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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive: A Reputation for Clear Thinking — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Archive: A Reputation for Clear Thinking — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

April 11th, 2014

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Read and listen to the first column in this series, Cultivating Your Career Reputations.

“If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; . . . If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same . . . Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.” – Ruyard Kipling

In my experience, truer words were never spoken. They apply to so many aspects of life and work that they may be one of the few universal truths in the world. Kipling knew that managing yourself and your life in the extremes of both failure and success was the true sign of a great person. I know that I measure myself against these words, sometimes on a daily basis. I believe the ability to think clearly, even when others are confused, resentful and uncooperative is the rock on which you found your own reputation, career and life.

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So, how do you measure up? Can you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs? No one is perfect and I am confronted by this all the time, but it is in our best interest to cultivate clear thinking and expose others to the concept, as often as possible. Otherwise, we risk running from one crisis to another, never solving anything, but merely increasing our troubles with each step.

The concept of clear thinking is often brought home to me through working with my clients. I know several that, while wonderful people and excellent clients, have the ability to let the moment run away with them. A crisis can push them over the edge into frantic activity that actually reduces their effectiveness in solving the problem at hand. Worse still, my own tendency to do the same catches me up in the panic until my thinking is as scattered as theirs. In these cases, I have to remember these tendencies and actively work against them. When people start running hither and yon, I must sit down and think about the problem. This can sometimes drive my clients to further panic, but eventually we will all calm down enough to think about the problem clearly — something we may not have done, had I not made the conscious decision to stop and think about the problem before acting.

What can happen when you don’t think clearly about a problem? In many cases, failing to think clearly leads you to take drastic actions when more subtle solutions would yield a better response. If the CEO’s computer stops working, you want to take time to investigate smaller possible causes before reformatting the computer and re-installing Windows. If the car doesn’t start, you want to check the battery before putting in a new engine. If the project isn’t working, you want to investigate the causes, not simply scrap the project and start another. Lack of clear thinking can lead you down the road to failure, if you let it.

Developing a reputation for clear thinking often has the ability to calm those around you. When we are panicked, we look for some sense of stability — a person, a department, a leader who can slow the panic and bring us back to some sense of normality. This person can and should be you, in any situation. If you can be seen as the “rock” of stability when life and work are crazed, you will go far in any situation. People will naturally flock to you and follow you. You won’t need to plead and bully your co-workers to follow your lead, they will do it of their own accord. They will sense your ability to think clearly and turn towards this calm in the center of the tempest. Once this happens, you can use the opportunity to teach your skills to others. Before long you will have a group of clear thinkers that will be able to cope with nearly any problem they might face. Not only will you be developing your own career, you will be preparing others for their own shot at greatness. What could be more fulfilling than that?

Follow Kipling’s centuries-old advice and “keep your head” no matter what the crisis. Not only will you develop better answers and actions, you will begin to develop a career, and a life, that is filled with great progress instead of an endless cycle of dashing from problem to problem while solving nothing.

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