Practice What We Preach

E J Gulda, 2022-01-06


As I begin, I’m keenly aware of two dangers in this undertaking. First is the danger of pontification. There’s a not-so-fine line between sharing what we learn and opining without principles. Many of us in leadership positions are fond of hearing ourselves speak, and humility can be in short supply. I am not unblemished.

The second danger can be even worse. Those who know me may correctly point out that I don’t always practice what I preach. To my knowledge, only once in history has anyone been able to do this. The rest of us are works in process. I can truly say that when I do practice what I preach it’s worked exceptionally well for me and for those around me. When I do not, I’ve paid the price, as have people around me. That isn’t good enough as I move ahead, so I’m committed to a truer walk.

The adage to “practice what you preach” can be traced at least as far back as Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron, circa 1350. “Whenever anyone reproaches them with these and countless other wicked ways of theirs, they consider themselves acquitted from every charge, however serious, simply by replying: ‘Do as we say, not as we do.’” Three hundred years later, John Selden writes in Table-Talk, “Preachers say, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. But if the physician had the same disease upon him that I have, and he should bid me do one thing, and he do quite another, could I believe him?” Here’s what I conclude from all this. Both Boccaccio and Selden were discussing deliberate and chronic inconsistency between the talk and the walk, not the occasional misstep. But that’s not an argument for being satisfied with these missteps. Every time a leader steps off the path his credibility diminishes, and his ability to inspire takes a hit.

I’m very confident of the truth of what I write here, so I offer it for what it is – time tested under a wide array of circumstances. So, after careful consideration I decided to press forward – to say what I mean to say, and what I believe will be useful to others. I’m also fully committed to better practicing what I preach and to more consistently doing what I say. So, here goes.

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