I heard a quote credited to E.M. Forster stating, “how do I know what I think until I see what I say…” How do I know what I think, until I see what I say? This profound question sent me on a reflective journey this week unlike any I can remember. The question made me consider a wide range of things like diversity and inclusion (D&I), career aspirations, fear and anxiety, strategic planning and execution, society in general, and much more.
Diversity & Inclusion: As we make snap judgements about people, how do we know what we think until we see what we say? How do we know all people in any people group are a certain way until we know someone from said people group? I venture to say, we really don’t actually know how “they” are until we have met ALL of them. I spoke about this in a presentation to a regional Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) group a few months ago. In the address I made the comment, “Social psychology is to diversity & inclusion (D&I) as on-base percentage is to the “Money Ball” story. Leaders with corporate responsibility and hiring authority will most likely hire the types of people they are familiar with… Especially leaders who are intent to mitigate risk of failure and to increase the odds of outcome achievement.” In other words, people will promote what they know. In the case of D&I, people will hire and promote who they know (figuratively of course). If hiring authorities are not personally familiar with the value of a diverse group of people, he or she is less likely to willingly hire a diverse team, especially into positions of leadership. In the Money Ball story loosing was the symptom and low on-base percentage was the underlying cause. A lack of D&I is a symptom and social psychology is the underlying cause. The real tragedy is most people make snap judgements about entire groups of people based largely upon assumptions as opposed to firsthand knowledge. How do you know what you think until you see what you say?
Career Aspiration / Fear & Anxiety: I had a conversation this week with a young professional about career aspirations. She communicated uncertainty about her ability to be successful in a job she’d never done. I reminded her of two things: 1) how do you know what you think until you see what you say and 2) embrace failure and/or the potential of failure, because a point of failure is the only way to recognize the need for improvement. There is no improvement apart from failure. Attributes and efforts make people successful, not the jobs they do. I advised her to stop looking for a job and to work to pay attention to what she loves. I encouraged her to find a place in which she can do the things she loves most often. Passions are catalytic to successful pursuits. Jobs are to passions as 501 (c) 3 is to non-profits. 501 (c) 3 is simply the tax code giving non-profits the right to function as they do. Jobs simply give people the right to function for organizations as they do. Non-profits pursue missions, not the tax code. People should pursue passions in their vocations and not jobs. We went on to discuss how the fear of failure is based on assumptions more so than factual knowledge. You don’t know what your worst fears are like until you experience them. You don’t know what you actually think about your worst fears until you see them come to fruition. Until you experience the reality of your pursuits, you don’t know what you think about them. How can you know what you think until you see what you say? My statements aren’t meant to negate the need for risk awareness and caution. They are not meant to inspire recklessness. My words are intended to free you from the crippling affects of fear and anxiety by seeing before formulating an opinion.
The E.M. Forster quote could be turned into a book, maybe even a series related to all of the places my reflective journey took me this week. Until I or one of you decides to write such a book I hope you remember to challenge what you believe you think. Ask yourself, “how do I know what I think until I see what I say?”
Remember, nothing said is everything, but everything said is something…
Charles Pulliam… Until next time…