Check the Facts

I can’t really define when it happened. The news has become mostly opinion. Check out any of the news websites. Read the headlines closely. You will probably find that over half will echo an opinion, or a perspective, not facts.

I remember being taught in school (many, many years ago) how to write a newspaper article. It was about facts. It was making the headline echo the facts that were being reported. We were instructed to make the first paragraph contain all the important relevant facts. Expanded details about the facts should be added in additional paragraphs. Opinion was not to be included because we were reporting news. The era of pure news reporting is quickly fading.

The rise of the internet as a tool for communication and information has destroyed our ability to read news. Blogs and newsletters (like this one) are common. We are attracted to reading opinion. It’s fun. We are bombarded by articles such as, “The 5 Best Ways to Lose 10 Pounds in 30 Days”. Do you really believe there is evidence in that article to support those claims? No. It is just one writer’s opinion.

In today’s world, it is important that we distinguish between opinion and facts. The wide divide of opinions we experience is fueling the divide of society. Without understanding the facts, or a way to even discover the facts, we just become more divided.

To be fully clear and transparent, this newsletter is opinion. I am not making up facts, but my thoughts are my perspective. This newsletter has one purpose, to challenge you to think about your perspective, not inherit mine. Thinking is a critical skill. I hope each week when you read this newsletter, you stretch that muscle. But in a world which is increasingly more difficult to check facts, it is ever more important that you do.

Drop Some Work to Expand Your Progress

Time is the limiting factor for all of us. When I get overwhelmed with work,  something has to give. If not, life will get very frustrating. When we add new projects or responsibilities in our life, we have to eliminate old ones. If we don’t, the time allocated to each task shrinks. Ultimately, we become less and less productive.

Deciding what to give up can be trying. All of your tasks are important, right? Here are some things to consider.

1. Delegate to another person. This option has many benefits in the work environment. You can pass on your knowledge and skills, as you develop your team, an employee, a peer, or someone you contract.

2. Find the appropriate substitute. Sometimes matches are easy. For example, spend more time exercising and less time eating, or spend more time reading and less time watching video. Matching what you drop and add can make the transition easier.

3. Avoid giving up relaxation for work time. It is tempting to think you are just going to work harder to get everything done. It may help for a short time, but it won’t work long term. We all need time to recharge. If you decide to reduce your recreation time, also improve the quality of your recreation time. For example, substitute watching television with something you enjoy more. Spend more time with your family, or more time meeting friends. Go to the theater, learn to cook a new recipe, or visit the gym. Develop a habit of making the most of your recreation time, the same as you strive to make your work time more productive.

When I think back over the last five years, I could have been more proactive in the way I chose to spend my time. We can choose what we drop, and choose what we add. If we don’t someone else will choose for us.

Have We Forgotten the Purpose of Compromise?

When I was in school, I studied the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. I can imagine the representatives debating, arguing, and discussing the fundamentals of democracy. The process was not easy or elegant.

Today, our society continues to debate many social and political issues. Although not true, it feels like we have never been more divided as a culture.

As a manufacturing plant manager, one of my main tasks was to develop a management team built on shared values. I encouraged my team to challenge each other and the status quo. In the process, we were able to create a stronger vision of the values that drove us to success.

There are two main points to consider when you are trying to build a team, an organization, or even a country.

First, expression of opposing views should be welcomed. It is the difference of perspectives that let us discover the shared values below the surface. If everyone only settled without voicing their opinion, the team would lack strength.

Second, compromise is required. The hard work of true compromise consists of dissecting discussion to understand the basic truths of our beliefs. Then working together to find a solution that best meets our needs and supports our values. A good compromise does not require anyone to oppose their basic values. As this process is repeated, the team begins to coalesce around the  underlying shared principles. Just like the creation of the United States, the process is not easy or elegant.

In today’s United States Congress, we don’t see debate that leads to understanding and compromise. Instead we see politicians that are polarized, and divided by their party line. No one is trying to understand the shared values that would lead to better solutions.

If your team appears divided like politicians, or lacks the courage to debate issues, then you have a problem. If this is the case, then you have a great opportunity to improve your team with your leadership.

The Assault of Sustained Thinking

The 18th century French philosopher Voltaire put it perfectly, “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking”. Thinking is a skill. It can be practiced. Creativity, innovation, intuition, and problem solving are all forms of thinking. The more you use them, the stronger they grow. Thinking is a talent that can be developed.

Early in my career, I had a colleague that struggled with “being strategic”. Stan had received his annul performance review and his supervisor told him he needed to be more strategic. He was lost because he did not know how to be strategic. Thinking strategically is not something normally taught. The only way Stan could become more strategic is to practice thinking strategically.

I think Stan’s obstacle is a lesson for all of us. Taking time to think is not time wasted. It is time that develops our ability to think.

Our thoughts drive our actions, our results, and our very being. If we have a desire to improve ourselves, our ability to think is probably a good place to start.

Set aside ten to twenty minutes a day for focused thinking. Then use that time to think. Don’t do anything else. Just think. Think about your challenges, your projects, your dreams, your ideas, your successes, your relationships, your goals, or your life. Think about whatever is important to you at the moment. Not only will you discover new ideas, you will improve your ability to think. As humans, we get better at what we practice, and this world could use better thinkers.