JMT Certified

Defining Moments

“Don’t confuse me with the facts.  I’ve got a closed mind.”

When leaving higher education I had a choice to make between taking up the offer of a Commission as an Engineer Officer in the RAF, or staying with Michelin, the company that had sponsored me through University and paid all my education fees. This was a defining moment in my career, and one that helped to determine the course of the rest of my life. 

The first defining moment I can recall was when I was faced with a decision about which grammar school to go to after leaving primary school.  There were only two real choices, but for me at that time the information about which to choose was pretty difficult to come by, and the decision was really more of a subjective one than based on any real facts.  In hindsight it turns out that was the first time I can remember experiencing the truth that:

For most people, decisions are based on emotions, which are then justified with logic constructed to fit their needs.

Don’t confuse me with the facts.  I’ve got a closed mind.”  Earl Landgrebe (Republican) said this while defending Nixon during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.  There have been a few similar incidents over the years and I was reminded recently of the scandal that rocked the cycling world when it became evident that Lance Armstrong had been found to have been taking illicit drugs in his quest to win the Tour de France.  These have certainly been defining moments in the lives of those involved, both for those holding the smoking gun and for those resolutely offering their support in spite of the evidence.  Fortunately not all of the defining moments we’ll experience have such a negative consequence.

David Cameron’s announcement on 20-Feb 2016 to hold a referendum later in the year on the UK leaving the European Union was a defining moment in the life of the UK.  Cameron described the vote as one of the biggest decisions “in our lifetimes”, and the UK voted to leave the EU on Thursday 23 June, and he will be remembered as the Prime Minister who initiated this whole process, while Theresa May will be remembered as the Prime Minister who tried to manage the process.  

Now, as we approach the annual political party conference season, as many as 80 Conservative MPs are prepared to vote against the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan.  Theresa May’s “Chequers plan” sets out a blueprint for the future relationship with the EU once the UK leaves in March 2019.  Unfortunately, the current level of opposition means she faces a “massive problem” at this month’s party’s conference, and only time will tell how this fiasco of country leadership unravels over the next few months.  This will certainly prove to have been a defining moment in the History of the (now not so) United Kingdom by the time it’s all over. 

I can remember being asked what my career aspirations were on several occasions through my career, and not really knowing how to answer.  Now looking back I can see my career has gone through a series of defining moments that came quite unexpectedly.  The decision to stay with Michelin and not join the RAF was one of those.  The decision to start my own business and become self employed was another.  More recently the decision to launch a new brand to bring a new focus my business on Coaching, Training and Speaking on Leadership has been another decidedly scary and challenging defining moment. 

The common theme I see running through all of these defining moments is that they can come quite unexpectedly, and the outcome will not always depend on the observable facts at the time.  Rather they are more often based on the emotions; the decision is actually made subconsciously, and these subconscious decisions are then sent to the conscious mind via our emotions. The conscious mind then sets about looking for all the logical reasons it can find to justify that subconscious emotional decision.

“I’m going to stick with my President even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.”
The next day, Richard Nixon announced his resignation. A few months later, Landgrebe lost re-election.

~ Wikipedia

If we’re going to be successful in negotiating our Defining Moments well, then it seems that the best preparation that we can do is to have a healthy underlying world view that is supported by our subconscious mind and endorsed by our emotions.  If our world view is that “surely Nixon can’t be guilty of a cover up” then we’re going find ourselves to be blind to the evidence.

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.