A house built on misinformation has a shoddy foundation
“The time will come when our successors will wonder how we could have been ignorant of a thing so obvious.” — Seneca
Leaders begin with a powerful vision, communicate that vision relentlessly, and then execute on it.
But it starts with setting the vision so that every stakeholder understands what they’re trying to achieve.
Without that common ground—that shared experience—we lack the ability to move at the same pace or in the same direction.
That is, when we inhabit the same space but have a fundamentally different view of reality or of morality, it’s untenable.
A House Divided
When he accepted the nomination for U.S. Senator for Illinois in 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave his famous House Divided speech. The country was riven by the issue of slavery. Democrats were slave-holding oligarchs, Republicans were the party of the free north that opposed the expansion of slavery.
His opponent, Senator Stephen Douglas, sought compromise, looking for some middle ground. But for Lincoln, it was a question of principle. It was against this backdrop that Lincoln made his radical speech, declaring “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
He chose that phrase and that principle because it came directly from three of the Gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the same story. And it was material with which Lincoln’s audience would have been familiar.
And in his opening, Lincoln made it clear that having a common understanding of the situation was essential:
“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”
We have to know who we were if we want to know who we are. And from there, we can forge a path to who we want to become.
When we look at the past or the present, a common reality is our map and compass, guiding us to our next waypoint. Without it, we’re lost.
“The less a man knows about the past and the present, the more insecure must prove to be his judgement of the future.” — Sigmund Freud, 1927