I’m writing this on July 4, 2019, Independence Day in the US. We celebrate in wonderful ways if you grew up here. I suspect if you’re looking in from the outside, our celebrations seem a little strange.
What we celebrate is—in my opinion—the most outrageous and courageous experiment in self-government across the planet. it started with the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1776:
…We hold these truths to be self-evident…
As a country, you might or might not agree on how well we have done, managing these self-evident truths. I’m not going to get into politics here. Instead, let me ask:
What self-evident “truths” do you hold for yourself?
I often discover that when I examine these self-evident “truths,” I learn something along the way. I might not change my mind immediately. I might turn these new learnings over in my brain and try some experiments.
However, when I examine these “truths,” I often discover they are not true all the time. Or, they no longer fit my context. Or, they were never really true.
Here’s a professional example. Back when I learned to program, we thought we were supposed to gather all the requirements upfront, design everything, and it would be a SMOP (Simple Matter of Programming) to make the application work. It never worked that way for me.
My users always changed their minds, sometimes during requirements. I used to prototype and ask just like the eye doctor: Is this better, or is that better?
I got better results, but I didn’t follow the self-evident truths of the time.
When I managed projects and programs, I used rolling wave, deliverable-based planning. Sure, I knew I was supposed to use “real” milestones, but they didn’t work. Not for my projects and programs—and we know now, not for many others.
When I first had the inner ear hemorrhage with resulting vertigo, many people told me to “take it easy” and not challenge my vertigo. In effect, to give up. My doctors recommended vertigo PT (which I did) and offered the best meds they could at the time.
None of that worked. (I have oscillopsia, not BPPV. What they recommended works for BPPV.) I have become a scientist for my vertigo. I challenge everything: exercise of various kinds, what I eat and drink, and when/how much to sleep. I have spreadsheets of data.
When I see new docs and offer them my spreadsheets and notes, they can’t quite reconcile the patient with the person. I am both of those people, but the docs are not accustomed to people being proactive in such a strange area of health. I break their “truths” of what they believe about patients.
I break the rules and truths for me.
When we re-examine the self-evident “truths,” we often discover the truth that fits the context now, for us. I’ll take that.
Here, on this July 4, I ask this question of all adaptable leaders: When are your “truths” not self-evident?
I wish you a happy and safe July 4.
- Do We Need Rules, Agreements, or Guideposts?
- What’s the Solvable Problem?