The Challenge With Clarity

I define clarity as clearness of understanding. When you understand something, you can do something. Clarity has an enemy called convolution. Convolution is the intentional or unintentional confusion of something.

Ever met someone that enjoys confusing things that are simple?

Several years ago, I attended an event in Atlanta called “Leadercast,” where I heard acclaimed communications thought leader John Maxwell speak. The consummate clarity communicator, Maxwell taught us that everything starts simplistic and must be complicated until it becomes simple.

When it’s simple, you can do something with it.

By definition, simplistic means you treat complex issues as if they are simple. Take racism in America, which is a complex issue that often includes statements such as, “People living in poverty should work harder.” This trite and overused statement is complex.

I’ve always been extroverted, so I have lots of friends. I also have several individuals that are in my life that I refer to as acquaintances. The majority of my acquaintances avoid controversial conversations at all cost, while the others like to engage in them.

Complicating something is only negative when there is a lack of authentic curiosity, care and concern. My friends and I tackle conversations about racism with those should ask (SAQ) questions, rather than the frequently asked (FAQ) questions.

C.J. Stewart with Leadership Atlanta alums JaKathryn Ross and Louis Gump

One of my mentors Pat Alacqua says that SAQs make you delve deeper and faster into a conversation, while FAQs tend to be shallow, simplistic statements such as, “People living in poverty should work harder.”

If my friends and I were complicating that statement with SAQs, we’d ask the follow questions of each other:

1. How do you define poverty?

2. Have you ever lived in poverty?

3. What experience do you have that shapes your opinions of people living in poverty?

4. How has history caused the people living in poverty to get there? Were they born into it?

5. Where do they get help? Do they have to give up their dignity in order to receive help?

6. Why are you not living in poverty? How would you avoid living in poverty?

These questions show authentic curiosity, care and concern for people living in poverty. The questions lead to something simple. When a thing gets simple, we can do something with or about it.

I recently read a book by Arthur Brooks called, “The Conservative Heart.” Brooks writes that people living in poverty need three things:

1. Values

2. A little bit of help

3. A lot of hope

I agree, especially that it starts with the values. My family and business values are six-fold. In sequence, they include: excellence, humility, integrity, loyalty, stewardship and teamwork.

Without values, you cannot ask for, receive or appreciate the help you need. The government provides a lot of help for people living in poverty. Without values, it’s like drinking out of water hose that eventually drowns you.

Hope is a powerful thing. Lose it, and you can literally die. Hope is desire on steroids. It is a strong desire of expectation. I hope that God continues to bless me to bless others. I trust Him and he can trust me.

He who owns the definition owns the movements:

Excellence – Meeting expectations

Humility – Not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less

Integrity – Doing the right thing even when you can do the wrong thing

Loyalty – Unwavering commitment to someone or something

Stewardship – Protection of people and beliefs

Teamwork – Individually doing your job within a team goal

Have I made myself clear with respect to simplistic statements being complicated in order to be simple?

If not, read the above information again in a quiet place several more times.

If so, let’s continue, because there’s a challenge with clarity.

Clarity challenges your character. It challenges you to stop complaining and implores you to create change.

Character is who you are at all times. Do you complain about things most of the time, even when the “what to do’ is made clear?

People who complain even when things are made clear can be perceived as “time wasters,” instead of value creators.

C.J. Stewart with the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors at Turner Field Nov. 2016

I remember watching “The Jetsons” and “Star Trek” with my dad in the 80s. What was science fiction has become our reality today. So yes, times have changed, because people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., took a simplistic statement like, “I have a dream” and had it challenged until it became a simple and actionable like the “Bus Boycott of Montgomery.”
Steve Jobs said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” That’s a simplistic statement that had to be challenged and defended in order to get something as simple, useful and transformational as the iPhone.

Ask yourself these questions now. See if they challenge you to think and change:

1. What are four to 10 things that need to change right now in my life to make me feel happiness? (Now narrow it down to the Top 3.)

2. Who are one to three people I distance myself from because they challenge me in a positive way?

3. If the desired change that I pray about occurred today, who are one to three people who also benefit?

4. What are one to three things that prevent me from changing? Does my life work best in chaos or clarity?

5. Who are one to three people who prevent me from changing?

6. What are one to three things I worry about?

7. What are one to three things I dream about?