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Be True, Not Truman
Submitted by skastrul on 2012-06-04T15:56:22
Dear i.c.stars Alumni,
Many of you are in positions where you have to make important decisions. Whether you’re hiring people, selecting vendors, or negotiating contracts, you should recognize that these choices will affect your impact as a nonprofit leader.
The scariest movie ever made, in my mind, is The Truman Show. Do you remember that Jim Carrey movie where his character’s whole life was some reality TV show, and at the end he discovered that the whole world was watching him? I mean that’s pretty horrible, but the worst part was that everything was scripted. It was designed to exploit this guy from the time he was a child, through his education, through his career, and his love life. I think that is so much scarier than any Freddy Krueger or SAW people because it is about the great lengths that people will go to distort reality, and the entertainment factor comes from watching people in the dark.
You know how I feel about The Hunger Games and how we exploit violence for enjoyment. The exploitation is trickling down into reality television, and the idea that we are finding entertainment in watching other peoples’ foibles is disturbing. I think that every day we sort of face this phenomenon, whether it’s in a meeting where you pitch an idea, or when you’re meeting with someone and in some small way you’re dishonest. You smile and nod as if to say, “Yes, I agree with you; this is going really well,” or, “Of course we will follow up,” and you don’t. The same applies when in little ways we tell subtle lies to people about their impact. We’re shaping a reality that makes us feel comfortable in that moment. By doing that, we’re hurting our businesses, our nonprofits, and our consulting organizations because we are creating environments that are rooted in dishonesty.
Change is uncomfortable; that’s how we know its working. But it’s also about opening up our businesses and processes to a different way of thinking or believing. So imagine if every hour we stopped and did something completely honest. This could include telling our partner the last time she made us truly happy, our manager what her strength is as a manager unsolicited, or someone we are serving in our nonprofit a truth that she needs to hear that may be uncomfortable for us to say. You could give a dose of real reality and not reality TV where the audience members are consuming other peoples’ misfortunes, and there’s a profit to be made.
There’s somebody in the current cycle who would start to quit every time he got “realistic” feedback. He’d think, “Change is uncomfortable. This isn’t working. This isn’t for me.” The whole cycle would have to pull him off the ledge and be like, “No, you’re good; you’re smart; you’ve got to do this!” Everyone would say, “You’re not just changing your life, but you’re also changing your family’s life. You need to think about all the opportunities and stay.” The script needed to be rewritten. His reality needed to be rewritten because it wasn’t going to be his community and the people who cared about him that were going to turn him around. He had to learn how to internalize that and speak his own truths to be able to say, “I’m scared. This is new, and change is uncomfortable.” Then he’d need to change his thinking to: “I’m scared because I know this is important. Change is uncomfortable, and that’s how I know it’s working.” Through this perseverance, his possibilities are limitless. Sometimes we’re more afraid of what our potential is, what we’re able to do, and of our ultimate success, than we are of our failure.
The greatest form of respect is the truth so it’s empowering to let people know the truth. The truth is really is about giving somebody the opportunity to know something and to pass on knowledge. It allows somebody to be better at what they do, and I think the same thing goes for ourselves. We need to follow the intern I’m talking about and face our own truth and empower ourselves with that truth because otherwise we become these seekers who are always looking for recognition for things that don’t even represent who we are. We’ve got to be who we are, and honesty comes from who we are. But we also have to recognize that we’re so much more than ourselves. That truth becomes exponentially more powerful because it’s about moving forward. It’s about moving forward when you do a sales pitch, moving forward when you apply for a grant, and moving forward when you are interviewing for a new role.
I think there’s a profit in our own honesty: the time we save, the dance steps we get to put in the dance hall, which is where we dance along the truth, and the reality of opportunities that are made coming out of relationships that are true as opposed to ones focused on transactions. Do you remember at the end of The Truman Show when the protagonist breaks the wall that was the sky and gets through to the other side? It’s such a powerful moment. Likewise, the end of the story about the intern shows that he has come a long way. He is at the place where he’s able to not only take in the truth, but also give truth to his own reality: to push himself harder, to recognize opportunities in front of him, and to dig deeper to find knowledge, expertise, and his own humility. As a result, he’s going to be a much better technologist. He can not only measure when the user wants to give up, but to what threshold.
So what is your horror story? What’s the scariest idea that you can think of? Is it that someone wouldn’t be honest about your own faults? Or if someone wouldn’t be honest about your true strengths? Whatever it is, what is that breakthrough moment for you? What is that breakthrough moment where you not only take the time to be honest, but you really create opportunities for people that are different than you? Turn around, and give that honesty back to your clients, to your business, and to your community.
Be true, not Truman.