“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” -Benjamin Franklin
Judgment is easy. Jumping to conclusions. Making assumptions.
Evidence is hard. Curiosity often difficult to satisfy.
When people have a problem with somebody it’s just easier to tell everybody but the person you have a problem with.
Over the weekend I posted this graphic…
But many of us tend to do exactly this.
The absence of facts or context doesn’t often enough prevent us from knee-jerk conclusions. Conclusions we’re convinced are spot on.
Leaders aren’t immune. Sometimes the power goes to our head, squeezes the logic right out of our brains, and causes us to think we’re invincible in our judgments. It’s another reason – a BIG reason – why we need to be more careful about the people who surround us so we can improve our vision, foster deeper curiosity and find more accurate evidence – all the things that can drastically fuel greater growth.
The solution may be counter-intuitive. Be MORE selfish. Think MORE about yourself.
No, not in some “I’m better than you” way, but in a more genuine way.
Are you going through something extraordinarily tough right now? If so, then hold that thought. If you’re not, then think back to a really bad time. A time when life was really knocking you in the dirt and stomping on your guts. A time when your confidence was setting record all-time lows. A time when you had no idea when this trouble would end, or IF it would end. Get that in your mind right now.
It’s a time that’s embarrassing to you, even though it may not be the result of anything you did. Embrace how you felt (or how you may be feeling right now if it’s happening to you right now).
You want to hide, right? You don’t walk to talk to anybody? And if you do, you want to complain or make excuses so you can explain it all away.
Put yourself in that place.
Now, let me walk into your life at that very moment. Let somebody else – perhaps somebody you think would know you well enough to understand your context – walk into your life at this moment. Friends and family who may have known you for a long time, let them walk in on you at this moment.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume these people judge you the way you judge people. We’ll assume harsh judgment is easy…because it is. Each of these people are going to think the worst. Mostly because people seem more tempted to think the worst than the best. Today, all eyes are on you and they’re judging your life by this moment. Not your finest hour, but it’s this chapter of your life where people have now opened the book of your life. You know it’s just a single chapter. They don’t.
How are you feeling? Better?
Hardly. You’re thinking how unfair it is. You’re thinking, “This isn’t the total sum of who I am or what I’ve done. It’s completely unfair to judge my whole life based on what I’m going through right now.”
Welcome to the world of full opinions, half facts. And I’m being generous to spot you with half facts. My experience is that people need far fewer facts than half in order to form a full opinion!
Arrogance, pride and hubris. That’s why we do it. Our own arrogance, pride and hubris.
We feel better about ourselves and our lives knowing that you’re going through something we feel currently immune from. Judging you harshly makes us feel superior to you. Better than you. If only for a moment, we’re able to lift our head higher than yours giving us a feeling of greater success.
But we can do the same thing with ideas, or solutions. We make false assumptions without evidence, believing we’re right, and it drives our decisions. Faulty decisions that aren’t based on enough evidence.
“If only closed minds came with closed mouths.” -anonymous
Enter courage and humility. The two components most needed to overcome the problem. Gratitude and compassion are the other two. Put the four together and you’re going to dramatically improve your life. Love, kindness, and curiosity will soar when you commit yourself to these.
Work on YOU. Stop focusing on everybody else.
You can’t contribute to making a positive difference in the world when it comes to this – or any other challenge – until you first own your life. If more people would determine to do better at judging people and situations with only partial facts or context, then we’d be well on our way to a more civilized, creative and positive existence.
Think of all the improved decisions you could make if you had improved knowledge and context. Think of the potential growth – for yourself and for your organization – you’re leaving on the table. Unrealized growth that isn’t happening because you’ve already made up your mind on half-truths, or no truths.
You once had an idea. A dream. Maybe it was a business idea. Maybe it was a career dream. You craved somebody – or more somebodies – who would believe in you and your dream. You craved encouragement. If you achieved it, it’s likely because somebody was in your life who expressed belief in you, and your idea. Deep belief. It fueled your belief. All it took was one person – brave enough, humble enough, grateful enough, compassionate enough – to not judge you harshly but to show you enough grace to realize they knew only what they knew about you and your dream. But that was enough for them to want what was best for you – and not what was worst!
And there it is. Some of us grew up in a zero-sum era where we were taught that our loss results from somebody else winning. We were not taught that we could all win. Truth is, we can all win. Life is plenty big enough for it.
When we figure out that our success doesn’t hinge on somebody else losing it’ll change everything for us. The world will be better. Life more full. Kindness more prevalent.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!