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The Full Truth

“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson’s advice sounds like wise council but isn’t. He would have benefited from Thomas Jefferson’s observation, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Sir Walter Scott’s caution would have also been helpful, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” The suggestion, either explicit or implied, that intentional dishonesty is appropriate or correct is silly and – well – dishonest.

“Inspiration” is the product of one’s creative thinking and work, a sudden intuition about a situation or problem. It pops into reality partially or fully formed, without supporting analysis or carefully considered explanation. Assuming that the “fears” Stevenson suggested that you keep to yourself are associated with the inspiration you share with others, the problem is this. The inspiration is the “I think” part of the sudden intuition. The fears you aren’t sharing are the “I feel” part. Stevenson suggests that you share the “I think” part but not the “I feel” part. That seems to promote a “half truth” as the way to go.

Suppose instead that Stevenson didn’t intend that the “fears” and “inspiration” were associated. Your fears relate to X and your inspiration relates to Y, with X and Y being unrelated. You should share your inspiration about Y but not your fears about X. The advice would still be debatable but trivial. He is merely counseling people to share their inspirations with others but keep their unrelated fears to themselves. That would make concurrently sharing, “I have discovered a cure for cancer but am deathly afraid of snakes,” inappropriate. Is that profound advice or did you, perhaps, already know that?

No, Stevenson advised that you share your inspirations but not your related fears. That makes his advice unacceptable. People need and are entitled to the full truth, not half truth. It also makes what you share more credible. This is especially true for leaders. People want to know what you think, want you to share your vision, your inspiration. They also need to know what you fear, what the risk is for you and for them. Go with the whole truth, inspiration, fears, and all.

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