What do you know about Rene Descartes

Impulse for success: what you should learn from René Descartes


René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician and natural scientist. He wrote the sentence: Cogito ergo sum - I think therefore I am. But there are more insights from this philosopher that we can use for leadership.

Volkmar Völzke

The French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650). Portrait of Frans Hals (1648). (Image: Wikipedia / after André Hatala [e.a.] (1997) De eeuw van Rembrandt, Bruxelles: Crédit communal de Belgique, ISBN 2-908388-32-4)

I recently read an interesting essay about René Descartes and Donald Trump in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. In essence, it is about the fact that, according to Descartes, we can form infinite opinions about everything and sometimes take these opinions to be the truth, i.e. facts.

René Descartes: The ability to form opinions is unlimited

For some people - like Donald Trump - this match between opinion and facts is 100 percent: From his point of view there can be no other truth than his own opinion. And since, according to Descartes, the ability to form an opinion is unlimited, we can also create any “truths” (such as having won the election). I think that explains very elegantly many of his strange behaviors for clear-thinking people.

This is not about the ex-president, but about parallels to our leadership. Because even with each of us the line between faith and truth is sometimes blurred. Understanding this can help you deal gracefully with some typical leadership challenges.

Three realizations

Here are three examples of our blurry thinking in leadership and what we should do with it:

  1. Limited potential. Too often we believe that our potential success is severely limited. We are mentally moving in a bubble of past experience (e.g. by observing the market environment). History shows again and again that these experiences are not truths, but opinions. This is important when you are working on your business strategy.
  2. Fixed identity. “We are not what we are, but how we define ourselves” is a common statement from me. Most of the time we have formed very firm opinions about ourselves and about others who we believe to be truths. In reality, however, we can change our identity at any time. However, it is not easy. As a first step, however, we have to give up the belief that “this is how we are”.
  3. Lack of courage. We love to categorize failure as confirmation of our set beliefs. They would be more suitable as proof that our assessment was not entirely correct at this point and that we should therefore adjust it before the next attempt. We always do this instinctively when something is really important to us. Otherwise, we often lose heart because we believe that failure is a sign that it is better not to try.

As you can see, this is how you can use direct insights from philosophers for your leadership. Good luck with the application!

About the author:
Volkmar Völzke is a success maximizer. Author. Consultant. Coach. Speaker. www.volkmarvoelzke.ch

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