When I was young I thought strength was having a definite view about everything.
Conservative v Labour.
Hanging v Imprisonment.
NHS v Private medicine.
Straight v Gay.
Black v White.
Catholic v Protestant.
Bitter v Lager.
West Ham v Spurs.
Welfare Reforms, racial issues, religious issues, political issues,
sporting issues, preferred drinks, preferred sexual orientation, everything.
I thought strong people had firm opinions.
Everything comes down to two sides.
Pick a side and stick with it.
And strong people stuck by their opinion and never wavered.
My side right.
Your side wrong.
My side good.
Your side bad.
As I’ve got older it seems the opposite is true.
It seems the people who do this are actually people who are frightened.
Frightened of thinking.
Frightened that thinking might change their mind.
Or worse, leave them with no opinion.
Leave them looking weak.
So out of fear of looking weak they grab a side.
Just so they don’t look weak to their peers (who are also frightened of looking weak).
They were frightened to say “I don’t know”.
Because we’re all brought up believing it’s weakness not to know.
How much weaker is it to pretend to know when we don’t?
It seems to me to take a lot more confidence to say “I don’t know”.
Then at least I’ve got a chance of finding out.
Also it’s honest.
And honesty is always stronger than lies.
Lies are born of weakness.
Pretending something is true when we know it isn’t.
And pretending to know is a lie that will keep us weak.
We should remember that when we’re in a briefing.
And someone uses a word we don’t understand.
We can either ask for an explanation, if we’re confident enough.
Or, if we’re scared of looking stupid, we can carry on in ignorance.
Keep quiet and hope everyone thinks we’re intelligent.
Which is what most people do.
That’s why we accept briefs we don’t understand.
And complain about them later.
That’s why people write briefs full of words and expressions that they don’t even understand themselves.
Hoping to impress other people.
Question anything you don’t understand.
The least that will happen is you’ll walk out knowing more than you did when you walked in.
And sometimes, when you question someone on a word in a brief, you’ll find they’ve used it wrongly.
Or they didn’t really understand it themselves, but they thought it was impressive.
So from people like that, we get briefs that aren’t even understood by the people who wrote them.
And then not questioned by the people who have to execute them.
Because everyone is frightened of looking stupid.
So they stay stupid.
Whitehead said “The ignorant are arrogant and cocksure, while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
IMHO we get what we’re willing to put up with.
“Stupid in, stupid out.”