Let’s face it, hope is not a strategy and theory is for chumps. It reminds me of an old joke: a consultant is someone who knows 365 ways to make love but doesn’t know any women. Head smarts versus street smarts is a battle as old as time. The optimal life will have both.
My father said, “You’ll be the same person five years from now except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.” Although he was an 8th-grade dropout, he understood the importance of knowledge and study as well as its application as you meet and interact with people in a myriad of situations.
During my time in the Air Force I was a Fighter Aircraft Maintenance Officer. Aeronautical theory states that an object many times heavier than air can nonetheless become airborne through a force known as lift. As the aircraft accelerates down the runway, gravity is still doing its thing. It isn’t until the “wheels up” moment when the object literally sails into the air and flies. That’s where theory becomes reality.
Technology, money, degrees, patents, and titles mean nothing. It’s all about what you do with these things that count. Those items are just a means to an end, neither good nor bad in and of themselves. Experience is only real when you’ve personally gone through it, when you’ve paid the price. Until you’ve done that, you’re just talking theory, and that’s the equivalent of talking jive. And it ain’t good to be talkin’ like a turkey so close to Thanksgiving! That’s why it is so important to only take counsel from people who have paid the price to get where you want to go.
When I first came back to run Tremendous Life Books, a prospective author presented me with a manuscript. It was a good fit for our company, so we discussed its publication. Several weeks later, the author told me that they had spoken with several advisors who recommended other avenues. Now I certainly know there are hundreds of wonderful publishing companies out there who can do just as good a job as we can and even better, but when I asked the author with which companies these advisors had been published she replied that they hadn’t actually ever been published. She was an aspiring author taking advice from people who had never taken flight as authors.
Now everyone is free to take whatever advice and course of action they want, but I certainly would not take counsel from someone who has not successfully done what I am trying to do.
I can spot a theorist a mile away. They say silly things like, “People are basically good; you just have to find out how to motivate them.” And “Companies/Leaders that don’t do the right thing won’t survive.” I can tell they’ve never dipped their toe into the reality-pool of life and their wheels are still on the ground.
This simple truth was the backdrop to one of my father’s most memorable lines in his 50-year career as a speaker. When asked the greatest thing he’d been learning in all his years of business, he’d exclaim, “NOTHING WORKS!!” to peals of laughter from the audience.
You see those people had swum deep into the praxicality of life. Those who hadn’t were absolutely horrified and wondered if they hadn’t signed up for the wrong seminar!
So next time you search for or give advice, make sure you are Praxically Speaking. Forget the ideal and just keep it real. We are nothing but the sum of our experiences, so make sure yours are rich and reflective of the tremendous journey of your life and that they give you the clearance to take flight!