We All Know The Right Answers? Right?

Nov 3 / Peter Waitzman

Information is so bountiful these days. It's a wonder that everyone isn't constantly performing at optimal levels. I think one of the problems is that experts have a tendency to (include me in there) share our thoughts about the right way to do something. We give advice and guidance, and in most cases, it may work or even be the right answer at the moment. From there, it gathers steam and becomes a common rule or guideline. Some of these musings end up becoming well-known cliches. Here are a just a few that I've encountered recently:
  • I'm a life-long learner.
  • Progress over perfection.
  • We don't want to reinvent the wheel.
  • Let's fail fast.
The reality is that many of these phrases have become so ingrained in our culture, that we have simply accepted them as the right answer. It's like when you're asked about your greatest weakness in a job interview... the answer is always, "I work too hard," or something that's served up to the prospective employer with enthusiasm that benefits them but is usually untrue. The same goes for the previously mentioned cliches. We know that people accept them as true, so we say them over and over again... not because we believe or practice them, but because it puts us in a club of like-minded people... the enlightened business leaders, the forward thinkers, the innovators. But personally, I don't care what people say. I believe what they do. And the reality is that most people that I've observed say and then do the following:
  • I say that I'm a life-long learner, but I relentlessly defend my ideas without listening to genuine critiques.
  • I say that I believe in progress over perfection, but I constantly delay and tweak minor, inconsequential details believing they will make an impact.
  • I say that we don't want to reinvent the wheel, but I also claim that my own needs are so unique to require a custom solution.
  • I say that we should fail fast, but I'm slow to roll out anything remotely near the proof of concept stage, and I try to prop up flagging ideas long after their usefulness has passed.
My point is that we've heard so many tips and learnings, we actually know more than we believe. But knowing something doesn't mean that we understand it... that we comprehend it. Part of that will come with time, but most of it will come with with experience. But just because you're at the first part of the journey doesn't mean that you have to waste your time learning these lessons the hard way. Trust the people that have been there, done that... the ones will relevant experience... the ones that have been where you want to go. You'll learn the nuances and applications of these lessons without wasting time and resources. And if you find yourself often saying these cliches out loud, take a look within yourself. You might be saying it because your actions suggest otherwise.
Peter Waitzman