The IF Project – Day 6: Wise Guy

And we’re back! Thank you for coming back, so let’s dive in to the second week of three with Day 6’s offering. Enjoy!


“And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise…”

What was it that Epictetus said?

“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses but answer, ‘He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would have not mentioned these alone.”

This is a humble, yet solidly stoic approach to dealing with those who deal in lies or send hate your way. It seems counterintuitive. If someone is lying, why then say anything about your other faults? Why not? It is a solid deflection, coupled with a humility about one’s own shortcomings.

I believe this approach helps with Kipling’s admonition in today’s verse.

As a leader, it is hard to walk that line: keeping your head, trusting yourself, being patient, not falling into the traps of lies and hate. Looking “too good”, could be about style and not dressing in a manner where you come off as a pretentious poseur. Talking “too wise”, could be about talking plainly and not speaking in such a high browed manner that you come off as a pretentious prig.

I don’t know. It works though.

Like I said, I’m not diving into any scholarly articles about IF, just my own experiences and understanding as I wade through each verse. Hopefully sharing something of value with you, my reader.

We could definitely stop there at the admonishment to tailor your dress and speech accordingly. But it seems more like an appeal to be approachable. Which, ok, yes, tailoring your speech and manner of dress helps in doing so. Those things do send messages, after all.

Let’s also take approachable to mean being human in your role as a leader, as well.

Don’t be such a squeaky clean “boy scout” that you don’t know how and when to break or bend the rules. A rigid tyrant following the letter, disregarding the spirit of the law, does not a good leader make, though he may rule thousands.

Nobody likes a know-it-all, either.

As a leader you will (if you haven’t already) feel the need, the pull, to have all the answers. This is a trap constructed by your own ego investment in yourself, the hubris side of your ego, pulling at you to look good, to seem wise always.

A lot of times, you can find answers in the collective or in the individuals who report to you; who are in your charge and care. Don’t give in to that false need to be the provider of all the answers.

Everyone can see through that.

As a leader: direction, purpose, vision, frame…these are essential.

But all the answers? Not really.

“I don’t know, actually. What do you think?” and “You know, I don’t know, but I’m sure we can get the answer to this.” are perfectly acceptable answers.

If you have all the answers, there is no need to dream or to think, now, is there?

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