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Tis The Seas'n For Believin'
Less Arguing and More Value-ing at Christmas Time
I fall victim to the association between my beliefs and my identity. When someone challenges my beliefs, I’m quick to defend my beliefs as if I’m defending myself from bodily harm. I struggle to articulate what lies at the core of my beliefs, and my identity, because I mistake what I believe for what I am.
And beliefs should be far more malleable than one’s identity. In business, some brands follow a three-layer model for every action they take:
Mission: The overarching mission the brand wishes to achieve, the north star to which the brands look for guidance
Strategy: This is the brand’s present capital ‘S’ strategy of what it does to help achieve its mission, the strategy is a roadmap of how the brand plans to further its mission over the next year, 5-years, or farther out
Tactic: a stab at how the brand will achieve its strategy in the near-term
In a real-world example, the mission at Jamba Juice is To become the world’s leading blender of fruit and other naturally healthy ingredients. And their strategy may be to expand their franchise to Southeast Asia.
The tactic they choose to achieve this expansion is to deploy a lavish corporate location in downtown Singapore. This will draw tremendous attention to the brand and get JJ on the radar of business partners in Singapore who may have an interest in launching their own franchises.
In this example, where both the strategy and tactic are fictitious (no Jamba Juice hatemail please), can you imagine Jamba Juice announcing that a brand new part of its core brand identity is to build lavish corporate-owned locations in wealthy metropolitan areas?
No… Looking at the big picture, their Singapore tactic has little to do with their mission, but has very much to do with driving that mission forward – but the two have a tenuous relationship.
Imagine in a year’s time Jamba Juice finds their downtown location failed to draw the capital investments they expected from the region. They find that small suburban locations did a better job of attracting franchisees than their flashy downtown megastore, and thus their tactics shift.
If they had upheld their first tactic as sacrosanct, they’d have continued to feed a bottomless money-pit that failed to drive their strategy, and thereby failed to advance their mission… But that’s exactly what we do with our beliefs.
Hold On Tight (To Your Beliefs)
Our beliefs are things we think are true, whether imperatively or empirically. And they land at the bottom-rung of our self-identity attributes.
As people and professionals, we too have a multi-tiered system of mission, strategy, and tactic. Our mission is our core driver. I believe there are only a few: live a happy life, live a successful life, things of that nature.
Below that core driver exist strategies we believe help us achieve our mission, and that is where we find our values.
One thing I value tremendously is freedom. I believe freedom is critical to my mission of living a successful and fulfilling life. And below that value is where I form beliefs that feed into my freedom strategy. I believe freedom is worth protecting in this case or that case because it respects my strategy, it resonates with my values.
However, while we hold values firmly, they too can change. A value must have an opposing value of equal merit, otherwise that ‘value’ is merely a fact of life.
For example, we often find freedom, or liberty, in competition with security. People can value both. Breathing, on the other hand, is not a value because no one (and I really hope no one) believes suffocating themselves leads to a fulfilling or successful life.
And while I probably can’t nor wont attempt to convince you to stop breathing, external forces can bend us to either side of a values debate. Many of us grappled with the liberty-security debate as a consequence of Covid-19 and the lockdowns that took place around the world.
The lockdowns revealed values shared by our friends, family, and neighbors. But what we ended up debating and arguing were opinions. We debated this or that reality, these facts, these outcomes, trying to come out correct all while holding firmly onto our beliefs.
We grip them tightly because we treat beliefs as line-items on our identity resumes; we recoil when people challenge our credentials. That’s the wrong response.
Bring Values to The Forefront
It’s okay to value different things than I do; it’s okay to think that your values will deliver a better life for you than the values held by another person.
Pressing people’s value buttons will certainly rile them up, but you can lessen the blow to them and yourself by discussing your values openly.
We should also remain open to changing our beliefs in the event that they indicate our values may not work in all cases. And that’s critical because again, a value is not an absolute, there are cases when security beats out freedom, and times when the opposite holds true.
And that is what must be in order for a value to hold any meaning. If one choice is always superior to the other, it’s no longer a value, but a fact of life.
Ultimately, a value is a bet we make, much like a strategy is a brand’s guess at how it might achieve its mission. In the case of Jamba Juice, they may fail to establish a strong presence in Singapore, and thereby fail to advance their strategy and mission. Or the converse holds true, and the strategy works.
Adhering to a value that takes us farther away from our mission is a toxic choice. It demands reevaluation.
We must remain open to reevaluating our beliefs, how those beliefs feed into our values, and whether our value-system actively brings us closer or further away from our life’s mission.
It’s true for your self, and it’s true for your brand.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and happy day off to the heathens! J/k I’m in the heathen category.