I was brought up in an environment where being honest was a very natural thing. My parents and especially my grandparents were very simple people. They did not see the big cities, neither did they accomplish great things. Yet, in some way, I have more respect for them than I have for some “big guys” from the business world. The reason is a very simple one: they are role models for me when it comes to honesty.

Advancing in my career, I find it more and more difficult to find honest people. Warren Buffet once said: “Honesty is a very expensive gift, Don’t expect it from cheap people.” How deep and horrifyingly true that quote is. Disappointment after disappointment, one finds out the world we live in is rather full of land mines. That means people, who wait to explode straight into your face or in some cases behind you.

A few questions are haunting my soul: Why does it have to be like this? Is this a demonstration of intelligence? Is someone smarter or better off if he/she chooses not to be honest?

Don’t get me wrong, in my worldview being honest does not mean to be overly simple or stupid. But why lie or use dirty tactics?

I guess I am not going to find a convincing answer very soon. This makes me feel so lonely…

I will conclude with this song by Ben Sollee. I consider it beautiful, including the lyrics (see below the video).

Ben Sollee – A Few Honest Words

If you’re going to lead my country,
If you’re gonna say it’s free,
I’m gonna need a little honesty

Just a few honest words
It shouldn’t be that hard
Just a few honest words is all I need

I don’t need no handshake
No firm look in the eye
Don’t tell me what you think I, I ought to hear

I don’t need no high life
No fancy premieres
Just tell me what you really think without fear

Just a few honest words
It shouldn’t be that hard
Just a few honest words is all I need

Love is a bitter fruit
We’ve learned to eat
But we still don’t know, oh, where it grows

And our love of freedom
Holds a veil over our eyes
Rights that are given can be taken away

Just a few honest words
It shouldn’t be that hard
Just a few honest words is all I need

We don’t choose our leaders
They choose themselves
Tell me again about democracy

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H.

How to make a difference?

My first serious long-term goal was to beat my uncle at chess. I was 7 at that time and it took me about 1,5 years to accomplish it. It might sound foolish, but for me, it was a major mental milestone. I realized that if I try hard enough I can go for the impossible. For the first time in my life, I realized that limits are most of the time self-imposed and we should go beyond them no matter what.

As time passed by, the goals grew in their depth and complexity. The positive reinforcement element was however always there and kept me going. It keeps me going even today, thankfully. It is only my goal that has changed. It went from a finite, well-defined, and clear goal, into an abiding one. One, which would become my vision, the reason I exist: to make a difference. For my family, my friends, colleagues, and also for the stranger, I know nothing about.

How could I possibly tackle such a challenge? I do not have a golden bullet as I also do not have a recipe for success. I however created some rules and am working on making habits out of them. Here they are:

  • The 1% rule: I always try to improve. Not by much, that is neither realistic nor healthy in some cases. Say 1%. 1% per day, week, month, whatever is reasonable. 1% is such a humble figure. A consistent 1% daily improvement is however a 37x increase over a year! So we are talking some serious orders of magnitude here.
  • Knowledge is everywhere. Learn to discover it. Cherish it: one can learn by attending Harvard, but also by reading books, watching youtube videos, listening to big people, and also to the small ones. My last piece of learning was from our janitor who happenes to be a beekeeper as well and he explained to me how meticulously are his bees organized.
  • Be kind. Always. Because you know almost nothing about the other person. You don’t know his/her problems, neither do you understand the whole context in most cases. You don’t know how they feel, what drives them and what takes their joy away. And you definitely do not know the battle every person is fighting. And I can assure you that almost everyone has a battle. It does not make it disappear if you do not see it. Just be kind. Kindness in adversity is a demonstration of a strong mind.
  • Give before receiving: there is more joy in giving than there is in receiving. Exercising the will to give first, also increases your value in the eye of the observer. It’s the purest manifestation of trust and humanity. Stick to it. Everything will turn just fine in the end.
  • Dare: there is one certainty in life: everyone will die. The rest is mostly negotiable, or one can at least choose how to react to events. This gives me the courage to dare and to fail. Specataculously if it needs to be. The answer to the hypothesis will always be on the other side, well mostly on the other side of the fear. The difference between a genius and a moron are those few seconds when his/her hypothesis gets validated.

Are these enough? Are they radical? Will it make any difference? I don’t know. I adopted them for myself.

I will conclude with a personal story. Some time ago I asked Timothy, my then 5 years old son: “Timothy, what would you like to be as a grown-up person?” His answer was: “a good Man”. I only hope Diogenes is still out there somewhere with his lamp in the sheer daylight because I have tears in my eyes. I think it is working…