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Know what you are about

Know what you are about

Smart people have a way of saying a lot in few words. They are able to distill a complex thought or idea into a concise statement to which they can repeatedly refer back for guidance. These sayings are sometimes humorous and often ironic, but they reflect a clarity of thought and singularity of purpose that serves as a constant benchmark against which potential actions can be and should be evaluated.  

“Six essential qualities that are the key to success: sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, charity.” – William Menninger  

Or, perhaps: 

“My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group. There was much less competition.” – Indira Ghandi

Can you articulate your business purpose, strategy and principles succinctly? Do you have a statement that serves as the touchstone for your decision-making? Can you articulate in a few words what your organization does, how it does it and, most importantly, why it does it that way? And, as importantly, do you consult that statement regularly to ensure that you are staying true to it and that it continues to reflect what you and your business consider fundamentally important? 

In recent parlance, these have come to be known as “mission statements.” Some have rejected the notion of mission statements as so much touchy-feely business-speak, but the value of having a clarity of purpose and understanding of what you and your organization stand for and intend to achieve has always been in fashion. 

“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness and focus it on a specific target and hold it there, you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.” – Zig Zigler  

That’s not to say that it’s never appropriate to change course. Serendipity and luck can present great opportunities. But if you are going to deviate from your guiding principles (even temporarily) or change them, you should be able to articulate ? in the same succinct manner ? why that is the appropriate course of action for you and your organization.  

Deals are getting done at an unprecedented, breakneck pace. Routinely, decisions need to be made as quickly as I can remember, so it is especially important to know, reflexively, what defines you and your organization. Maybe it’s an overriding goal to achieve financial reward. 

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin 

Maybe it is helping others. 

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” – Italian proverb  

Probably it’s a bit of both.  

“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to make sure you haven’t lost the things that money cannot buy.” – George Horace Lorimer

But don’t take my advice. 

“I always advise people never to give advice.” – P.G. Wodehouse
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