An interesting thing has happened. In the battle of optics vs action, we now have a society of literal wanna-be lepers. And you’ve probably also noticed that these soulless creatures are all for show: in every case, we can boil it down to one common factor.
And that factor is that they want the world to see that, legitimately or not, they’re compliant to the fears of others.
First, let’s talk about what that means on an individual level. As a Machiavellian personality, when I see these people shuffling about, I assume there’s a good chance…
- You’re very easy to manipulate or coherence
- You’ll tolerate doing whatever you’re told, no matter how humiliating
- You have an inability to think long-range or pragmatically
- You can’t distinguish between real struggle and fake victimhood
- You’re a coward that either fears dying or fears taking a stand
- You favor the perception of optics over effective action
Not a very good combination of possibilities.
But so, let’s focus on the optics. What does it mean, really, to worry about them?
Believe it or not, this term is only a few decades old. And while it’s become a sort of buzzword in politics and corporate business, the lines of it are a little blurry. Sure, at face value, the definition is simple: if you favor the optics, you’re more worried about public perception than the real outcomes.
For example, the politician who stages a photo op to kiss a baby. Or the corporation that pays lip service to or funds philanthropic causes but has a zero-track record of honoring those values. And early 21st Century organizations are replete with these sorts of examples of disingenuous pandering.
And most consumers and employees have caught onto it.
But what about those of us who are meticulous in the way we dress? Or who weigh our words before speaking? Or better yet, who choose our battles wisely?
Indeed, there’s a better example of where optics and actions meet. And complement each other.
And that’s with Donald Trump and the contested 2020 election. On the one hand, if he simply “crosses the Rubicon,” as some have suggested, by seizing power, it will be painted like and easy to accept as, illegitimate. However, if he exhausts every legal and political option while also rallying his supporters to the belief of fraud, it will appear that “crossing the Rubicon” is the only legitimate and righteous course of action left.
The devil is in the details, of course.
However you feel about the election or the possible outcomes, this distinction is the difference between lions and lepers.
A leper, like your typical politician, would slink away into the dark. And they would hope that their willingness to be seen playing by the rules, even of a rigged game, would benefit them later. It would look good to the right people. Still, there’s nothing but a hollow gesture that cedes power to everyone except your faction. And there are no laudable values behind it.
Contrast the lion. For him, he sees that life is somewhere above action and optics. Sometimes, that means optics serve to ensure the future success of your actions. And you can convey your values or intent through appearances. Other times, that means your actions are meant to help others accept the palatability of the optics. And you make choices that are in-line with the goals or temperament of your side.
The difference, for optics, is between a meek stamping of your foot before you give yourself up to the mob’s rule vs a roar to deter your enemies from a fight they do not understand. Or on action, the acceptance of your forced, final departure vs the seizing of your destiny against all odd.
How do you find this middle ground of strength and resilience?
- Accept that fear is natural, for every one of us
- Put yourself in situations to begin building guts
- Consider your path and your people’s needs first
- Factor in how the optics can enrich your objectives
- But don’t let the optics become the only focus
- Determine today which battles matter most to you
- Finally, don’t build your tribe. Attract it with like-minded people.
Either way, skip the common mantra of our leper-colony society. When they’re faced with challenges, their rallying cry is “do something, anything, no matter how stupid it is or appears to be.” Imagine it, if you will, as a throne to the disease of victimhood. And its king is a lunacy without end.
Instead, find your war song, a hymn to a daring and bravery that accepts that you cannot appease fear forever. And sooner or later, we all have to take unpopular actions, if only for the sake of our pride.