Second Hand Opinions

I’ve heard a lot of things about a lot of people that weren’t exactly true. I’ve heard even more things about myself that weren’t at all true. 

People like to talk and an absence of facts is no reason to keep most people from talking. Some people just don’t hit it off. Something about a person turns them off and then they share that “fact” with someone else and it takes off from there. 

That’s why it’s important that you don’t use second hand opinions to make your first impressions. Never decide on a person’s character based on the opinions of other people. 

Several years ago a rumor started spreading around my workplace that I had a severe drinking problem. I apparently was pretty much hammered all the time. I heard about it from a few people and mostly laughed. It was easy to ignore because in all the time I had worked there I had maybe started 3 or 4 beers but never finished one. 

My wife and I had quit drinking alcohol many years before when someone very close to us was struggling with drugs and alcohol. Their counselor had recommended to us that we quit as a way of supporting the person and we did. Before you start thinking we made any great sacrifice you should know that at that time I could polish off a case of beer in maybe a few months. We weren’t exactly big drinkers. It was not a big deal to us to quit but it did send a powerful message to the person we were supporting. We still don’t drink today. 

So I wasn’t all that concerned with the rumor; it was so far off base that it was laughable. Except that some people believed it. After all this time and despite vast evidence to the contrary, some people still do. 

I was forced to try and put a stop to it when a senior person in the company “confided” to a customer, who was a long-time friend of mine, that I had a real problem with alcohol. It was somehow less funny when the rumor got out into the wild where it could take on a life of it’s own. 

But even then it’s was only my reputation they were talking about…not my character. I’m far more concerned about my character than my reputation because my character is who I really am, my reputation is only who people think I am. 

That’s why when I talk with one of my mentors I have never asked about what other people may think of me. I do however always ask if they see me living my values because my character is value based. 

How do you form opinions about other people? Do you listen to rumors or do you listen and watch the person for yourself? Do you let other people tell you what to think of someone or do you decide for yourself, based on YOUR experience with that person? 

Second hand opinions are very often inaccurate. If you doubt that I’d encourage you to think about all the things that people “know” about you that just ain’t so. Those people are forming opinions about you with a distorted view of who you are. 

I’ll bet you’re not exactly happy about that. So don’t do the same thing to other people. Withhold any judgment until you have firsthand information. Only then can you make a “self informed” assessment of that person’s true character. 

It’s one of those “do unto others” things. It’s also one of those things that separate an Authentic Leader from someone pretending to be a leader. Don’t pretend, never form your “own” opinion about someone with somebody else’s “facts.”

Facts and Opinions

I should warn you right up front…this post is going to contain some shocking information. I won’t leave you hanging wondering what it is, I’ll get it out of the way right up front so you don’t have to wonder what it is any longer.

Not everything you read on the internet, and particularly in Social Media, is true. There it is! I said it! I mentioned the unmentionable! 

That’s not new information by the way, many of the things we see online and in social media have always been a little sketchy. It’s just that it’s so much more prevalent lately. It also has spilled over into the media. It used to be safe to assume that if it was reported in a newspaper or a network news program that it was an absolute fact. That may or may not be true anymore. 

Some of you may say that “my network is absolutely true, it’s the “other side’s” network that promotes lies.” That only proves my point…the facts reported on any network may or may not be true.

Anything you see or read on the internet or social media, especially social media, may or may not be true. 

So maybe we ALL need to apply a little more common sense to our beliefs and a tad bit less emotion. 

If you’re like me you tend to believe what you want to believe. If you’re like me you tend to believe things that are told to you by the people you hang around with…the ones who think like you. If you’re like me then when someone you don’t particularly like says something or tells you something you’re incredibly skeptical. So much so that you almost instinctively know they are likely wrong. Or lying. 

People like me and my friends never exaggerate or “create” a statistic or “fact” that helps to prove our point. Only “other” people do that. 

