Fight or Flight

by Jim Stovall

Recently, I spent quite a bit of time with a dear friend of mine who could best be described as the quintessential Southern gentlemen.  He is well into his eighth decade of life but, in many ways, his attitudes and demeanor harken back even farther to a much-earlier time.

He was born and spent his formative years in rural Mississippi and remains very steeped in the southern culture.  While my friend seems to have love in his heart for everyone, he still refers to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression.

One of my favorite quotes from my dear friend is that “a good run is better than a poor stand.”  This old saying may have originated in the aftermath of a long-forgotten Civil War battle, but it can serve you and me today.

There are few human endeavors that require more time, effort, energy, and resource than an argument or disagreement.  In many cases, the disagreement or argument, itself, becomes more costly than the issue it sprang from.  Very few people have the ability to disagree without becoming disagreeable.  We are all so vested in our personal beliefs that we take opposition to our position as a personal affront.

I would be the first to say there are many beliefs, standards, and positions that are worth arguing for and even fighting about, but it’s important to pick your battles.  Oftentimes, with a friend, colleague, or loved one, you can win a brief argument and lose good will and trust that have been built up over many years.  Before you engage in a conflict with another person, group, or organization, be sure to count the cost.

In the ancient and classic book The Art of War, Sun Tzu describes the best way to win any battle and be victorious in any war is to avoid the conflict entirely.  Before you engage in a debate, an argument, or a conflict, ask yourself the following questions:

1.      Do I really care about this issue at hand?

2.      Does the matter under consideration involve a core principle that I hold?

3.      What could I lose by escalating this conflict?

4.      Does the outcome of this debate affect one of my personal or professional goals?

5.      Is it possible for me to simply state my position and agree to disagree?

As a professional speaker, I have had the privilege of sharing the stage with General Colin Powell.  We should all be grateful and thankful for leaders such as General Powell who have dedicated themselves to our defense.  During a recent debate about an ongoing conflict in the Middle East, General Powell cautioned that it is important that we avoid a situation where we win the war but lose the peace.

As you go through your day today, never back down on your core principles and beliefs, but never fight or argue over things that truly don’t matter.

Today’s the day!