Do Your Homework

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

“Every medium has a point of view. Challenge it.”

In the coming weeks the political campaign season will be kicking in. We will again be inundated by half truths, scary sound bytes and unsubstantiated charges, all designed to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt about some candidate’s opponent. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent to try and convince us NOT to vote for someone else.

By the same token, we are daily bombarded with messages designed to get us to do something, buy something, like something, hate something. The more shocking the images, the more lurid the charges, the better.

When you find the little voice inside your head saying, “Wow! I can’t believe what I just saw,” listen to it.

Challenge everything. But be willing to do your homework. The world is complicated. The issues we face don’t have easy solutions. If they did, we would have already figured them out. We all bring our prejudices and self interests to the table, too. Preconceived notions about how things “should” be can easily dominate our own thinking.

Do your homework.

Special interests (and that’s not necessarily a bad term.. we all have special interests) spend time and effort to convince us that their interests are in our best interest. That may or may not be true. You get to decide whether or not it is. But try to understand all points of view before judging. That often takes work. The truth isn’t always clearly visible. You have to peel off layers of hyperbole, obfuscation and misinformation to find it. The people who create commercial messages and political attack ads count on the fact that most of us won’t bother to fact check. Their biggest fear is that we will.

The same goes for whatever positions you take, decisions you make, actions you take; They will be challenged.

And that’s a good thing. Questions and criticism can help us clarify our own thought processes. In some cases, this may modify our point of view. In the best case, it will force us to do our own homework to ensure that our actions are in line with our values.

If they aren’t, have the courage to go through the sometimes painful process of changing them. Your homework may reinforce your confidence in staying the course. Or it may inspire you to explore a new direction.

The worst thing we can do is to do nothing.

Be an informed voter, consumer, leader, team member and friend. Challenge everything, especially your own paradigms. Do your homework. You won’t make everyone around you happy all the time. But you will make better decisions and most likely enjoy more productive outcomes.

So don’t take anything anyone says at face value. Challenge it.

And do your homework.