What I am writing here is based on my own experience and what I observed and learned. It is my point of view and it makes sense to me. It has worked for me and is still working for me. It remains being your responsibility to do your own critical thinking, don’t just believe.

And that is exactly my intention: making you think for yourself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Authenticity and Independence

Authenticity and independence. Nothing could be more important for a leader than that. Living your life based on your principles and your values. No matter what. Form your own opinion. Based on your own independent critical thinking. Jumping on whatever bandwagon is always easy. Being your own bandwagon is tough and needs character. Character to stand up for yourself and what you found to be right. Even in the face of rejection or, worse, aggression. Yes, there is a price to it. Sometimes a high price. Nelson Mandela was a great leader on his own right standing up for what he believed in. Unfaltering. He spent 27 years in prison for staying true to himself and not compromising on his convictions. That’s character.
As a leader you determine your standards. You gotta define what you stand for. Your principles and your values you base your life upon. You commit to it. And then you live it. Anytime and every time and anywhere. In your personal life, In your business. Always. You can’t compromise on that, ever. Don’t settle for less. The moment you would compromise you are no longer authentic. No matter your excuses.
Many people will be eager to tell you what to do and how to do it. They want you to be like them. They want you to join their bandwagon. They want you to follow their opinion. The price would be losing your authenticity and making yourself dependent. Dependent on other peoples opinion. Dependent on other peoples approval. The fastest way to make yourself a prisoner of pleasing people. The worst a leader can do.
Leaders lead. They don’t follow opinions.
Yet, all too often people choose to chime in into what the majority believes. Seeking acknowledgement. Longing for approval. Longing for applause. Or looking for that extra buck it might make them. Going to great lengths to get it. Even if this means to betray their own principles and values. Addicted to pleasing others. And they become exchangeable. Something that could be anything. Something without character.
When they talk they use “clinically pure language”. Everything with the potential of making a clear, concise statement for what they stand for is removed. Instead, they use complicated phrasing filled with buzzwords. Delivering anemic speeches. A language designed to impress. Designed to suppress any questions. And they appear detached. Appear like the messenger and not the leader. Puppets on a string. Inauthentic and dependent. In self denial. The audience can sense it. Can smell the fear. Sooner, rather than later.
Authentic and independent leaders and thinkers have no need for the approval of others. They live their lives straight based on their principles and values. They have done their homework. Have done their critical thinking. And they talk about subjects they personally know and understand and have experienced. Emphasis on experience. They have formed their own, independent substantiated point of view. They don’t just repeat what others say. That’s what makes them not only stand out, but stand-alone.
Being authentic and independent is polarising. Some people might like you and some others won’t. And that’s ok.
Remember Apple’s “Think Different”, something Steve Jobs stood for:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Those are the leaders we need. Many more of those and much less, if any, of all the other well-adapted Teflon people.
What’s it gonna be for you? Your choice.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thinking Is Worth The Trouble

Thinking for yourself, critical thinking is the most important skill one must train relentlessly. Unfortunately, it's a skill not taught. And a majority of people couldn't care less. They are satisfied with their daily soap opera. They believe what they are told. They do what is expected. They complain every now and then. But of course within the rules and constraints. Obedient citizens.
And many of these obedient citizens are assigned leadership positions. In governments. In companies. In organizations. Aimless, helpless, and willing consumers themselves. Consumers of whatever senseless and meaningless stuff. Repeaters of what they are told and never dared to question. Believers engaging in spontaneous communication out of an intellectual nothingness. It’s astounding what kind of complete nonsense people are willing to believe.
Thinking is work and is time consuming. Especially critical thinking. And that’s the reason why, for instance, many politicians can maintain more bullshit in 5 minutes than critical thinking can check in a lifetime.
When our species appeared on this planet the chance for survival looked rather dim. There was nothing we could do better than other species. Too slow to outrun predators. Mediocre endurance. Not strong enough. But we had the capacity to think for ourselves. More and better than any other species. It's our brain that made our survival possible. That’s why we are still here … still. Hence, why not using it properly?
Have a look at this: 

What is it? What comes to your mind first? Most people will say it’s a cube. But wait. Is it? A cube is a 3-dimensional object. And this image is 2-dimensional. Therefore it can’t be a cube.

Now look at this one:

What is it? 12 black lines. That’s it.

In both images you had the exact same information. 12 black lines. Yet, the first one represented to your brain a recognizable pattern. And immediately your brain delivered the interpretation of the information. That’s how our brain works. Our brain is interpreting incoming information based on recognizable patterns. All the time. Bluntly spoken our brain makes stuff up. That’s why critical thinking is so important. Because otherwise you can be easily fooled.
As a leader you must master critical thinking. You must think for yourself. And as a leader you must train your team in critical thinking. Thinking the way scientist do. For instance:
  • When you have an assumption you must check its validity by testing it. Doing your best to disprove it. Remember what Richard Feynman said: “You are the easiest person to fool.”
  • When someone else is presenting to you for instance methods or systems, ask for sound evidence that it works. Don’t just trust hearsay or dubious statistics. Ask the right and tough questions. Forget being just polite. It’s always you and your reputation at stake. Make sure that you do your due diligence.
  • “Trust one who has gone through it.” (Virgil). You wouldn’t jump out of an airplane when you know that your instructors never ever jumped themselves. Likewise, listen only to those who have done what they are talking about. There are so many people who always seem to know everything and telling you what to do. But never did it themselves. Don’t waste your time with them.  
True leaders mastering critical thinking are encouraging others, their teams, doing the same. The more the art of thinking is spread, the better our results will become. Technology is evolving fast and people need to keep up with it. The way it's done, however, is cementing the system of a small group of people controlling and commanding the rest. What the 99 percent don't get, and how could they without thinking, is that they become soon obsolete.
Thinking is worth the trouble. And it starts with leadership.