writing
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This post was written by Art