The Discomfort of Thought

Are your opinions well thought out?

Discomfort of Thought

Opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody has one. And some of them are a little funky.

I am sorry for those initial thoughts which you are now desperately trying not to visualize. However, my point is that we all have belly buttons and we all have opinions. But, when was the last time you really examined your belly button? When was the last time you really considered the basis of your opinions?

President John F. Kennedy, in a commencement address to the graduating class of 1962 at Yale University on June 11, 1962, said the following:

We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

This statement came following some opening humorous remarks to the Yale graduating class of 1962. Following a few opening barbs thrown at some of his political detractors, he began to discuss the importance fiscal policy and the role of government in the lives of our society.

If you have time to read the transcript of President Kennedy’s speech, I encourage you to do so. You can find it here. And, if you want to hear him deliver the speech in his own words, you can hear a recording here.

So, what is the leadership lesson from President Kennedy’s commencement address?

In order to learn a leadership lesson from this speech, you must first read a few more of the words that form the context of this one quote. And, please note, his speech was very fertile ground for great quotes. Kennedy said this just prior to the sentence that I pulled out of the 30-minute speech.

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John LockeWhenever the power that is put in any hands for the government of the people, and the protection of our properties, is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it presently becomes tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or many.

John Locke
Second Treatise, Chapter 18

Faster Horses

Are you a Foresighted Innovator?

Faster Horses

There is a great quote from automobile industrialist, Henry Ford, that has been on my mind lately. It deals with a leadership trait that is as in short supply today as it was nearly 100 years ago.

If I would have asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses” — Henry Ford

What a great quote! And what a great insight into a key leadership trait for you and me today.

What is the leadership trait?

The trait that I want to focus on today is being a Foresighted Innovator. The business community is all about collaboration these days. And I believe in collaboration. I really do! But, some􏰀times, a true leader, an innovator like Henry Ford, is able to see far beyond what those around him see. He doesn’t need a “focus group” to help him understand the market. He has the foresight to see beyond what is and is able to see what needs to be and what can be. In reality, there was no one to collaborate with Henry Ford because Ford was able to see things that others simply could not.

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The Wit of the Staircase

And the Art of NOT Always Getting the Last Word

Wit of the Staircase-2

The French seem to always be in possession of le mot juste (the right word). They indeed have a phrase for the moment following a tense or embarrassing incident that happens to those who are not gifted with a quick wit:

“l’esprit de l’escalier”

Translated, it means “the wit of the staircase”. Or, more clearly as it relates to a situation where you only come up with a witty response to a verbal challenge or situation after you’ve turned on your heel and left the scene.

According to Wikipedia, it is the name for the phenomenon that comes from French philosopher Denis Diderot’s description of such an occurrence. At some point during a dinner at the home of statesman Jacques Necker, according to history, a remark was made to Diderot which left him speechless at the time. In French he says, “l’homme sensible, comme moi, tout entier à ce qu’on lui objecte, perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu’au bas de l’escalier.”

Translated into English it means, “a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs”.

I can relate to that feeling, can’t you?

In this case, “the bottom of the stairs” refers only to the architecture of the kind of hôtel particulier or stately home to which Diderot had been invited. Obviously the reception rooms were located on an upper level or at least one floor above the ground floor. Therefore, to have reached the bottom of the stairs means definitively to have left the gathering and left the awkward or embarrassing exchange that had just occurred.

But I think that there is much more to this than just an architectural consideration.

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