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The Three Laws of Human Endeavor

Updated on December 2, 2013

The Three "Laws" of Human Endeavor

All human endeavors and interactions are governed by three simple laws. You may chose to ignore these laws in your own decisions and actions, but nevertheless, your success and effectiveness is governed by them.

Law One: Values plus Beliefs equals Action (Our evaluation of the world around us generates everything we actually do.)

Modern organizations devote a tremendous effort to mentor their employees on Values and/or Beliefs. Generally, these Values/Beliefs are similar, or at least commensurable, from one organization to the next. And generally, they all represent high ideals of character and deeds. What is often missing is a clear understanding of the difference between a “belief” and a “value.” There are numerous explanations available. Here’s one more. Values are the comprehensive concepts that we deem (for whatever reason) to be important. Beliefs are the judgments we make or the conclusions we draw based on our observations and absorption of the world around us. Many times, our beliefs lead us to recognize that certain concepts must be adequately true, enduring, and important enough that we adopt those concepts as values. Thus, the process is somewhat circular. But at any point in time, there is a real categorical difference in our values and beliefs. To state the difference in simpler terms…Values are the way things should be, Beliefs are the way things are. Actions arise when the gap is wide. If, for example, I have a value that everyone should be treated fairly, and I have a belief that someone is being treated unfairly, that difference should propel me to do something to assist the person being treated unfairly. If the difference doesn’t bring me to action, it may be that my value is not as strong as I originally thought it was. Or it may be that I have mitigated the “difference” by thoughts like, “if I get involved, it won’t really change anything,” or “I won’t do anything now because, honestly, I don’t have all the facts.” Our brains can get quite good at softening the gaps between values and beliefs. (When there is a big difference and we act strongly, that’s Passion.)

It may be easier to analyze this concept in reverse. Examine the actions you actually do take. What was the energizing motivation that led you? What was the untreated difference between the way things should be and the way things are that caused you act? It was something noticeable or you wouldn’t have acted.

So, everything we actually do is a function of our values and beliefs.

Law Two: All Actions are Transactions (Everything we do is Sales)

The point of Law Two is that nothing happens in a vacuum…other people are affected. It may be difficult for engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc., to think of their work process as sales, but remember that everyone is your customer. Everyone is someone who, through your actions, you are trying to convince to accept your analysis, conclusions and deliverables. Whether the customer is your boss or your clerk, no matter how smart you actually are, how great your work actually is or how pertinent your instructions are, someone else must be convinced to the same degree that you are convinced. To be successful, your output has to be accepted by someone else. They have to be comfortable with what you are offering. We often call this process Sales, and every action we take is ultimately a transaction like this.

Law Three: All Transactions are Personal (All Sales are Personal)

We’d all like to think that in this internet age we can complete some product or task, post it to or purvey it in the great ether, and never have to face or acknowledge the consumer. But every transaction is bounded by people. You are real. They are real. The company’s with whom I deal solely through their web interface are sorely mistaken if they believe that I perceive the transaction as purely impersonal. I like/don’t like the page design. I like/don’t like the price and delivery options. I expect the product to comply with specifications. I expect service that rapidly converts from text based information to voice based ingratiation. It’s personal to me and I expect it to be personal to them. And if the experience doesn’t have that dimension, I will take my human endeavors elsewhere. If these things are true in the electronic realm, imagine how much more important they are in face to face situations such as meetings, mentoring conversations, training, administration of discipline, etc. So often, we observe people communicating directly to another person with no concept of how impersonally they are conducting their business.

There is no hiding from this Law. Ignore it at your peril. Everything we do is for or about people, eventually if not immediately. So, our transactions can’t have any form of interface that doesn’t transmit or enable “personal.” (If success is desired.)


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