Friday, January 21, 2011

Your Truth, Really

I set the last plate on the rack to dry and turned to survey the kitchen/dining room/living room that accounts for about 70% of the floorspace in our home. All the food was packed up and put away, the pots and pans were in the cupboard, the table had been wiped clean, and it was just 10:30.

I walked over to the cupboard, pulled out the bottle of Macallan, grabbed a couple of glasses and then sat down at the counter next to my buddy Jeff who was in town for a training course. We each swirled the single-malt about our glasses, took a deeply satisfying sip and then leaned back into our seats, just enjoying the quiet of the moment.

"Mark, you mind if I ask you a question?"

"Not at all. What's up?"

"What do you consider to be your truths?"

"What do mean by my truths?"

"I mean the bedrock beliefs that form the basis of who you are and how you operate. They may or may not be what you profess to believe. They would be the beliefs someone would discern after observing you closely for a couple of months."

I looked at Jeff and said, "Wow, great question!" and then I looked to see exactly how much Macallan we had left.

We talked til about 2:30. I shared my foundational beliefs with Jeff and then he shared his with me. It was quite revealing. I learned a lot about myself and the usefulness of discerning your theoretical truths from your operational truths.

Nothing I Can't Figure Out
The first truth that came to me in response to Jeff's question was this: There's absolutely nothing that I can't figure out. To be clear, this may not be true in the conventional sense of fact or fiction. However, it's absolutely true in terms of the way I operate. Naively or not, foolishly or otherwise, I get completely jazzed by new challenges and impossible situations. I always assume that there's and an answer and that I can come up with it.

This belief is so core to me, that I don't actually think about it, I just act upon it. It doesn't vary from situation to situation. It just never occurs to me that I could fail.

Not All Truths Are Desirable
Another of my truths is one that I wouldn't have listed were I thinking about it from an academic perspective. Although, I might tell you that I believe in and trust people, observing myself operationally, I would conclude that I absolutely believe people to be generally unreliable and inept.

When working on something jointly, I'll typically check and verify the work of others (multiple times). When playing with bands, I always bring spare parts, extra batteries and pieces of gear that I don't use myself, just in case. If I'm meeting someone in town, I always bring something else to do in case they don't show up or show up late.

So, on the one hand, I'd like to believe that others will do what they say they'll do, that they'll deliver on their portions of a shared task, etc. On the other hand, I don't operate with that belief.

You might ask, "Why would you want to believe one thing, and yet operate believing something to the contrary?"

It'd be a good question and the answer is simple: You do it because it works, or at least partially works. It's a way of taking care of yourself.

So what do you do with undesirable truths? First of all, recognizing that you have an undesirable truth in your quiver is useful. It's the starting point for self-exploration. After exploring, you can decide to accept your undesirable truth. You can decide to toss it. You can decide to merge it with what you want to believe.

I operationally adhere to my undesirable belief that people are generally unreliable for good and rational reasons
  • I've experienced people not showing up or not having prepared.
  • I'd rather be over-prepared than under-prepared.
  • Thinking more holistically about my role in a team effort provides me a better perspective for leadership
Once I articulate and understand these reasons, I can take a look at my desired belief (to trust people to be reliable and adept) and explore the benefits of operationalizing it:
  • By trusting people to be reliable and effective, I would reduce the amount of work that I have to do.
  • Trusting people would allow me to better focus on the tasks that I want to complete.
  • Trusting people and relying them often leads to them becoming trustworthy and reliable.

Recharging Beliefs
I am Lucky1.

I believe that I am truly lucky to live the life I am living... Lucky to be with a wonderful woman whom I adore... Lucky that she usually adores me back... Lucky to have terrific kids and great friends... Lucky to play music and to work passionately...

I'm not sure I can explain it well, but there's something about feeling lucky that transforms the stimuli that bombard you day-in and day-out into blessings rather than non-events or curses. I guess it leads to that sensation that it's all good.

2010 was a challenging year for Iris and me, perhaps the most challenging year of my life. There were times when my core sense of being lucky (being blessed) was shaken. Although this is oxymoronic, you might call it an existential crisis of faith. At times, I leaned over the precipice of exponential exacerbation, the pit of endless cycling on the musak of lament, where falling in would have simply required me to shift my focus from the immediate effect of not being lucky, to the loss of luck itself.

The loss of faith can be challenging enough. However, when you start lamenting the loss faith, rather than the effect of losing faith, well, you're screwed.

The thing I discovered, though, is that the loss of faith (the decommissioning of an operational truth) doesn't actually mean anything. What you believed can be recovered and it can be recovered quickly and easily.

Unlike TRUTH in the classic sense (something that is absolute, immutable and fail-proof), the value in operational truth resides in how well it works for you. It's not about believing in your mind or even about believing in your heart; it's about believing in your muscles and your sensory systems. Recovery is not philosophical; it's physical. You don't contemplate it or philosophize; you act.

As you act upon your truth, you breathe life into it. As you reinvigorate your truth, it returns the favor, invigorating your action. And then you begin to see the supporting evidence.

In my case, the loss of feeling lucky (a general sense that it will all work out great no matter what) had led me to becoming hesitant and indecisive in some cases and controlling and inflexible in others. Cycling through it mentally got me nowhere. However, when I decided to act upon the belief that I was indeed lucky (to operationally believe that it was all good), I began moving forward; things got easier, I made whatever decisions came my way quickly and easily, and I started to see all the evidence of my great luck.

What Are Your Truths
So, what are you truths, the bedrock foundational beliefs that define who you are and how you operate? How do they influence your daily activities? How do they contrast with and compare to your philosophical or theological truths? What would you change? What would you grow? What would you recover?

Happy Friday!

1 For those of you who would choose to anthropomorphize the attribution of your well-being, you could replace "lucky" with "blessed".

1 comment:

  1. Great opening personalized thought line Tef.

    Sub'd under my lucky/blessed heading is the choice to believe/embrace that I am loved and loveable.

    and smilingly disregard anything anyone else might think or say to the contrary as irrelavant ;) bw


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