Examine Everything

This is part 1 of a 12 part series that I call the 12 X’s of Leadership.

My father is a collector of quotes and over the years he has shared many of his favorites with me. There is one, however, that I have heard more than all the others combined. If I had to pick a quote that represented how my dad has lived his life it would be this one:

“Examine everything carefully and hold onto that which is good.”

Since I was a boy, he has said those words to me and it represents his “life theme.”

It is a simple and yet profound quote that has a very ongoing nature to it. It means that we are to be constantly examining everything in our lives and only holding on to those things that are good, true, enduring.

It is a call to honesty.

You see, we humans are the only critters God created which can deceive themselves. Oh yes, we can BS ourselves into oblivion and come out smelling like a rose. In fact, just to show you how good we are at self-deceit and self-deception; and how capable we are in believing what we want to believe without close examination, let me share a story with you.

Several decades ago, a passenger train was pulling out of the station in a small eastern European town. Four travelers shared a cozy compartment: an American grandmother, her beautiful 24 year old granddaughter, a Nazi officer in uniform, and a Romanian officer also in uniform.

Each of the passengers knew a smattering of language so the conversation was light and shallow, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

All of a sudden the train entered a long, dark tunnel and the compartment was instantly thrown into pitch-black darkness. The car went silent. Then out of the quiet there was the distinct sound of a loud kiss followed closely by a vigorous slap and then the train exited the tunnel.

No one said a word…but everyone knew what had happened.

The American grandmother was so proud as she sat there thinking about what a fine young woman she had raised. “She will be able to take care of herself in this cruel world” she thought. “I am so proud of her!” You see grandmom knew what had happened.

Next to her sat her stunned granddaughter who in shocked disbelief mused, “WOW! That sounded like grandmom packed quite a wallop! I am surprised that she would get so upset that one of these fellas tried to steal a kiss. They seem like nice guys and they certainly are handsome in their uniforms…go grandmom…you still got it!” You see, she knew exactly what happened.

Across from the granddaughter steamed the Nazi who was angrily thinking, “Oh how clever those Romanians are…they steal a kiss and get the other guy slapped. I will have my revenge when we exit this train.” Surely he knew what had happened.

Finally, the Romanian was quietly chuckling to himself, “That was sooo good—kiss the back of my own hand and slap the Nazi!”

All four people believed they knew what had happened and 75% were wrong.

Don’t we all do that? Don’t we believe what we want to believe without close examination?

Here are two principles I think we need to be aware of:

  1. We see what we expect to see.
  2. We hear what we expect to hear.

We need to learn to really listen and really see what is going on around us in our homes, our offices, and our relationships. We need to Examine Everything.

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