To know the name of something is not the same as knowing its essence.

I was reminded of this truth today well discussed by philosophers ranging from Zen Buddhists to Renaissance theologians. It is worth repeating because it offers far more interesting ways to live – it offers a way to live beyond the labels.  In the business world, it offers a rich way to tap into the most valuable resource any company has – its people. It is far easier to talk about the concept than to actually live it which is why it is worth repeating. It’s a lesson that’s easy to forget.

To function in society, we are all compartmentalized and we compartmentalize others  – by title or ability or a combination of labels.  But these labels do not reflect the essence of any of us. By putting people in “label pens” we limit them.

Labels limit people’s ability to contribute. And labels tend to crystallize into hard and fast boundaries which don’t evolve to reflect the reality of the moment.  Look beyond the label – look to the essence of the person. Once you capture that about a person, you understand where they are brilliant, where they good and where they still need to learn. To know the essence of someone lets you realize their full potential without constraint.  

It may not be easy to reach this level of perception about those around us – but it always worth the effort – in our business and personal lives. Live beyond the labels.  

Judy Shapiro

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