Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Simple Question - or Is It?

by Kent Noble, Executive Director, Center of Cowboy Ethics and Leadership

If a close friend were to ask you, “What do you stand for?” would you reply without hesitation?  Or would you respond with the old “deer in the headlights” look? 

Prior to my involvement with the Standing Tall program, I’m not sure I could have articulated my views in a meaningful way.  In fact, my response might have unfolded something like this:

Questioner: So, Kent, tell me what it is you stand for?

Kent: I’m sorry—I’m not sure I know what you mean.

Questioner: I’m just curious.  Have you ever thought about what it is you stand for—you know, what are your core values—your strongest and most important beliefs?

Kent: Well, of course I have—hasn’t everyone?  I believe—I believe—it’s important for me to be the best father and husband I can possibly be—yes, that is definitely what I believe, and it is absolutely very important to me. 

Questioner: Great—that makes perfect sense.  What else?

Kent: What else?  Uhhh—well—ummm—I believe you should work hard and be honest—yes, you should definitely be honest—and you should also try to be a good person—yes, you really must treat others well—ummm—did I already mention working hard?  (Meanwhile, I would be thinking, “man, please don’t ask me ‘what else?’ again.”)

The point I’m trying to make is that before the Standing Tall program was developed, I only had a foggy notion of what it is I stand for.  Sure, it was all somewhere inside.  But I really hadn’t brought my deepest beliefs and values to the conscious level where I could easily convey them, let alone build my life around them.  

Over the last 18 months, I’ve noticed my situation isn’t all that uncommon.  In fact, now that we’re conducting Standing Tall sessions for a variety of business and community leaders, I would say very few people have spent time clearly defining exactly what it is they stand for.  If you find that hard to believe, try asking someone the question yourself.  You’ll probably find the hypothetical conversation I’ve outlined above is pretty typical.     

Could this be why we’re consistently bombarded with scandalous headlines from the worlds of business, sports, politics, etc.?  And what about the people in our lives?  Don’t we all know  good people who have uncharacteristically become involved in bad situations?   If we were simply more in touch with our most important values, would things be different?  If we identified exactly what it is we stand for, and then built those beliefs into our daily lives, might we become stronger, more confident, and more principled versions of ourselves?  

Obviously, we all have values.  But we don’t always connect with them in a profound way.  We sometimes keep our principles tucked away as opposed to fully integrating them into our lives. I think that's precisely why the Standing Tall program has taken root across the country.  People realize that they’ve never really taken the time to stop and think deeply about their core beliefs.  Our workshops guide busy professionals through the process of defining their values and putting them into action.  And, based on the testimonials we’re receiving, developing your personal code is a real “game changer,” especially if you keep it in the forefront of your mind. 

So, if you haven’t brought your strongest and most important beliefs to the conscious level, think about the difference it could make in your life if you did.   Then, should anyone ever ask you what you stand for, you’ll be able to respond, “I’m glad you asked.  Pull up a chair.”