“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius

Rufus Miles Jr. was an assistant secretary under three different presidents. He is credited with Miles’ law which states: “Where you stand, depends on where you sit.” Your viewpoint depends on your values and your goals.

***

Last weekend, at a course at the Coaches Training Institute, our group did an exercise. The trainer put the word “Commitment” In the middle of the room and then asked us to choose the perspective from which we looked at the word.

The choices were:

An opportunity to express my Life Purpose

Limiting like a straitjacket

Something that creates powerful intention

Hard to hold onto

Scary and overwhelming

Makes life solid and real

Makes life exciting and juicy

Other (You had to have an answer)

Twenty-five people had to pick their perspective and go stand in it. When we were done, each section had someone in it. I remember standing there thinking that it is amazing we are able to communicate at all. One word, eight different definitions.

***

I have seen this first hand. When I was a cop, I served as a defensive tactics trainer.

One time, this police officer, we’ll call him Felix, came to me and asked to start working out with our group. He had just been in a fight on the job and realized he wanted to get in better shape.

I have a pretty functional fitness bias in my programming. I wanted them strong, fast, agile and able to do anything that I threw at them. I don’t do much in the realm of traditional bodybuilding movements, and couldn’t care less if our pecs grew or our arms got huge.

The guy spent a few weeks doing what I said and then one day, didn’t show up for our workouts. I found him in the locker room later and asked where he had been. He showed me a book, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. He said he was going to start following some programs in there because he wanted to get “bigger.”

“Bigger or stronger?” I asked.

“Bigger,” he said.

I wasn’t sure he understood the difference still.

“Wait, do you want to look like a badass or be a badass?”

“Look like one,” he said. He strolled away with his book under his arm.

But this wasn’t his mistake, it was mine. See, I’d failed to clarify specifically what he meant when he said he wanted to get in shape. I figured he meant specifically my version of “in shape” (stronger, faster, more agile) but he meant Arnold’s.

***

One of my coaches, Tony Blauer, told me, “The clarity with which you define something determines its usefulness to you.” In other words, the more clarity we have in our life, the more successful we will be.

How we define something, determines how we approach it. And while sometimes it is a semantic discussion — how we got pro-choice as the opposite of pro-life (no one wants to be anti-choice or pro-death) — sometimes it has to do with our personal connotation of the words we choose.

A dictionary definition of commitment is, “a binding obligation.” Based on that, there is no ambiguity. If it is a commitment, you do it. If you don’t, it wasn’t. In a perfect world words have definitions that we all share and a commitment doesn’t carry the emotional baggage of “a straight jacket” or the inspirations of “life purpose.” It is simply “a binding obligation.”

So we we talk, email or text, when we communicate, we need to recognize our meaning gets lost in the words. The more loaded or emotional the topic is, the greater the chance it gets miscommunicated. What is even worse, when we know it is a loaded topic, sometimes we allow ourselves to be vague so we don’t have to address the real issue.

That is why remarkable leaders make sure they have absolute clarity. They know meaning can be lost in context and emotion. Don’t allow unclear goals, expectations, or obstacles stop you from accomplishing what is important to you and your team. Ambiguity is the enemy. Don’t let it take root in your business or your life.

Clarity  — It could be the difference between looking like a badass and really being one.

Take the lead,

Rick Randolph

rick@forgingleaders.com

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