Category Archives: Independence

Thinking, Reason, Self-awareness, and Independence

Why independence doesn’t mean being a lone wolf.


Main Squeeze sent me this a few days ago; said it reminded her of me.  You see I don’t enjoy organizational politics at all (who does?) and I’ve never been much good at kow-towing.

I shared it with my friend and business partner, who wondered if “wolves”, being great at “lone”, might then not be good at playing on a team.  At the time I thought that’s maybe where the analogy breaks down, but in hindsight the comparison of a wolf to an independent man or woman is apt. (Doesn’t that always happen – you think of what to say, but way, way too late.)

Being of independent mind does not mean going it alone.  It means thinking for yourself and deciding when its good to work with others.

Working in a team, even one with a leader, doesn’t mean you need to bow, buckle under, or “perform”.  It means you acknowledge that your interests are aligned with the groups’; that cooperating will get you all further; that you’re hunting in a pack, as it were.

The thing is, if you’re the leader of the pack, remember that your goals, (your own, and the organizations’), will be better served if those on your team are “thinking followers“, not performing animals.  Interact with them accordingly and they’ll stay engaged and motivated.  Treat them like monkeys and the better ones will be gone, and those left will not move unless you say so, or promise them a treat.

Whether you lead only your self, or a team of one hundred, your foundational attribute has to be independence.  That is, you need to choose to stay switched on and focused; you must be willing to think, analyze, judge, and make decisions; and you need the courage, confidence and drive to initiate action.

Sometimes you’ll choose to follow the direction set by someone else, or to take advice, or to work collaboratively.  Never should you jump because your fear a whip or want shiny baubles.







How To Speak So That People Want To Listen

Successful communication is an essential leadership and life skill.  Engaging well with others depends on it.

Here’s Julian Treasure with a 10-minute TedX talk on “How to speak so that people want to listen” that’s very worthwhile, with one caveat about his take on “judging” (more on that in a bit).

In summary:

If you want people to listen and take notice when you speak, you may want to audit yourself and be sure you’re not committing one or more of these “seven deadly sins” of speaking.

1.  Gossiping – speaking ill of someone who is not present.  Nobody really likes a gossip.

2.  Constantly pronouncing judgment – Julian states it simply as “Judging”, with which I cannot agree. (This is the caveat. More below.)

3.  Being negative – nobody listens to a pessimist (except maybe another pessimist);

4.  Complaining – which Julian aptly refers to as “Viral Misery”;

5.  Making excuses – not taking responsibility for one’s actions, always blaming someone else.  (MJ: No surer way exists to stymie your progress in an organization);

6.  Embroidering – aka, exaggeration, aka, lying;

7.  Being Dogmatic – You know this guy.  The one who always knows everything about everything, treating his opinions as facts and boring you with them constantly.  Blah, blah, blah.

Now, a little more on #2, Judging.

You need to judge everything and everyone, to the best of your ability, with all available evidence, constantly.

How do you deal with people unless you judge them first?  Is the new boss rational?  Is this salesman being honest?  Are my friends giving me straight feedback or telling “white” lies to make me feel better?  Judging, in this context, means doing your best to always know the truth.  Not only is there nothing wrong with making judgements, doing so is your duty to yourself.

What I hope Julian really means, and what I would advocate, is that one should not constantly pronounce or pass judgement.  First of all, not everyone needs to know everything you’re thinking all the time.  It’s called, “keeping your own council”.  Secondly, judging people and situations is, especially in the beginning, a fluid process.  You need to take care not to judge conclusively too quickly.  Often a first impression or “thin slice” will give you an accurate picture, but not always.  Snap judgements can be terribly wrong.  (Read more on this in Seth Godin’s excellent book, Blink.)

So when should you pronounce judgement?  When you’re sure, and when to not express your judgement would be an act of injustice.  Otherwise, “always be judging”, but keep it to yourself or share only with close confidants.

Now, here’s Julian Treasure:

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A little related reading (all 5 minutes or less):

How to tell if you’re being lied to and why you must never stop judging.

Judge and Be Judged

The Truth About Truth

The 2nd Rule of Communication





Ruth Chang: How To Make Hard Choices

This TED talk is worth watching repeatedly, until you get it all the way through to your soul.


If that made sense, these might too:

I = Choice

You Are Your Will


4 Indispensable Principles for Good Leadership

PEOPLE TALK ABOUT having “principles”, but few seem to be guided by their principles consistently, because it’s just too easy to make exceptions.  The thing is, if you don’t follow your principles in every case, they’re not principles.

