Pithy Statements vs Meaning

A colleague of mine was ranting on about people who make “Pithy Comments and Statements” and how so much of our world today is filled up with minutia and noise, and that there is really very little out there that really helps people or really changes their lives.

Of course, I shared that I held a very different perspective in that I believed that little nuggets of wisdom are a necessary part of changing a person’s life. So this really begs the question:


For my colleague, something was meaningful if it had a direct bearing on a persons life and well-being. I actually don’t disagree with that general definition. But why can two people have such different reactions to a simple statement? For example, consider my last tweet:

“Managers use people to make a great business, while leaders use business to make great people.”

Why do some people really appreciate such things while others are totally annoyed by them?

I believe it comes down to a person’s proximity or orientation toward the Truth.  Another way of saying this is that it comes down to how a person views reality.  For example, my colleague doesn’t see nuggets of wisdom as helpful, whereas he sees cash or commodities as helpful.  Thus his orientation toward truth is that true things are those things that we can touch, measure, or feel empirically.  As an engineer this fits into his scientific worldview.

But if you are like me and your orientation to the truth is such that little nuggets of wisdom are little beacons that are anchored into something so much larger and they validate our progress on a journey toward satisfaction.

It is not that one view is necessarily better, as both have their pros and cons.  The difference between the two is that one is short-term view of reality and the other a long-term view of reality.

A short-term orientation to the truth is more relative. The person is asking; “What is true right now?” This means the thing that is helpful on Tuesday morning may not be helpful by afternoon.  A long-term orientation to the truth is evaluating the consistent patterns for their bearings. Once this person is convinced that some pattern is true it will take considerable time and evidence to change the perspective.

Thus a statement will fall on us as a “Pithy Comment” depending on our present orientation. If we are in short-term mode where we have immediate needs, then the content is considered far less valuable (less true). If a statement is made that speaks directly to that immediate need, then it will be far more valuable (more true).

We can test our orientation with the 10,10,10 test. Will this statement be meaningful in 10 days, in 10 years and in 10 decades? As you do this you will notice that some aspects of the truth are only meaningful in the short term, while others are only meaningful in the long term. They are both TRUE, but our orientation shifts in time.

This allowed me to appreciate poetry.  For the longest time, I just couldn’t get poetry, using the 10,10,10 test I was able to put poetry in the right category and thus extract its meaning.

Maybe we all need to learn to categorize truth into better groups before we dismiss the statements of others as pithy, because they certainly have meaning to others.


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