When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth – Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes never wavered from his rule, no matter how bizarre the outcome appeared. No speculation; no projecting an easier path; no daydreaming or fantasy about what would have or could have been.
I recall as a kid, pounding the pocket into a new ball glove and daydreaming that I would be playing like Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, or Ted Williams. Reality set in with the very first play on the field, new glove on my hand – it would take more practice (much, much more) to get there.
Sometimes a leader, manager, or collaborator fixates on a vision or desired outcome instead of addressing an issue head on.
Do you know of an incidence where a problem was ignored while the trivial and mundane were given priority? Or the ‘let’s wait and see’ procedure was invoked? How did it turn out – did the problem self-correct or fester, getting worse?
Individuals rarely follow the Ostrich Model of head-in-the-sand, knowingly. However, they can be seduced by self-talk. This can be very persuasive, sound logical – even innovative – and offer a more desirable (and less painful) fantasy alternative to what’s facing them right now.
Ever dread making a phone call or meeting – finding many ways to put it off? Then, the result of the call or meeting is nowhere near the disaster you had anticipated – in reality positive results happen most of the time.
I have found over and over that nothing is more effective than a direct approach. And yet, we still seek to take an indirect path or delay taking any action.
This is human nature – BUT – it is not a positive leadership trait. As with the boy and a new glove, or an adult facing a complex problem, it’s not too difficult to slip into a fantasy to avoid reality.
To return to reality, I find it helpful to say the thoughts and plans out loud – to a trusted advisor. Not only will this help to better focus the ideas, it also churns up new ideas as well from both people’s viewpoints. The outcome is more in tune with reality, since it is quite difficult to enroll your external self and your advisor in a fantasy. Perhaps that’s why people say a good conversation is 80% listening!
As we wrestle with the gap between fantasy and reality, John Adams’ words are a useful guide:
John Adams,‘Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,’
How do you see fantasy and reality?