And the 2016 Winner Is….

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I just read that Oxford Dictionaries has selected “POST-TRUTH” as the 2016 international word of the year.  According to an article in the Washington Post, “the dictionary defines ‘post-truth’ as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’”* The article continues, “’post-truth’ is not to be confused with ‘truthiness,’ a subtly different term…that describes the phenomenon of ‘believing something that feels true, even if it isn’t supported by fact.’”

Confused?  I am.  But this next quote helped me a bit.  “In this case, the ‘post-‘ prefix doesn’t mean ‘after’ so much as it implies an atmosphere in which a notion is irrelevant.”

Irrelevant.  The documented details are irrelevant?  I’ve got to tell you, just saying that – as a point of fact – sounds weird to me.  If I understand this right, post-truth doesn’t say that truth doesn’t exist.  It merely says that emotion and personal belief supersede it.  As a result, I should not be held accountable to getting the facts incorrect.  Why?  Because they are irrelevant.  What is relevant is how I feel and what I believe.

Hmmmm.

So, if I believe that America is overburdened by immigrants, I should not be held accountable if I also say that all Muslims are terrorists.  We all know that ALL Muslims are NOT terrorists.  But that is irrelevant.  What is relevant is my emotion and personal beliefs.  And if I believe that an overburdened immigration system is giving rise to terrorism I should be given latitude to misspeak the facts.

Where this gets fuzzy for me (as if it wasn’t fuzzy from the beginning) is that often in post-truth statements there are traces of fact actually in there.  For instance, the facts absolutely support that some Muslims have been found to actually be terrorists.  Some – not all.

So – what if I were to say that ALL white,  American males ARE murderers?  Wait a minute!  I’m a white, American male.  But post-truth says that this statement is totally justified if I feel/believe that American Whites have been oppressive of other races in the U.S.  Add to that the fact that some American, white males have been convicted of murder.  Surely I should be able to say that all American males are murderers.  Under the rules, as I understand them — this feels allowable.  Not accurate — but allowable.

Real quickly – this isn’t about left or right, liberal or conservative.  This is about what we will justify saying in the name of supporting our beliefs and feelings.

Let me quickly say that I do believe that feelings and beliefs matter…and everyone is free to have some.  I have them too.  But, as my dad used to tell me, freedom demands responsibility.  In other words, the freedom to have feelings and beliefs should come with the responsibility of having some substance behind them.  If that is true then should an accurate recounting of the documented facts matter as well.

Hey – maybe I’m misunderstanding.  But this all just feels a bit too freaky to me.  Have your opinions and interpretations.  Have your feelings and beliefs.  I’ll have mine too.  But walk wisely in this season of post-truth.  How we handle this seems like it should matter…at least that’s how I feel and believe.


*The Washington Post, ‘Post-truth’ named 2016 word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, Amy B Wang, November 16, 2016.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/16/post-truth-named-2016-word-of-the-year-by-oxford-dictionaries/?utm_term=.cad1ca05951f

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Transformational Collaboration

I believe deeply in healthy, purposeful collaboration.  I’m not just talking about pats on the back.  I’m talking about the harder work — the transformational kind.  I’ll write more about this soon…but I couldn’t resist marinating you on the idea with the following video from Simon Sinek.  If you are able, I invite you to take a look at this TED talk.  Listen to how it informs us of the ingredients for creating a Transformational Collaboration…and listen for the bi-products of such a collaboration when it is functioning healthily.  This is the work of leadership.

Curious: Writers’ Block

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I’ve been looking for meaningful things to say for a long time.  Whether as Pastor, Speaker, Teacher or Consultant.  As Son, Student, Father, Friend, Counselor, Community member or….whatever.  The quest to invite others to listen or read my words has been a part of my existence for a long time.

Whether you consider yourself a professional writer/speaker or not – you know that, sometimes, finding the right words doesn’t come easy.  There are seasons when I know I should write or say something – but I’ve got nothing.  Professional writers call it “Writers’ Block”.  I’ve heard others call it the “Tyranny of the Blank Page.”  Whatever you call it – it can be a feeling of helplessness – and if I allow it – despair.