A study done by the University of Massachusetts found that most people lie in everyday conversations when they are trying to appear likable and competent. The study found that 60 percent of people lied at least once in a 10 minute conversation. 

I don’t know this for sure but I’m going to guess that many of those “lies” the study found wouldn’t be considered lies by the person who told them. But they weren’t facts either. They were not supported by any kind of evidence. So if they weren’t facts supported by provable evidence then what exactly were they?

I’m kinda working overtime right now to be more skeptical about the information pouring in from every direction. I’ll eventually decide for myself what’s true or not and I’ll decide with the help of actual evidence, the kind you can see and hear for yourself. I’m working really hard to be okay with being unsure about everything for a day or two until that evidence makes an appearance. If, after a while, no evidence appears then I’ll believe what I want to believe…with the clear understanding that I may be wrong.

That clear understanding that I may be wrong will also cause me to realize that a person who believes differently than me may be right. 

That means someone can be wrong without being a liar. Someone can believe something different than me without being my enemy. Someone can believe something that turns out to be untrue without being an idiot. 

Beliefs without evidence used to be called opinion. We were always told that people were entitled to their opinions but today we act as if there are no opinions, there are only truths and lies. But hanging a sign on a cow that says “Horse” doesn’t make that cow a horse. Believing a different opinion is a lie doesn’t make it a lie either. It’s still an opinion and people are still entitled to their opinions.

One of the things I’ve learned over time is that the people who are “different” than me aren’t really that different. We all have far more in common than our differences would indicate. Find that commonality and you’ll likely find a friend as well.

And who couldn’t use a few more friends in these turbulent times.

The Duck Dynasty Debacle Continued

OK, so I wasn’t sure I should write the first post on this topic but I was pleasantly surprised with many of the comments I received. Yes, there where some who said I should die and others who said I was every bit as hateful as Phil. But most comments were serious and thoughtful and added a lot to the discussion. 

I received a tweet this morning about a high school teacher in southwest Ohio who has been suspended from his job for something he said. The person who sent me the tweet said he would like to see me defend this guy’s right to free speech and expressing his opinion.

A couple of things. First, I didn’t defend Phil’s right to free speech on the first post. Second, neither what Phil said or what this teacher is reported to have said are free speech issues. 

It seems a lot of folks don’t really understand the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It says and I paraphrase here, that you can say whatever you want. It’s doesn’t say anything about protection from being fired from your job for saying anything you want. 

The fact is, you can be fired for saying the sky is blue if your employer doesn’t like you saying it. So long as they fire everybody who says the sky is blue they have no problem.  All the First Amendment guarantees is that you won’t go to jail for saying it. 

Now, back to the tweet that put me on this topic. 

A high school teacher who allegedly responded to a black high school freshman that the nation doesn’t need another black president has been suspended. He responded to the freshman’s statement that his goal was to one day become President of the United States. The teacher’s board of education has indicated that the suspension is the first step in the firing process.

Since we already know this isn’t a freedom of speech issue let’s talk about his “right” to express his opinion. Many of the same people defending Phil’s “right” will be defending this teacher’s too but the situations are completely different.

Phil did what Phil is paid to do. He expressed how he felt, which is fine, and then he supported it with some outrageous comments. That’s reality TV. His network suspended him while taking what they described as the morale high ground and then caved like a cheap tent as soon as it became apparent that their position might cost them some money. 

The teacher did exactly what he isn’t paid to do. He isn’t paid to dash the hopes and dreams of his students. He is paid to teach, support, and mentor them. 

To be fair, I have no idea what the teacher really said, he claims the student has “misquoted” him. The only good thing for the teacher to have said to any student expressing such a worthy goal is something like this: “Well, good for you. Continue to work hard and you too can accomplish great things. I’m here to help you achieve your goal anyway I can.” 

I don’t know how that turns into anything near “we don’t need another black president” so the whole “misquoted” thing sounds weak to me. 

