The highest authority: Your own experience of truth
We're living in unprecedented times. Access to knowledge and technology is no longer a barrier to entry, only available to the rich and privileged. Today, everyone can learn anything from the internet - at a fraction of the cost. With Youtube "university", anyone can get an education on their mobile phones. With Chat GPT, you have the world's knowledge at your fingertips. Will DALL.E, anyone can become an artist. For free.
There's a dark side. Every day, we are bombarded with news articles, videos, and posts that claim to be the truth. It is difficult to know who or what to trust when information is constantly disseminated through multiple channels, and when opposing viewpoints seem equally valid. Social media can be a breeding ground for echo chambers and confirmation bias. We are told to trust our leaders, religious authorities, experts and institutions. Yet, we have seen countless examples of these sources of authority failing us, whether through corruption, deception, or incompetence. And scams have gotten more sophisticated. In this context, it is more important than ever to recognise that the highest authority is our own experience of truth.
Here are three reasons why your own experience of truth is the most reliable source of knowledge.
Your experience is uniquely valuable.
Firstly, we are the only ones who can directly experience the world around us. We can observe, feel, and interact with our environment and the people in it. No one else experiences the world in the exact same way you do, and as such, your experience is uniquely valuable. After all, who better to judge the truth of a situation than the person directly experiencing it?
Fake news and propaganda are prevalent.
Secondly, relying on external sources of authority can be problematic in a world where misinformation and propaganda are prevalent. It is not uncommon for people in positions of power to manipulate the truth for their own benefit, or for media outlets to spin stories in a particular direction. This can lead to confusion, mistrust, and a lack of confidence in external sources of information.
In contrast, your own experience of truth is something you can trust, because it is based on your direct observations and interactions. You will make mistakes or misinterpret events - as any wildly successful business or sportsperson do - but at least you are in control of your own experiences and can learn from them.
Less passive, more proactive.
Thirdly, your experience of truth is essential for making decisions and taking action. When you rely solely on external sources of authority, you become passive consumers of information, rather than active seekers of knowledge. You may be swayed by the opinions of others or by what you believe is popular or fashionable. That's how you lose touch with your own intuition and sense of right and wrong. This can lead to a lack of conviction and a failure to take responsibility for our own lives. Sometimes the external sources of authority are based on experiences of the past which are no longer relevant, and this is exactly what holds you back.
By contrast, when you trust your own experience of truth, you become more connected to yourself and the world around you. You become more engaged, more critical, and more self-aware. You become more capable of making informed decisions and taking responsible action. Others will notice a change in you. You’ll feel smarter, healthier and happier, and it shows. This leadership presence, coming from the inside out, is very inspiring to others.
Of course, this does not mean we should reject all external sources of authority. We should still learn from others, seek guidance, and collaborate to uncover the truth. However, we should always keep in mind that the highest authority is our own experience of truth.
Life is travelling to the edge of knowledge, then a leap taken. - D. H. Lawrence
This approach is not without its risks. Our experiences can be limited by our own biases, prejudices, and blind spots. We can misinterpret events, misremember them, or simply be mistaken. However, these risks are not unique to our own experience. They exist in every form of authority, and in many cases, they can be exacerbated by the distance between us and those in power. We can mitigate the bias by seeking out diverse perspectives to challenge our assumptions, as well as others.
We are standing on the edge of greatness - as an individual, a team and an organisation. We have access to a wealth of knowledge and easy-to-use technology, very affordably, putting the power in the hands of the individual to make a positive impact in the world. We're set up for success, but it requires our existential participation. In this context, it is more important than ever to trust your own experience of truth. Cultivate your own sense of intuition, your own capacity for critical thinking, and your own moral compass. Only then can we navigate the complexities of our world with wisdom and integrity, and make decisions that are truly in everyone's best interests, including our own.
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PERSONNA is a leadership development company specialising in Leadership Branding. We are here to support ambitious leaders and teams in Asia to scale their impact at work without burning out. We provide leadership branding, leadership coaching and group experiences. Personna has been developing leaders since 2010.
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