We all have values. Some of us even have personal value statements (or mission / vision statements). We certainly have a lot of these for the organizations that we work for or create.
Being right is easy. All you have to do is find lots of small things, and then be right about them. The smaller, the better. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Learning, however, is much more painful. It means you becoming the small thing, instead.
Few people are willing to do that, after they reach a certain station in life, once they’ve gotten the corner office and their kids into the right schools.
Which is a good way to keep feeling young is to keep feeling humble, to keep learning. The people who think they know everything get old before their time.
But I’ve learned that there are two kinds of value statements in the world, the first are the ones that are written explicitly out and the second are the ones that are lived out.
These are not necessarily mutually exclusive but they can be (and often times are). In other words, you and I have both discovered that, more often than not, the value statements that are written out are rarely heeded or followed and the ones that are cannot be found on a framed sign are the ones that are actually true.
Therefore, I’ve conclude that modeling my values for others is, by and large, more effective than any other mode of distribution and communication of said values.
Take for instance my kids who observe their two parents day-in and day-out. They are absorbing everything we do, both the good and the bad. They are also old enough to where we can begin to observe their behavior and trace it back to our own, which is spooky and scary on the very bad days.
Sometimes, though, we’ve been able to model the things that we value through our actions positively just by doing them repetitively and consistently. For instance, my commitment to physical training and exercising has “inspired” my kids to do the same and they ask to join me on my daily gym workouts when they can.
Of course, managing them and completing my workout is a near-Herculean task and I never get through my personal program without at least one scare of them killing themselves on one of the machines. I’ve also gotten very strange looks from other folks and I can sense their annoyance but I try to minimize our interactions by choosing times and judgement on their faces…
But for me the most important thing is the distribution and passing along of these values through my actions, not just my words. The most exciting thing about all of this is the unique opportunity to model values for other that I never saw myself growing up.
These are all positive things but the same goes for the negative examples as well. I want to think critically about my behavior and objectively knowing that the things that I model for others aren’t always so swell (or relevant or appropriate).
There is a time and a place and there is a gap of understanding that’s required for modeling to gain real traction and potency, but, it begins much sooner than we probably are willing to admit.
Naturally, this goes for not just our friends and family but also the projects, teams, and organizations that we build. We build upon what we truly believe to be true, of the world and of ourselves.