Why Secrets Are Not Good (5YTL)

No SecretsOkay.  I’ll admit that there are some secrets that drive our business and result in competitive advantages.  Things like “Secret Formulas” and “Secret Recipes” and “Secret Sauce” are a part of our corporate heritage, and they not only protect our intellectual property but create intrigue for our customers.

Those are healthy and beneficial secrets,  Most secrets are not.

Growing up, I remember my mother telling me, “You don’t have to tell everything you know.”  It was following an incident wherein I was sharing a story with my grandparents about an argument I had witnessed between my mother and my biological father.  They had some doozies, man!  Theirs was a heated and very unhappy marriage from the onset.  He was abusive, and she kept that a secret from the rest of our extended family.

That wasn’t all.  After my parents’ divorce, there were scores of secrets that whispered around our family, and it created a culture of secrecy that turned out to be poison.  The absence of honesty permeated nearly every relationship we shared and extended to relationships that we had individually outside our family.  This was not good.

There are lots of different types of families, to include work families and church families, and they can all suffer from the ill effects of secrets.  If coworkers are in pursuit of ulterior motives, it can severely damage morale and productivity.  Secrets can break down trust and make people defensive instead of cohesive.  Secrets within our most intimate relationships create barriers and disallow intimacy.  Teamwork requires openness and safe vulnerability.

The opposite of secrets is honesty and living our truth.  I had a conversation with a really good friend recently about the value in sharing her truth.  She had hurt feelings from someone she cares very much for and hadn’t shared that with them.  Silently suffering was harming her and benefitting no one.  My suggestion was that she share her truth with that person and allow them both to grow from the resulting dialogue.  It’s true that we cannot fix that which we do not know is broken.  Lamenting brokenness without working to repair relationships is futile.

We cannot change what is in the past.  We can only commit ourselves to making different choices moving forward from this precise moment.  If there are secrets that are keeping you from realizing your best potential, it’s time to clear the air.  It’s time to make different choices and speak your truth.  When we live honestly, we live without fear.  We live fully, and we deserve the good things that come from a full life.

Secrets have power, and it’s not the super-hero-secret-identity kind of power.  It’s the shame-inducing, progress-inhibiting, self-destructive kind of power that keeps us from being our best selves.

Let’s put our secrets out to pasture and live honestly.  Tomorrow Begins Today.

Doing “Doc” (5YTL)

11062089_755532511212240_301270445038526580_nIt’s been 25 years since I marched as a student in Dr. WJ Julian’s “Pride of the Southland Band” (POTS) at The University of Tennessee.  We learned this week that Dr. Julian passed peacefully, surrounded by family.  As I have watched responses spiraling (inside comment for POTS band members) in text messages, Facebook posts, newspaper articles, and the like, I have been awash with memories of laughter, fear, stories, undying respect, and humility.

Dr. Julian (“Doc”) was a formidable force to be reckoned with.  He demanded excellence of the world, not just his students.  His standards were high at every point of expectation.  He led by example and expected that example to be followed accurately, with great precision.

On the field, his band was a work of hard-earned art.  For those who don’t grasp this, a 300-piece marching band is comprised of a lot of moving parts.  Not only is it 600 feet, but it’s also 3,000 fingers, and those are just the ones that you see.  It is an entire organization that comes together to “make magic happen.”  It requires much from many, and Doc was relentless in his insistence of excellence at every level.

Doc was an elegant man with elegant taste and elegant expectations.  Off the field, his expectations of good conduct, personal integrity, self awareness, and good manners never waned.  He introduced thousands of young, impressionable, naive, and inexperienced people to foods, places, music, and experiences that would have been otherwise out of reach.  He epitomized class and demanded it of others.  He appreciated good service and insisted upon it for those he served (his students).

He leaves behind a legacy of accomplishment, long-standing traditions, stories upon stories upon stories, and the belief in a life well-lived.  His investments in people have populated the world with teachers, scientists, artists, and scores of other professionals who carry a common experience.  They were “raised Doc.”

Because I know that Doc had a keen sense of humor, I’ll close by sharing one story that belongs to me.  Doc had a distinct dialect.  Scores of people before and after me have done a fine job of impersonating him.  In fact, we had (secret) competitions on some band trips that we called “Doc Offs.”  As I recall, I fared pretty well.

I’ll let my friend and former band mate, Bill Moore, tell the story:

It was at the Cotton Bowl in 1990. Mike squeezes into the front of a packed elevator, says in his Doc voice “Oh, move back, will you?” to general laughter from the other kids.
From the back, another Doc voice answers, “Well, there’s not any room back here…”
Mike drops into his normal voice and says “Hey, that’s pretty good…”

“Damned well ought to be!”                                                 

It was Doc.

Needless to say, my heart stopped momentarily.

Godspeed, Dr. WJ Julian.  You have left an indelible mark on this earth, and your light will be greatly missed.