My interpretation of the above quote is that it brings out the debate between the personality ethic and the character ethic and clearly decides in favor of the character ethic. The best seller, probably to this day, amongst the self-help books is Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”. This is also the most famous book from the personality ethic era, which exhorts you to smile, say “I love you” to your wife five times a day and communicate in a way that you can influence others. I don’t want to trash the value of these suggestions … You can become a better person by projecting yourself to be already “that” better person. But unfortunately it ended up making superficial changes in a person and left the core unchanged. The more the world went on becoming “instant”, people started missing men and women of true great stature. Changing the persona (mask) didn’t help.
Then came Stephen R. Covey and his landmark book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective people” which brought in the era of character ethic. The person I remember who spoke of internal change before Covey and probably before Dale Carnegie was James Allen. Stephen Covey made the internal more important than the external mask. He spoke of the emotional bank account, of fixing your inside so it is aligned to your true North, values and principle centered leadership, the P/PC (Production, Production Capacity) balance etc. Covey’s actions also showed that the man walked the talk. Unfortunately Dale Carnegie had to deal with rumors of his death being a suicide, in which case all that he stood for, really came to naught. Late Mr. Covey made it fashionable to speak of vision statements and values of the company and the inside out approach.
The above quote is a beautiful summary of why its important for the inside to be right, because our thoughts create our world. That gut feel which makes you trust a village simpleton and not the well turned out, well spoken executive is basically because who you are speaks louder than what you speak !! Just watch what happened to Tarun Tejpal or Asaram Bapu … You can even go around town talking about being a Godman as Asaram did – if you aren’t a saint from the inside, the clothes and the talk won’t make you one. Similarly Tarun Tejpal tried to project himself as an upright journalist, but he wasn’t an upright person with the right values, how else could he even think of misbehaving with a young girl who worked for him and was his daughter’s friend ?
The corporate world is full of projection, perception building and positioning … But your true character is how your corporate life would be. Look at the people around you and the type of people who want to be part of your team, it tells you a great deal about who you are. The other important lesson for us is – everyone understands who you really are, if you are genuine and values driven, even if you aren’t the best orator, people will love you. You can be charming and have a way with words, people may still be wary of you. Who we are speaks louder than what we speak. Always look at the actions, they speak louder than words and dissonance there means there is a gap between what the person is saying and who the person really is.
Swami Vivekananda uses the word Projection – just a beautiful way to express that the world reflects you, your innermost thoughts. If you think the world is beautiful, you will find only beauty, if you think the world is ugly, you will find only ugliness. So stop and change yourself, and what you think, to change the world. The rich and the famous have their difficulties with the media watching every step they take, but there are some who still maintain a clean image and no rumors come out about them… I am always reminded of the Kanchi Seer, Paramacharya Swami Chandrashekarendra Saraswati. He lived to a 100 years and was identified as the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt’s peetathipati (head) at the age of 13 and was its head for 87 long years – a very public life of a spiritual leader and not a whiff of scandal. His inside was spotlessly clean, so he never had a different projection or left a wrong perception !!
This is another beautiful quote to internalize and think about.. Both in our personal and professional lives.