Understood and accepted as non-violable, your principles become your “rock” – a steadfast guide to action even when circumstances are difficult, conflicting, or hard to discern.  Good leaders, and good people, understand this; they know that sticking to the right principles is indispensable to success, and therefore also to happiness.

Here’s four principles that all good leaders, (and good people, for that matter,) stick to.

#1 My Judgement Rules
Good leaders (and good people) know that they are always fully accountable for what they do, so they never relinquish judgement to others.  Sure, they listen, take advice, learn from others, and consult.  What they don’t do, however, is take another’s word, opinion, dictate, or judgement as given.  Never.  To put it another way:  “The buck stops here, so you better @#$%-well know the real buck inside and out”.

Example:  Steve Jobs in any number or situations springs to mind.

#2 Good Relationships Depend on Justice
Good leaders (and good people) understand that only relationships based on justice will thrive.  To deal with people justly means to always and only give (and accept) what is deserved.  To withhold praise and reward from those who add value is just as bad as bestowing the same on those who do not, or on those who, even worse, destroy value.

The latter is called “spoiling”, and as Rand once pointed out, there’s no quicker and surer way to destroy a human soul than to give it more than it deserves.  Conversely, withhold  reward from those who’ve rightly earned it, and they’ll not be around for long.  They’ll go where their talent is recognized and valued, and righty so.

Example:  The “brain drain” from any number of politically stifling (and unjust) nations to the freer countries in “The West”.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s dispel a couple of widely held (and very unjust) bromides (anti-principles, if you will):  “Unconditional Love” and “Universal Forgiveness“.

Good leaders (and good people) understand that those who demand “unconditional love” are asking you to commit fraud.  Love is simply one end of the scale that measures how you value something or someone (hate → dislike → ambivalence → like → love).  Your emotional response to anything or anyone needs to be just, that is, needs to be in keeping with how much you value (or disvalue) the thing or person.  To give love “unconditionally”, is to disregard justice.  Do so at your own peril.

Forgiveness has it’s place, of course, but also needs to be just.  The guilty must earn forgiveness.  How?  Three things:  They must show sincere contrition (simply saying “sorry” is not enough), they need to make good on the damage they did, and they should make a binding commitment to doing better from now on.  Forgiving someone, “just because”, is unfair on, and bad for, both of you.

Now, back to organizational leadership…

Organizations, by definition, rely on relationships, so its critical that justice is the principle that drives the relationships.  So many organizations founder because dysfunctional (unjust) relationships tie them in knots.  Jealousy, envy, favoritism, obsequiousness, sociopathy, and a host of other organization ills thrive because justice is absent.  Incompetents with connections wield power, talent languishes or leaves, obsequious sycophants who look good in a suit keep the corner offices warm, and fraudsters with acting skills line their pockets.  Absent justice, relationships are based on all manner of pretense.  In that kind of culture, all sorts of crap can grow.

Example:  Too many to mention.  How about Enron?  Bear Stearns?  Penn State?

#3 Learning Never Stops and Comes From Anywhere and Everywhere
With this principle firmly understood and integrated, you’re open to expanding your horizons every day, every hour, every minute.Learning is Joy

Yet, how many managers, bosses, parents, or acquaintances do you know who seem to think that they know everything already?  Ugh, the dreaded “know it all”….deal with that kind as little as you can, they’re a vexation to your soul!

Example?  I bet you have a dozen such people in your life.  Name one.

#4 Be Passionate
Whatever you do, give it 100% of your attention and effort.  If you can’t, or worse, won’t, don’t do it.

Passion does not mean “loving” what you do.  It means “valuing” what you do.  Hopefully, most of the time it is about love and enjoyment, but don’t forget that some things that are not fun still need 100% or your focus and your best effort; because they’re worth it.  George Washington no doubt hated that winter at Valley Forge, but his passion for the fledgling America held strong, guiding him through times and circumstances that would have driven a non-principled, dispassionate man to give up.

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Principles are not for “now and then”.  And they are not just for titled-leaders.  It is not a coincidence that the fundamental principles that make for good organizational leaders also make for good human beings.  That’s why Method Leadership is based on them, and why they’re on our masthead.

Think.  Engage.  Learn.  Value.

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Michael Paul Jährling

How to tell if you’re being lied to, and why you must never stop judging.

If only all liars had a nose like this.

If only all liars had a nose like this.

A few days ago I tweeted a #WorthyReading article:

Rory Vaden: “Three ways you can tell if you’re being lied to

There’s one paragraph I want to highlight, and amplify:

Sometimes we guilt ourselves into taking others’ word for something, or giving them the benefit of the doubt, but the key is never to completely pass control of our thinking to someone else, or to stop thinking for ourselves. When we stop thinking about our thinking, our thinking starts to think on its own — or worse, someone else does the thinking for us. While we can blame others, it is often our own lack of thinking that makes us susceptible to lies.  [emphasis mine]

First, a couple corrections:

“…the key is never to pass [ANY] control of our thinking to someone else.”


