There’s a powerful Blaise Pascal quote on brevity that translates to – “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
I thought about this recently as I compared two presentations. One of them was a rush job and contained far too many slides. The other was carefully put together and packed more insight and impact despite having a third of the slides.
In both cases, the effort (or lack of it) showed.
Simplicity is often a leading indicator of competence.
We’ve all likely lied in our lifetime. I certainly lied a ton when I was a kid and then a few times as an adult. Someone dear to me once said – “Just be honest. If you start with one lie, you’ll need a hundred others to cover up.”
It is a line that has proven true time and time again. Lying wraps us in a quagmire as it makes things incredibly complicated. We need to be careful, watch every step, and make sure we never say anything inconsistent. It requires constant focus to keep up a false story.
Clay Christensen, in his wonderful book “How Will You Measure Your Life?,” said there is no such thing as 99% honest. He didn’t allow for any slack. You were either honest or not.
I’ve attempted to take this approach to life to heart. And, it still cracks people who know me well up. I don’t say “yes” to the casual – “We should grab coffee sometime.” I have actually stopped saying that line. If I say “yes,” I make sure I put time on the other person’s calendar for coffee. Here’s why – the next time I see that person, I won’t have to come up with some white lie about why we didn’t catch up. I also wouldn’t have reneged on a verbal commitment. Honesty and integrity win.
I get that saying “yes, absolutely” to social nice-ities and not following up is normal. But, I find that the long run cost of such flimsy commitments is actually very high. We get used to not keeping small promises. And, we get used to small white lies and a few other lies to cover up. At what point does a lie or a promise get big enough to warrant serious attention, then?
Hence my promise to myself – no flimsy promises and no white lies. And, by extension, no bullshit. If I say something, I will do my best to follow up. It’s been a simple, liberating and happy approach to life with a conspicuous absence of baggage. Long may that continue. And, long may we all avoid starting with one lie…