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Truth or Victory
In meetings where there is debate or a decision must be made, I am tempted to win at all costs. I can get pulled over the edge and work to…
In meetings where there is debate or a decision must be made, I am tempted to win at all costs. I can get pulled over the edge and work to win the fight — the search for truth can be eclipsed by the gravitational pull of victory.
I know this is happening when the points people are making start to form elements of an argument (to be picked apart) instead of revealing the beliefs that support their point of view. Listening becomes intermittent like coming up for air when you swim the butterfly, but the burning in my lungs is the fireball point I can’t wait to vomit on the middle of the table. The element of surprise carried by a data point yet to be revealed and the words I can wrap around that axle to form the noose of the argument I will hang around their neck deliver heart pounding excitement like a mob scene at a Trump rally in Oklahoma.
But this is fucked up. This is not a good process for the best decision. This makes it really hard to work with me and cuts off any hope I might have of bringing out someone else’s best. I know this, but, like most bad habits, it is not good enough to know it. To stop, you have to create good habits.
To help search for truth rather than victory, I am trying to practice a few things:
Work with the hood up. I won’t hide the gears as they turn, instead I will be open about my thinking in the moment as it evolves. My hope is that exposing my thinking when it is raw and unformed will also mean that it gets shaped by my team when it is more malleable — and small effort from the outside will have a bigger impact on the inside.
Show your work. When I articulate a position, I will spend 10x more effort to be clear about how I arrived than where I ended up, highlighting the areas where I am suspending disbelief and the variable weight I am giving to different data.
Form follows function. I will make an effort to describe the general mental models, parallel examples, analogies and metaphors I am using to boot strap my thinking. This will open up the structure of my thinking to my colleagues and help them find more tactile surface area to push back, disqualify or push my thinking forward toward the truth.
Movement is healthy. I will look for opportunities to change my position and evolve my thinking in each conversation. My conclusion doesn’t need to change, but the path to that conclusion should be richer with more fertile ground turned over and steaming at first light.
Be grateful. I will step up and meet the most violent push with the warmest embrace — so long as the energy is honest and the motivation is clear. By appreciating the people who push me the hardest, I think I open myself to their best and make it easier for others to deliver the same gift.
I know what it feels like to be on the hunt for truth. It is collaborative. I focus on points of view to learn, process and iterate. I listen intensely, breathing in the words and contemplating the smoke rings that puff back out and rise toward the ceiling until they disappear or form a new shape. There is joy in my movement from one position to another, supported by the scaffolding of someone else’s thoughts. I love climbing to a new level of understanding and looking down at where I started, then, taking the time to appreciate the team who helped me arrive at this new point of view. Together, we are way up high and can see our new truth in crystal clarity.
By practicing these things, I believe I will spend more time searching for truth than looking for victory. If I am lucky, every now and again, I’ll find it.