“When we stop thinking, our thinking starts to think on its own – or worse, someone else does the thinking for us”.  Not quite.  Stop thinking, that is, cease to focus the mind, and our whim and emotion takes over.  Feelings can lead us correctly, but can also be mistaken.  See here for more on this.

Now the amplification, and why I like the article in general and the paragraph in particular:

We, all of us, must constantly be making judgements.

Check everything, especially what people say (write, print, broadcast, post, tweet, SMS), against the facts that you can verify with your own senses and the application of logic.

People don’t need to lie, but the sad fact is that most do.  Still worse is the fact that the people who have been fooled by lies, repeat them, and repeat them, and repeat them.  So many lies get repeated so often they become accepted as fact.

The funny thing is, the bigger the lie (and there are some whoppers in plain view of us all), the less they seem to get questioned; to be judged false, as they patently are.  I’m still not sure why that is.  You?

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Here’s a couple more good pieces on lying liars, and how to spot them:

Become a Human Lie Detector” by @cranstonholden at TodaysManager

The Science of Sniffing Out Liars” by Susan Kruglinski at Discover Magazine


Caveat Emptor in the Market Place of Ideas

EVERYTHING IS A TRADE.  From buying a car to reading a book, from taking a class to engaging in a conversation, everything you do involves trading some value of yours for some value you hope to gain.  You always hope to make a profit.  That is, you always hope that what you get back exceeds the value you put in.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Everything right in fact.  Even if all you’re doing is giving your time, that is still a value to you, perhaps the most valuable commodity you possess, and you need to spend it wisely.  Profit is not a dirty word.

Give up time and money to take a class, your profit is to get smarter.  Give time to help a friend move house, your profit is the enjoyment of company, the satisfaction of hard work, and the value of friendship.  Put years of blood, sweat, & tears into a start-up, your profit is to come away with a great product, pride in a job well done, and hopefully some wealth you can use to enjoy or invest.  Spend your hard-earned capital on a new widget, you profit by having a useful/beautiful/enjoyable thing that makes you happy.

Now, the first rule of any trade is Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware.  Are you getting what you think you’re getting?  Check, check, check.  When you shop, invest, even barter, no doubt you’re pretty good at this.  We’ve all become pretty savvy when it comes to spending money.  Sadly, there’s too many crooks about not to be careful.

In the realm of ideas though… mmm, that’s another thing altogether.  In the realm of ideas, cheats, frauds, incompetents, and fools rule the roost.  In the realm of ideas, the truth is more often than not hidden in the shadows cast by towers of bullshit.

So why is it that so many people blindly accept lies, fabrications, distortions, and mistakes, without so much as a cursory reference to the facts – the evidence?

Is it because:

We place too much respect in “experts”?

We’re too obedient to “authority”?

We believe what we want to; what makes us feel good, or safe, or reassured?

We wear the “blinders of tradition”?

We fall for “Brand Traps”?*

I don’t know.  If you do, please fill me in.  In the meantime, remember this:  the power any lie has over you… comes from you.  Flick the switch of reason, check the facts – the evidence – and the light of truth exposes lies and sends liars scurrying.  When it comes to ideas, especially the big ones, ask yourself this:  “Have I bought the truth?”

*(hat-tip to Jens at LeanSelf)

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Related reading:

Who do you trust?

Who do you trust?

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MPJ Author Profile

What went wrong, and how to do better next time

NEXT time something doesn’t go the way you planned, no matter the scale, (a business failure, a disagreement, a poor restaurant experience, a trip over the curb, an interaction with an employee or colleague), don’t beat up on yourself.  Instead, stop and ask yourself two questions:

1.  What went wrong?

2.  What could I have done differently that would have made for a better outcome?

Don’t stop at the first reason you find, nor at the first “better way” that comes to mind.  Neither causes nor best practices are always immediately apparent, so a bit of deep thinking can reveal underlying causes and innovative solutions.

Small things won’t need much thinking,  (you tripped because talking on the phone, so next time, don’t walk and talk), while spectacular failures will take time to assess.  And often, bigger and more troubling mistakes or failures need some distance in time before you gain a broad and rational perspective.  Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Then, when you know what went wrong and what you could have done, make a commitment to yourself that when faced with a similar circumstance, you’ll try the new approach.

Make this a habit and you’ll never really experience mistakes or failures, just learning opportunities on the road to success.

And imagine what it will do for your self-doubt?