If the first lines of text in this proverb are hard for you to read, that was intentional. I did it to demonstrate how unclear it can feel when we are trying to determine, know, understand people. The proverb reads as follows:
I cannot count the days spent in meetings with people solving problems, building new things, even getting to know each other. At the end of those times I realize that what you see is not always want you get. Who people are in meetings or even at work is not always who they are in their private lives. Let me share an example. I was facilitating a leadership development program and a participant came to me and asked about leading dual lives. He felt it was the way of “bucking the system” and being able to do all that they wanted without it interfering with their career. After a brief explanation of what that meant, I got it. They lead a VERY different life outside of work than the person they presented while in the office. I then spent a few minutes talking about the challenges and pitfalls of a dual life, both good and bad. They walked away pondering our chat.
That was not the only time I had to “chat” with people about being one person not two, or three or a variety of people in or outside of work. Our character is exemplified by what we do when no one is looking, by who we are and who we spend our time with in all arenas of our world. Whether we like it or not eventually all the areas of our life overlap, intersect and reveal the real person to everyone, no matter from where or how we know them. Trying to keep all those plates spinning is not only exhausting, frustrating, it is impossible. Eventually the truth comes out and people it figure out, which means being seen as someone who is not truthful or reliable.
A couple weeks later that person and I met again. They pulled me aside and told me they had thought about the dual life they were leading and realized that not all their “friends” were people they really wanted everyone, or anyone to know they hung with in their “other life”. They determined that it was time to face the music, figure out who they REALLY wanted to be and behave in a manner – and hang with people – who would support that decision. I could hear the resignation and determination in their words, and congratulated them on making such a clear choice. It has been over ten years since that interchange and they have become a well respected, well known, and well traveled individual. Being one person, one true person, helped them leverage all their energy to build the character they truly wanted to exhibit in this life.
Want to know the real person, look at their friends. We eventually absorb the many facets and elements of the people we spend time with, even if we never realize it. Other people notice, other people get it, we aren’t fooling anybody but ourselves. Time is precious, so spend your time, invest your time, manage your time with people who make you a better version of yourself…because it shows up all over your life.