Ambiguity: Paradox or Hypocrisy?

What to do when you find yourself confronted with an apparent contridiction.

We face ambiguity often… so often, I propose, that it is a natural condition–not a problem or challenge. Let’s face it, we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world.

Paradox or Hypocrisy

So, what do you do when you are constantly bombarded by ambiguity or “apparent contradictions”?

One of my recurring observations is the temptation to drift toward cynicism when these inconsistencies occur. In the end, that simply leads to frustration, anger, disengagement, and toxicity.

I’ve developed the following principle to help me deal with this phenomenon, as well as to shed light on it for others. The principle is much more simple than it appears.

Paradox or Hypocrisy: When confronted with an apparent contradiction, do not default to cynicism.

Let’s look at a simple explanation of the terms:

Paradox: the existence of conflicting truths
Hypocrisy: say one thing and do another

Do you find yourself constantly involved in situations where you need to solve a problem, make a decision, or take action? And as you continue to gather information and knowledge, you find yourself faced with an ill-defined situation and perhaps “conflicting truths.” Yeah… me, too.

Do you also find that a lot of the time, the information seems to contradict itself… appearing as if the people involved are being hypocritical? I get it… it’s hard to tolerate hypocrisy (saying one thing and doing another). It’s difficult to trust a hypocrite. My suggestion is that before you decide that that’s what’s happening, you continue to gather information and knowledge. Seek to clarify beyond the apparent contradiction. You may simply be being confronted with a paradox. Or, the situation may be ill-defined or subsequently changed to where the actions people are taking appear to be conflicting with the facts as you know them.

Bottom line, the majority of the time that I observe low morale or frustrated people and probe for the source of the frustration, it usually stems from this type of confusion. The way things appear just ain’t right. The people involved seemed to contradict themselves. The frustration reaches higher peaks. That may be the way it appears… but we know that everything isn’t always as it appears.

Take the time to thoroughly evaluate the situation and make sure that you illuminate or eliminate potential blindspots that you may have. You may be surprised that the “conflicting truths” are a paradox (and not hypocrisy). Or, the facts may have changed altering the decision making process.

“Gathering information and knowledge” is the new FIRST STEP in the Military Problem Solving Process (relegating “Identify the Problem” to Step #2) and can’t be stressed enough. In fact, “Gathering information and knowledge” should be continued throughout the entire problem solving process as new information will continue to be discovered. This continual process will help you more clearly define the actual problem. It will also clarify the need to involve more people (or not) in the collaborative process.

Additionally, critical and creative thinking are vital skills… and are very much worth studying and mastering. Being aware of the common rules of thumb and barriers to critical and creative thinking will help you navigate the hidden social obstacle course.

A serendipitous approach may seem easy and the right thing to do, but expect it to hurt a bit. What appears as common sense may be clouded by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). This is why I’m recommending an “uncommon sense” approach… with a degree of mastery and intentionality. Again, Paradox or Hypocrisy: When confronted with an apparent contradiction, do not default to cynicism. Be diligent and explore your way through the apparent contradiction.

QUESTION: How have you dealt with apparent contradictions in your daily life?

The LFYCP® One Week Challenge

“The Top 4 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Day to LEAD FROM YOUR CURRENT POSITION®”

I’d like to provide you with a basic framework that will help you refocus and achieve extraordinary results each an every day. I call this framework: “The Top 4 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Day to LEAD FROM YOUR CURRENT POSITION®”. The world is calling out for your genius, but the noise and clutter of your world may deafen that call.

A Sign Along the Journey!

Try answering these four questions every day for just one week and see what a difference it will make… and let us know what kind of results and insights you have below.

Four Questions

The four key questions you should ask yourself every day to Lead From Your Current Position® are:

  • What is my primary responsibility as a Leader?
  • What is the ONE thing I should create, cultivate, and encourage in my environment?
  • What is the ONE thing I should eliminate in my environment?
  • Are there additional questions that would give me insight into how I can lead from my current position?

Sign up for the FREE “Leader’s Guide” on my homepage if you haven’t already done so.

Forward this link to a friend or loved one and challenge them to complete the ONE WEEK CHALLENGE. Ask them to sign up on my homepage to receive the FREE “Leader’s Guide” with “The Top 4 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Day to LEAD FROM YOUR CURRENT POSITION®” and three free bonus tools:

  1. The Personal Brand Equity Evaluation by Tom Peters
  2. A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard
  3. Youth by Samuel Ullman


What did you create in your environment so that others could flourish during the ONE WEEK CHALLENGE as you set out to LEAD FROM YOUR CURRENT POSITION®?

Extraordinary Putting: Transforming the Whole Game (Perigee Trade; Reprint edition (January 2, 2007))

The co-author of the classic Extraordinary Golf offers an innovative approach to improving the overall game by focusing on putting, which accounts for more than one third of the strokes in a typical round. Not just a tips-and-techniques book, Extraordinary Putting features a series of illustrated exercises that will help golfers:

– Develop the inner freedom to trust themselves and recognize self-imposed barriers
– Find the peace of mind that comes from letting go of mental chatter and self-judgments
– Increase awareness, allowing golfers to pay attention to their experiences
– Understand the differences in those experiences from stroke to stroke – Master the art of self-coaching

A New Day

Lead From Your Current Position®

A new day… the first day of July… six months of the year gone! A great day to reflect on our responsibility, our contributions, and the journey.

