Understanding: A New Year’s Resolution

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to enhance your decision making.


      When you see me sitting quietly
      Like a sack left on a shelf,
      Don’t think I need your chattering.
      I’m listening to myself.

      Hold stop. Don’t pity me.
      Hold. Stop your sympathy.
      Understanding if you’ve got it.
      Otherwise I’ll do without it.

           On Aging by Maya Angelou

          Ah, yes UNDERSTANDING –if you’ve  got it.

          I wonder if I have it. I wonder if I exhibit enough understanding in my decision making. Or am I too quick to see the obvious –—an old lady sitting in a chair muttering to herself. Am I too slow to realize that there could be so much more than meets the eye?

        That’s why I am focusing my New Year’s Resolution on sharpening my sense of understanding, a leadership skill that until now I’ve buried in my wish list for all leaders in active listening and emotional intelligence. Close but no cigar.

       This idea of truly seeking first to understand observed is going to take some major effort on my part in 2012.  But the rewards will be so gratifying. No wonder the Bible says in Proverbs 3:13: “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom and the man that gaineth understanding.” No wonder that philosopher Lao Tsu said: “He who knows much about others may be learned. But he who understands himself is more intelligent.”

     Maybe that’s why Confucius said the highest type of man is born with understanding. The next highest acquires understanding. The next highest seeks to understand as much as he can and the lowest class of man does not grasp that there is anything to understand. Those of the lowest class of man who won’t seek understanding sputter their thinking engines with the pollutants of procrastination, pride and prejudice. Their sense of understanding remains out standing more than outstanding.

    Indeed, these lowest classes of people have locked their thinking engines on cruise control. They’re speeding too fast to turn into the Land of Understanding. They already know where they’re going. They don’t need to come to an understanding of where they’re heading. They already know. That all-knowing stance undermines their understanding of the new and different.

        There is no music with one note.
No thinking with only one idea.

     There is no music with only one note. No interpretation with only one perspective. No thinking with only one idea. Music depends on understanding other notes. Interpretation depends on understanding other perspectives. Thinking depends on understanding other ideas.

     With understanding comes self-discovery as Rene Descartes said: “We never understand a thing so well, and make it our own, as when we have discovered it for ourselves.” With understanding comes a commitment to reach out to others as the prayer of St. Francis says: “Lord, grant that I may not seek so much to be understood as to understand.” Or as  Stephen Covey, the author of  7 Habits of the Most Effective People put it: seek first to understand than to be understood. No wonder the first of the 10 tenets in the United Nations’ Declaration of The Rights of the Child notes: “The right to love, affection and understanding.”

        To more fully understand, leaders solve  problems with a premium on perspective, with a greater strategic sense of the problem’s initial and long term affect. Leaders understand that one and one does not always equal two as astronomer Sir  Arthur Eddington noted: “We often think that when we have completed the study of ONE, we know all about TWO– that two is one AND one. We forget that we still have to make a study of AND.” With understANDing.

 Today’s ImproveMINT
Seek first to understand then to be understood to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

You might also like these previous Leadership Mints on strategic thinking.

Taking the Scum off Your Mind

Broadening Your Funnel Vision

Brain Power: Igniting 60,000 Thoughts Every Day

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