Principles and Paradox

Principles are guidelines that can help us determine the best way to think and act in both our personal and professional lives. They should instruct us but not control us. We should be dedicated to the ideals attached to a principle, not the words that describe it. Principles are never accurate all the time, including the one I just stated. Absolutes should always be avoided, including my statement about absolutes.

For many years, I have offered the following two principles in my speeches, books, and weekly columns: “Never make a decision until you have to” and “Not making a decision is a decision.”

One principle encourages us to delay all decisions, while the other encourages us to decide now. Principles are truths that have been given to us by wise people. They have to be used with judgment and discretion. With respect to when we should make a decision, we can embrace the principle that we will not make a final decision until we are forced to do so, as we are constantly gaining more information and perspective. On the other hand, we cannot delay the decision beyond the point and time when our options begin to diminish or even disappear.

We’ve all heard the principle that a penny saved is a penny earned. It is a valid concept that we should all apply in our lives, but we must also be aware that there are times when saving pennies costs us hours of effort and dollars in the future. We cannot fully adopt the principle that a penny saved is a penny earned until we understand the differences in cost, price, and value.

I’ve often stated to never take advice from anyone who hasn’t been where you want to go. While I stand by this principle as valid, you must have enough discernment in your life to understand there may be people who have been where you want to go but failed miserably when they got there.

My great friend and colleague, Larry Winget, offered a principle to his son as he was leaving for college. “Whatever you do, don’t be an idiot.” While humorous and a clear indicator of Larry’s personality, these words can assist us as we apply principles in our lives.

Words are often a weak and inaccurate way to communicate the ideas behind principles. But unfortunately, words are all we have, so we must use them wisely.

As you go through your day today, learn wise principles and use them wisely.

Today’s the day!

About the author: Jim Stovall is the president of the Emmy-award winning Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of more than 50 books—eight of which have been turned into movies. He is also a highly sought-after platform speaker.

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