A Sign Along the Journey!

The world is calling out for your contribution!

The world is calling out for your genius!

The world is calling out for you to LEAD FROM YOUR CURRENT POSITION®!


QUESTION:  What will you do to Lead From Your Current Position® today?

Self Education

VUCA Prime

How to flourish in a VUCA World

If we accept that chaos is the “new normal” and that “VUCA” is a reasonable framework to recognize the nature of the conditions that we operate in, then that begs a question: “How can we best operate this environment?”

VUCA Prime

Some suggest that the best response to VUCA is VUCA PRIME (first introduced by Bob Johansen, a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future). It is a method to counter each of the elements of VUCA with a counterpart: VUCA Prime.

Consider this unique approach.

Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future.” Peter Drucker




VISION over Volatility: Begin with the end in mind (Stephen Covey’s HABIT #2). In the Army we call it the “Backward Planning Sequence” where we plan a mission from the end first (actions on the objective) then back to the start. View today from the perspective of the desired future and have a clear intent (with a clearly stated Purpose, Method, End-State, and Acceptable Risk). Emphasize a direction over a specified route: Compass over maps.

UNDERSTANDING over Uncertainty: Seek first to understand, then be understood (Stephen Covey’s HABIT #5). The deliberate ability to “stop, look, and listen.” Be flexible. Get fresh perspectives. Maximize the Power of Pull and Strong Ties and Weak Ties. Encourage listening, empathy, and sensing.

CLARITY over Complexity: It’s about thorough and rapid problem solving and decision making. Critical and creative thinking must be highly developed and encouraged.

AGILITY over Ambiguity: Try hard, fail fast, and learn. Maximize the Power of the Network in every way possible. Being able to communicate across the network… collaborating, maximizing the talent in the network, and having fully engaged team members is vital. Seek to be a Learning Organization in the true spirit that Peter Senge fully intended.

Again, VUCA represents the CONDITIONS that we are operating in… and those conditions will only increase in complexity and intensity in the future. As my good friend Andy Dean says: “There’s no such thing as bad weather… just poor clothing.” VUCA isn’t bad… it simply is. So consider VUCA Prime and adequate antidote for the conditions.

VUCA Prime is a useful framework to counter VUCA. In the days to come, I will discuss the tools, models, and frameworks that I find useful and vital to stabilize myself and my partnerships in this VUCA world. Both are necessary to achieve stable community.


Do you have another method or framework to guide “How can we best operate this environment?”

Extraordinary Golf (Perigee Trade; Reprint edition (April 1, 1997))

Most golfers approach the tee with a complex mental package: worries and judgments about their swing, the other person’s swing, the course, the weather, looking good, looking bad. They think about what’s wrong instead of what’s possible, and this is what Extraordinary Golf teaches: the art of the possible.

Drawing on his experience teaching both amateurs and professionals for more than fifteen years, in his clinics around the country, in his Golf in the Kingdom seminars at the Esalen Institute, and at his own School for Extraordinary Golf in California, Shoemaker shows how extraordinary golf can be coached, learned, and practiced, with results not only in people’s scores but in their sheer pleasure in the game.

Combining a host of practical exercises with an entirely new point of view, he demonstrates how to focus not on the voices in your head but on the reality of golf: the club, the ball, your body, the course – the elements that actually make up your game. He shows how to approach shots creatively, instead of mechanically; how to read greens simply by staying awake; how to develop a powerful and consistent swing by rediscovering trust for your instincts; and how to improve yourself in competition by determining what you’re competing for. He also gives simple guidelines on how to coach yourself, your spouse, and your children successfully.

Fred Shoemaker, who began teaching golf in the seventies, is the founder of Extraordinary Golf®, named one of Golf Magazine’s “25 Best Golf Schools” in America. He lectures and conducts workshops around the world for such organizations as the PGA and the LPGA and for major corporations, including Apple Computer, Oracle, and Pfizer.

Adjust the action steps--Confucius


The chaotic "new normal"

We are constantly reminded just how fast-paced life is… and that the rapidity of life and change will only increase. Additionally, that chaos is the “new normal.” Does a simple framework to recognize the nature of the conditions that we operate in exist? Can it help us better cope with, or even thrive in, these conditions. Well, the one that I use is “VUCA”.


VUCA is an acronym used to describe or reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions in the world… the chaotic “new normal.” Common usage of the term VUCA began in the 1990s in military strategic planning and has been subsequently used in a wide range of situations.

Instead of trying to identify anticipated PROBLEMS in the environment or situation you are operating in, or renaming them as CHALLENGES, I ask that you consider using the VUCA acronym as a way to better understand the nature of the CONDITIONS.

     V = Volatility. The nature, speed, volume, and magnitude of change.

     U = Uncertainty. The lack of predictability and the prospects for surprise.

     C = Complexity. The confounding of issues and the chaos and confusion that surround any environment.

     A = Ambiguity. The “fog of war”, haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions.

The particular meaning and relevance of VUCA often relates to how people view the conditions under which they make decisions, plan forward, manage risks, foster change and solve problems.

Bottom line… VUCA is a great way to analyze the conditions that you will be operating in, in any situation. Try it.


Do you use another acronym or rule of thumb to better understand the potential for chaotic conditions in your every day life?

Action is the real measure