Time has taught me something though.  If the meaningful thing I am wanting to convey has merit.  If it is relevant.  The words (spoken or written) will come.  Now – some of this depends on me.  I have to engage with the world.  I can’t just sit there and stare at my belly button.  But if I will get out there and start looking.  If I will get curious and listen – if I will engage my mind and process – it won’t take long.  Something will show itself.  The door of ideas will crack open.  These ideas will connect with me and the desire to engage others won’t just be an invitation – it will be like a current drawing me in.  And at some moment in that process it will no longer be about WHAT I will share…but about HOW I will keep this river of thought manageable in order for others to come with me.

I write and teach about principles.  I wonder if, in some way, all of us do.  I wonder if everything we share with one another is in some way connected to something we hold as valuable.  At face value it sounds a bit ludacris…but think about it.  Even in the most mundane of our quackings…

“Let’s eat!”

“Turn left here.”

“That tree is tall.”

“Did you hear that…?”

“That looks nice.”

“I love you.”

…aren’t all of us speaking or communicating out of a heart felt desire to be heard?  To share something that we have deemed as valuable?  Yes – some things may feel more or less valuable.  But why say IT – if IT doesn’t have value to us?  If IT doesn’t feel relevant in some way?  If we don’t want others to be informed or impacted by IT – by us?

Friends – leadership is like this.  Remember – I’m talking about leadership as an activity – a verb.  Leadership – like meaningful communication – starts with us.  But it doesn’t stop there – it must engage others.**  Leadership, like ideas, kept inside, unprocessed, unmarinated tend to die a quick death.  But when we develop not only the will to be curious about them but the tools to handle and convey them wisely they gather the power to not only impact others but to bring deep fulfillment to the soul – yes – I said the soul.

But this is work – life-long work.

Honing the skills to do this well is not like buying a cheeseburger.  You don’t just buy the next self-help book or attend the next pump-you-up seminar and declare yourself the holder of all truth.  (Don’t even get me started on that.)  But it doesn’t mean that you need a PhD in leadership to begin to act either.  The good news is that the experimentation of quality leadership, like communication, isn’t an all or nothing business.  We don’t have to be perfect at it in order to do anything with it.

In the last several years I’ve gotten the opportunity to befriend a handful of young adults who have come to work in the USA from non-English speaking countries.  They have each come with varying command of the English language.  In some cases it has been tough for them to muster the courage to try a new word or phrase because they are not sure they are saying what they actually mean to say…and they don’t want to be misunderstood – or even worse – say something to offend.  I have had and continue to have so much respect for these young minds.  They are risking so much by coming to our country – leaving their mother tongue – and struggling to live among us.  It’s actually quite heroic if you think about it.  Why would anyone do that?  But by their act of adventure and experimentation they have not only grown themselves – but they have challenged me to broaden my worldview.  Had they not risked it – and invited me into their adventure – I would not have the opportunity to see what they have seen.  They lead me (sometimes quite clumsily) by their very example, to new ideas – to new thoughts – to growth.*

But this work didn’t start with me…it started with them.  They decided to be curious – to do the risky thing (which we will talk about later).  THEY showed up on MY doorstep and invited me to join them in their adventure.

This is leadership my friends.

So I ask you…What is stirring you inside these days?  What is the thing that you know you need to figure out how to convey?  What is that thing in which you know someone should intervene?  It may look scary because you feel that you don’t have the tools to do it perfectly.  Understood.  But what might it mean for you (and I) to start from right where we are?  To try one thing.  Just one.  Maybe we need some more information.  Maybe we need to have just one conversation.  Or maybe it’s a simple proclamation…

“Let’s eat!”

“Turn left here.”

“That tree is tall.”

“Did you hear that…?”

“That looks nice.”

“I love you.”

Leadership starts with you (with us) and must engage others.**

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*I will forever be thankful to you guys (you know who you are).

**Kansas Leadership Center – Leadership Principle #3.