The Second Law of Performance

May 18, 2011

Number TwoMy post from last week discussed the First Law. This week we’re diving into the Second Law of Performance from The Three Laws of Performance by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan.
The Second Law: How a situation occurs arises in language.
Logan and Zaffron explain the Second Law by stating, “How situations occur is inseparable from language.” Which is an idea that isn’t awfully shocking. However, the statement is a bit difficult to grasp ahold of at first because language is something that seems so simple and natural to us humans.
Logan and Zaffron use Hellen Keller as a perfect illustration of this law. Keller who was born blind and deaf had no access to language. Until she met her teacher Anne Sullivan six years later, her life was transformed. Language allowed Keller to express her memories, future, and life experiences. Keller was still entirely deaf and blind with the use of language. However, the world occurred to Hellen in an entirely different way.
Our occurring world arises in more than just spoken and written language. It also arises in facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Sometimes it’s what’s not said that speaks louder than what is said.
Logan and Zaffron describe how it’s important to “clear out the clutter” when communicating for performance and results in life. The “clutter” is our thoughts that aren’t spoken out loud, the emotions we describe in our body language, and the real meaning behind our statements.
Have you ever attempted to have a meaningful conversation with someone else and you felt like they were just saying what you wanted to hear? Or, have you sat in a meeting at work and felt like you could cut the unspoken tension with a knife? These types of conversations are extremely frustrating. Especially when you enter the conversation with the intention of making progress in an area that’s lacking integrity or strategy. These types of conversations “clutter” the interpersonal space and make it impossible to create new possibilities.
How we see our world, our experiences, our past, and our future only exist in language. Whether it’s the internal story that we replay over and over again in our head. Or, if it’s the way we express ourselves to others out loud. It only ever exists through language. Without language our experiences and thoughts have no tangible meaning.
The Second Law in action might sound depressing, but really it’s quite inspiring. If our experiences and thoughts are meaningless without language, then it gives us the power to change the way we use language as a tool.
Zaffron and Logan leave the reader with a few action items for implementing the Second Law. First, they suggest that you pay attention to your internal voice and notice when your persistent stories and complaints arise. What or who are they about? What’s the complaint? Communicate your learnings with the people around you. Thinking out loud helps to remove the “clutter” and internal voice that is ever-so harmful to performance inducing results.
I will leave you with this one quote from the book that really drove home the Second Law for me, “Language is the means through which your future is already written. It is also the means through which it can be rewritten.”


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