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April 29, 2024

Context Is Everything

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The one thing that leads to more disagreement than anything else, or when considered leads to more alignment than anything else, is context.

Stated simply, the context is all of the information that relates to an event. It’s an estimate on the likelihood of different results, an understanding of benefits and consequences, and the perception that causes us to draw to certain conclusions.

When people share context with each other it leads to more agreement. When people seek more context for themselves they make better decisions. 

Let me share two examples of how important context is:

Bob needs directions to drive to Washington DC so he calls a friend who goes to DC all the time, and he gets confident instructions to take the 95 Freeway North. After a few hours of driving he ends up in Canada. Bob calls his friend back angry about the poor directions. It turns out you can’t miss DC on 95 North coming from Richmond Virginia, but Bob was driving from Philadelphia. The instructions were technically right, the missing context was where Bob was starting his trip from.

Now take this excerpt from Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” - “A cold January day, a forty-three-year-old man was sworn in as the chief executive of his country. By his side stood his predecessor, a famous general who, fifteen years earlier, had commanded his nation’s armed forces in a war that resulted in the defeat of Germany. The young leader was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. You know who I’m describing, right?” 

Most people would assume American President John F Kennedy, but the same set of facts are true for Adolf Hitler. Certain details were omitted, leading to incomplete context and therefore a very incorrect conclusion.

The problem with context is we don’t know what we don’t know. It’s hard to seek out answers to questions you don’t know to ask. That’s why, if you’re serious about making sure that you are more aware of the context in your life, it’s important to have these two things.

First is a performance tracking tool that helps you to see the unbiased, unfiltered truth of your performance rather than the rational story you tell yourself about it. One of the best ways to bring consciousness to what happens unconsciously is getting in the routine of reflection.

Second is a coach. Someone who can see what you don’t from the outside looking in. You know why? Because they don’t have the same context as you do and therefore they can see the same situation differently than you do (and with more objectivity because they’re less emotionally invested in it). “You can’t see the forest for the trees”. A coach tells you what’s in the blindspots of your life, which allows you to make decisions with more context than you’d otherwise have.

if you’ll have me, consider me your coach! My mission is to help you be at your very best.

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