Only Behavior Matters
This column is written two days after this year's first Presidential debate because I wanted time to let my first impressions go through my own personal compare-and-contrast analytical filter.
What I have seen and read over the past 48 hours is bogus analysis and unsolicited advice coming from observers claiming to know the mindset and internal psyche of our President. I dismiss these analyses as words from the people who think they are the "smartest guys in the room," who hammer your and my ears with their opinions plucked form thin air about what motivates the President, an individual who by the very nature of his office carries an awesome responsibility none of us will ever experience.
I would like to offer a different take: We only have his observable behavior to evaluate with any kind of reliability. In this regard, it is safe to conclude that the quality President's performance stemmed directly from his preparation or lack of it, including the noticeable appearance of lack of engagement on his part. President Obama's continued repeating of the same stock phrases in response to Governor Romney also can be safely attributed to his lack of preparation. The President's speech to his supporters the next day, revealing to them that he had encountered a Romney he did not expect during the debate also was the result of his inadequate preparation.
If we are smart, we learn early in our careers, shortly after we take our first job in most cases, that excuses are limitations on potential. If I fail to meet my business targets, I was not up to the task. Maybe the task was impossible, but I agreed to it and said I would do the work. When I fail, I must take myself to the woodshed, perform a failure analysis and use the failure as deep instruction.
In these circumstances, it does no good for those depending on my capabilities and my own personal development for me to blame my predecessor, outside circumstances, fate, a lack of customer interest, a lack of leadership or try to seize on any of a cascade of other variables. In the end, the truth is that I did not hit the mark. What I can learn from the experience is my behavior did not get my employer the results I committed to obtaining.
Business is the best discipline for the examined the kind of good life that has been promoted through history by all the sages. Our behavior either builds value for our organization and its stakeholders or it subtracts from it. There is no "almost-good-enough behavior." Our actions either advance the team toward the business goals that have been set or they do not. Perhaps Yoda said it best: "There is no try. Do or do not."
Americans are privileged to enjoy living in a participatory democracy where we are empowered through our Constitution to choose our own leaders. May I suggest as you prepare for your own vote, as you talk to others about voting, you evaluate who blames others and circumstances versus who speaks to what they have learned, and how they can be expected to implement what they have learned.
Another sage said, "We live life forward while gaining knowledge from a backward glance." The knowledge we bring forward into the present manifests itself in our behavior. And, through our behavior, others can determine whether we gained any knowledge from our past, or whether we remain uniformed as to life.
As you decide how to vote, I ask that you forget all commentator spins on motivations, all claims to know intentions and promises that will be fulfilled, and examine only the past behaviors of candidates. We can only evaluate what we observe, and we can only observe behavior. Anything else is only our unwarranted supposition about what is going on someone else's head.