Using Your Own Head, Part 2

This is the second in a new series of columns addressing effective leadership, real success and how to relate to the people around us. "Building Rapport" is part of an interactive process in which reader contribution is the key to making it all work, so you are encouraged to participate. Your thoughts, ideas, arguments or agreements will have significant impact on future installments. Please send feedback to [email protected] or [email protected] 
The philosopher Plato said we must rely on conjecture, perception and understanding, but most of all, on reason. Reason is what Plato called the crowning science of all science.

Reason is the method of analyzing the essences or forms of all things in the universe, and seeing their relationships to one another. Plato was simply saying we must question everything, put it in its proper context and, based on the results of our own reasoning, decide for ourselves what to think about it. 

Then along came Aristotle, Descartes and other influential philosophers, who began to say, "Not all men have sufficient intellectual ability or leisure to engage in the contemplation of truth and experience the highest quality of happiness. In other words, who is the common man to question the thinking of those great, educated, important men who came before us?

Next came rationalism, dualism, secular humanism, situational ethics (just to name a few) and, finally, the acceptance that science, physics and math are the only ways to prove anything is real or true. Thus we saw the beginning of the end of man using his own head to think.

This is where Western Civilization began to develop the pattern of people letting others tell them what to believe. If the infamous they say it is true, then it must be true. If most people agree, then it must be absolutely true. How many important fundamental beliefs are still accepted based on this pattern of thinking?

Again, if someone can give me the history and facts behind why they believe something to be true, I will then give every conscious effort to weigh this against my belief. It would be foolish not to listen and give the issue consideration. However, it is my experience that when you ask people for the reasons behind their beliefs, or if you know some related facts and ask them to comment, many people often have no solid rationale with which to validate their claims.

This brings us right back to the oh-so-popular response, Because that's the way it has always been, and that's just the way it is. When people hear this, its usually followed by some degree of irritation, anger, alienation or even hostility. Ever wonder why?
Something Said

If you examine the majority of conflicts within families, business, denominations, religions, cultures and governments, the nucleus is a fundamental disagreement over what is right, good or true. Many people imply, I have the truth, my truth is right, you are wrong. In essence, theres no discussion, no debate, no tolerance, no chance to change their minds!

Why do most people get so defensive when their beliefs are challenged? In my opinion, it's because they have made some of these beliefs the foundation on which they have built their lives, families, businesses and on which they have entrusted their futures, even their eternal destinies. If they were to question even one minute detail, they would have to bring the entirety of their beliefs into question. Indeed, important peoplethose they have admired and trusted, people much more educated and intelligent than themselveshave said these things are true. Their ancestors, grandparents and parents hold these things to be true; they were raised to believe these things are the truth.

The bottom line is many people have never taken the time to do any kind of in-depth research or intellectual reasoning regarding these truths they hold so dear. So of course they get defensive (questioning scares them to death), and they are confused by the facts. The hostility can come out of ego, but it mostly comes out of fear.
My Soap Box

Most people have slipped into a comfortable routine and chosen beliefs that accommodate their lifestyle. Many have decided, Well, I guess this is it. Its not great, but it works. I might as well just ride it on out from here.

Some may be lazy, but for most, busy has become an addiction, a disease thats destroying our society in epidemic proportions. Busy is an excuse, a reason not to have to stop and think about life or truth. Voter apathy and involvement in government and community affairs is at an all-time low, attendance at religious institutions is in steady decline, and volunteerism is almost non-existent. We are all just too busy.

When Nietzsche proclaimed, God is dead, he wasnt referencing God in any way, he was talking about us. What else have we killed because we dont think about it, ignore it or are too busy?
Final Thoughts

What provides the foundation for your decisions? How do react when challenged? Are you a gut-instinct, first-reaction, blink kind of person, or do you stop and apply logic and reason? Do you rely on what you know to be true, or what youve been told is the truth? Do others in your circle of influence look forward to asking you questions, enjoy debating issues with you, count on your input and advice? Or, do they avoid asking you questions, afraid to question or challenge your way of thinking?

The important question is: Are you open to other points of view, to looking at new information and evaluate facts, even if they may cast doubt on what you believe? Real wisdom, a good leader, a forward-thinker is always willing to see the other side. You dont have to give in, or even agree, but look at what you might gain from simply thinking about it.

Now go and create something good in life today. Really!

Bruce Mc Cardle is the eastern division manager for Mako Steel Inc., a supplier and installer of storage buildings from coast to coast. More than 80 percent of the companys business comes from repeat customers or their referrals. Mr. McCardle has been involved in almost every aspect of the metal-building and construction industry for more than 20 years. For information, call 888.795.7594; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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