The other day I read a blog post by my colleague, Jeff Turner, entitled: In Search Of The Infinite State. It was primarily about forming, strengthening and articulating our opinions based on information that supports our pre-existing beliefs and dismisses any and all information that challenges those already held views.
The next day, one of the commenters accused Jeff of over-intellectualizing and that his post contained “nothing new or exciting.” Jeff wrote another post, entitled: Over Intellectualization, and defended his position. In his post, Jeff cited Neil Postman’s quote of about 30 years ago, before the birth of Facebook and Twitter, that said: “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images.”
Postman’s statement got me thinking. Good grief, if that’s what he thought in those prehistoric days, what must the state of communication be like today? And the answer is –worse than horrible.
Then, to underscore my despair, I read a letter in the Op Ed section of the Friday, October 11, 2013 edition of the L.A. Times, submitted by Gregory C. McCarthy of Burke, VA that addressed the subject of the dysfunction in Congress and the need for greater bi-partisanship and consensus building. He succinctly (and I think accurately) pointed out that the “process” is not an end in itself, but rather a way to advance the more meaningful goal that included and perhaps demanded that voters must become better educated and leaders must be able and willing to reconcile ends and means. Could he possibly be inferring that we should not keep spending more than we take in, and that members of Congress should be able to figure out how to do that? What an intriguing concept. But the statement by McCarthy that really hit home with me was this: “If opinion leaders can’t clearly state our problems, what hope is there for officeholders?”
McCarthy nailed it. It’s about clarity. It’s about authenticity. The notion of truth is debatable. My “truth,” as honest as I might be in presenting my beliefs, may very well be different than your “truth,” presented with equal honesty. So the “truth” is almost always arguable to some extent.
But Clarity and Authenticity are magic. They have the power to make the meekest of us charismatic. They are the laser beams that can cut through the muck of misinformation to enlighten and inform and turn the messenger into a leader.
That’s the encouraging news. Here’s the sobering part. [pq align=right]You can’t achieve clarity and authenticity in the space of 140 characters.[/pq] You can’t achieve it when all you have to offer is your own slanted opinion, fortified by bullshit masquerading as research. You can’t do that when you haven’t invested the time needed master the art of being clear, concise, focused and thoroughly understandable about whatever you are attempting to convey. You can’t wing it, based on your years of experience.
Being clear and being authentic is a dying art in our society. It’s missing in so many of our Brands, both the message part and the substance of delivery part. It’s missing in companies and it’s missing in our personal Brands.
We must recapture those qualities. And the people who do it, who master it, who put it out there for all to see and hear and touch and feel and experience – those people will be leaders in their fields.
It’s more difficult than it might appear. Clarity is a learned skill. You must study and practice. It’s much like learning to play a musical instrument and reaching the skill level of an impresario. And authenticity requires a level of honesty that makes us vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to have the capacity for true intimacy. It is the epitome of strength and it is a fragile perch on which to rest. But it’s the only way to reach that place of sustainable strength and success.
If I sound preachy, it’s because my belief in these qualities is so strong. I hope your beliefs echo that sentiment and that you will embark on that path. We need it.