Truth

Do you want to become invincible? I mean “rock solid”; impenetrable; bullet-proof? The answer is simple: strive to be the truth.

In every situation we should always be faithful to the “truth” of whatever it is we’re dealing with. This means:

  • Not dressing up a bad situation to look good
  • Always sharing threats as well as opportunities
  • Disclosing all relevant information
  • Avoiding political pressure to hide information
  • Introducing clarity from a confusing situation
  • Avoiding social pressure to hide the truth from others so they “feel good”

This is not easy or simple. At work we can find ourselves under pressure to dress things up, put the old corporate “spin” on it, hide problems. Sometimes we are even implored or instructed to do this so we don’t disrupt an initiative, or make someone look bad (the latter being the reason 99% of the time). I have definitely felt this pressure – you probably have too.

At home and in our social lives it may even be more difficult to “be the truth”. We have all heard these right? “How do I look in these jeans?” or “What do you think of John’s new girlfriend?” It feels like it may be simpler to tell those little white lies. I think there are ways to be both truthful and sympathetic to someone’s feelings. Maybe the simplest example is a personal one - don’t you want your friends to tell you when you have food stuck in your teeth? Don’t you want honest feedback?

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

— Oscar Wilde

How do we know what is true?

Lies, good ones, are cleverly and discretely camouflaged. A lie will take truth and twist it around, just enough for it to retain the appearance of truth so it can infiltrate our mind undetected and unquestioned. Then it is able to alter and subtly change our beliefs. Once we have incorrect beliefs we may make bad decisions and head down paths we should not take. So how can we know real truth from “almost truth”?

First, the more we believe we ‘know’ all about something, the more closed off we are to new information, and as a result we can miss the truth. We must learn to question and test the information we are ‘fed’ - both new and and what we think we already know. When questioned, lies will eventually unravel. However when the truth is questioned, it is made stronger. The key is we must be willing to question and dig a little deeper when our “spider sense” is tingling. Sometimes just taking a few minutes to check the validity of something with other sources is enough.

My whole life I grew up being told that eating carrots was good for my eyes and creates better night vision. The facts however are slightly different. First, it is true that a vitamin A deficiency will cause night blindness. What is not true is that an excess of vitamin A will give you superior night vision.

Second, carrots are not as good a source of vitamin A as we may think. Carrots contain Beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A. The body converts Beta-carotene into Vitamin A, but other sources of Vitamin A such as liver and eggs contain preformed (retinoid) vitamin A which is the final (useful) form of the vitamin our bodies need. Beef liver has nearly eight times as much Vitamin A (in a more useful form) as a carrot. Among vegetables, a sweet potato has more Beta-carotene than a carrot.

It turns out the reason we believe that carrots are good for our eyes is a bit of “fake news” way back from World War II. In the Battle of Britain, in 1940, the British fighter pilot, John Cunningham, became the first person to shoot down an enemy plane with the help of radar. In fact, in WW II, he was the RAF’s top-scoring night fighter pilot, with a total of 20 kills. Some pilots like Cunningham, were better at night. His nickname was “Cats’ Eyes”. The RAF put out the story in the British newspapers that he, and his fellow night pilots, owed their exceptional night vision to carrots.

People believed this to the extent that they started growing and eating more carrots, so that they could better navigate at night during the blackouts that were compulsory during WW II. But this story was a myth invented by the RAF to hide their use of radar, which was what really located the Luftwaffe bombers at night - not human carrot-assisted super-vision. However this myth has propagated forward to this day.

So, things can change. Being the truth is also about adapting what we perceive as the truth when new information is presented. Holding on to an “old truth” when it is no longer true, perhaps to save face, is not really “being the truth”.

When we ‘be’ the truth, we’re protected by it

It’s easier to get this concept by demonstrating the opposite – what happens when we don’t tell the truth? When we fudge (even a little bit) - then we have to protect our “fudging” to avoid the embarrassment of being found out. We leave ourselves open to attack from anyone who knows the real unvarnished truth, from any angle. So our behavior becomes defensive. If you’ve been in this situation, you’ll remember how stressful and how destructive it is.

  • If you bend the truth you have to keep bending it. People can sense it and generally at some point they will recognize it.
  • If you’re truthful it might not always be what others want to hear, but expectations and situations can be managed. Reality can’t.
  • The truth builds trust – and in business as in life trust is the ultimate currency.

Why does “being the truth” makes us invincible?

The truth “is what it is”. It is the actual, true state of the world. I can’t change the color of the sky, nor can I stop a project from being behind schedule, or my pants from being too tight (time to diet). When we “be the truth”, our position on anything is clear, solid and defensible. Yes, we can (and will) be attacked for being truthful; but at least we have an internal compass to follow. Those who are not ready to deal with the truth may refuse it and try to debate it, and in the short run they may even succeed, but in the long run the truth cannot be denied.

Be invincible

“Be the Truth” - the truth is real, enduring and invincible. Adopt the principle of finding out and upholding the truth and hang in there. Eventually truth and honesty will be back in fashion, but don’t be tempted to lie to gain your advantage because lies cannot build a lasting foundation.

References

Carrots & Night Vision
Wikipedia: Vitamin A