If it sounds like I’m holding the teacher to a higher standard than Phil you’re exactly right. If you don’t like what Phil says just change the channel. The student can’t change the channel. He is required to be there; the teacher is in a position of authority. The teacher is a leader and leaders willingly sacrifice certain “rights” in order to lead effectively. 

I don’t care what the teacher believes, he can believe and think whatever he wants. But   because he is in a position of authority he is also in a position of “imposing” his opinions on others. Because the student can’t “escape” the opinion of his teachers, the teachers should not be expressing those opinions while in the presence of their students. 

I hope this doesn’t become a big controversy because it shouldn’t. If what the teacher is alleged to have said is true, then the teacher said something really stupid. Does anybody really want a teacher like that teaching their kids? 

Maybe the teacher could start his own reality show, there are plenty of networks that could use one. 

The Duck Dynasty Debacle

I shouldn’t blog about this. Branding “experts” have warned me to stay away from topics like this. They tell me to stick with my core topics which I guess would be leadership, motivation and sales. But leaders don’t dodge tough subjects so I’ll just call this a leadership post.

I should begin by saying I’ve only seen a few minutes of Duck Dynasty, ever. I know people who absolutely love it and if you’ll pardon the pun, watch it religiously. I have nothing against it and the very little bit I’ve seen was funny but I’ve just never gotten into it.

I wonder how much “reality” is in this reality show and how much is actually made up. I mean can guys who do so well in business really do and say the ridiculous stuff that happens on every episode?   

Anyway, it’s nothing any of them have done on the show that has gotten them into trouble, it’s what the family patriarch said in a magazine interview. Phil Robertson said, and I paraphrase here, that the Bible has led him to believe that homosexuality is a sin. He said some other typical Duck Dynasty stuff but it was the earlier comment that has caused such a controversy. 

He was immediately and indefinitely suspended by the network that airs his family’s show. He has been ridiculed, pilloried, called hateful and compared with the worst of the human race. 

All this because he expressed an opinion. He didn’t say he hated anyone, didn’t judge anyone, didn’t say anyone was going to hell. He just said what he believed based on his understanding of the Bible. 

The network that has suspended him was well within their rights to do what they did. He said something they didn’t like and they benched him. No problem there; it might be a stupid decision but in the United States businesses make stupid decisions everyday, it’s a right. 

Just like expressing an opinion used to be. Used to be!

Today if you say something that someone or some group doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with you’re labeled a hater, a racist, a bigot, and a left or right wing fanatic. Whether you’re a left or right wing fanatic depends on who you offended, you can’t be both, at least not at the same time. 

I find this whole thing very confusing; this Robertson guy expresses an opinion and is labeled a bigot and hater. The groups calling him these names and in some cases threatening him and his family are doing nothing wrong. Saying what you believe, right or wrong, makes you a bigot. Threatening the person who has the courage of their convictions makes you a hero. 

Folks, there is something terribly wrong with that picture.

Now the network has a debacle on their hands. There is no way to let the guy back on the air without admitting they were wrong to suspend him. It’s not like he’s going to change his views any time soon. So either you let a person you’ve said is a bigot back on the air or you lose your most profitable show. 

I’ll say this for the network, they seem to be sticking to their guns, at least for now. If they put their principles over profits I would commend them for that, even if I disagree with them. I still believe in the freedom of speech that used to be commonplace in the United States.

They are certainly in better shape than the people at Cracker Barrel who pulled the Duck Dynasty products from the shelves and then put them back on 24 hours later. Nice work guys, I guess we know where you stand, well, maybe not. 

Now, here’s where I’m really going to get into trouble. I’m going to express an opinion. Here we go:

I think it’s okay to not like a particular group. I think it’s okay to not eat green vegetables. I think it’s good to think differently than everyone else. I think it’s just fine to express your opinion, even if it’s different than someone’s, or even everyone else’s. Wow, I guess that’s like 4 opinions, I guess I just got on a roll. 

So there you go, I expressed my thoughts and before you rip me for it remember this: if everyone thinks the same then somebody isn’t thinking.