The Problem With Honesty

The Problem With Honesty

We all know the problems associated with dishonesty. The daily news cycle reminds us that there are bad things at the end of the road when we choose to tell something other than the truth.

But being honest, especially with ourselves also presents some issues of its own. For example, most of us have at least one person in our life who has told us from childhood that we can be anything we want to be. Well-meaning encouragers are important and I hope you have one or more in your life. But, may I respectfully say that you and I cannot be anything we want to be. That’s simply not true.

Being honest with ourselves about this revelation forces us to choose one path or the other, to get to know ourselves, our strengths, who we really are and how we are wired. This kind of honesty can be jarring but completely necessary. Let’s take a look at each one of these stops on the road to an honest and productive career and life.

It has been said that each of us can do at least one thing better than ten thousand other people. That’s the good news. It might also put an uncomfortable rock in your shoe to hear that news, especially if you haven’t figured out your one thing just yet. Discovering your calling in life requires getting still, doing an honest assessment of your gifts and talents and comparing those to your aspirations and hopes. Oftentimes what we want to be and what we are cut out to be are two very different things. They are at odds with each other.

Perhaps the best example I can think of for this is the TV show, American Idol. In the very early stages of a new season, they have auditions which are filmed and broadcast to the world. Let’s just say that many of those early performances are at best unwatchable. Some are spectacularly great. So, what’s the difference? Some people are born to sing, and some are born to do other things. I have great admiration for both of these groups of auditioners. They are trying to figure out whether what they have always believed was true about themselves really is or isn’t. It takes a lot of guts to stand in front of the world and a table of judges and try to be a singer.

For some, this is their Waterloo. They get an honest assessment of their talent as a singer and they fail miserably. This means that they now need to be honest with themselves about what’s next. Singing is not going to be it except maybe in the shower or on Karaoke night at their local bar.

Does reading this make you a little antsy? It should, because in a way this is what we all face in our lives at one time or another. There probably isn’t an international audience watching when you take a stab at a role that you have longed for in your heart for a long time. But there is the real possibility that you will fall on your face in this role. And then what?

This is what mirrors are made for. Assessment. Honesty. Taking a long hard look at who we really are and then forging ahead with that knowledge to find a role that we can be world class in.

Don’t be afraid to try and don’t fear failure. Failure is where we figure out what doesn’t work. It’s painful, and I’ve certainly been there. Embarrassing, even. But necessary. Better to know the truth then to delude ourselves.

Failure causes us to slam on the brakes if we are honest with ourselves about what just happened. We can’t keep pursuing that, whatever that is. But it also sets us adrift for awhile until we can figure out a plan B that we probably never considered before. That period can be troubling, too.

There are a lot of good assessments out there that will tell you a great deal about your strengths, your inclinations, your talents and how you process information and solve problems, etc. Take some time and invest in those to give you some guidance. As you take these assessments remember that they are just a guide. They are not the sum total of who you are or what you might be able to do. We are all much more complicated than that. Take the information you glean and think hard about it and see what it means for you going forward.

And when you do, be honest with yourself. You may not be a singer, but you might just be the greatest accountant or salesman in the world. Go be that, and take joy in knowing that you were brave enough to be honest with yourself and do the hard work of finding your place in this world.

Forbes.com Contributor

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