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May 13, 1999

Style versus Substance

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It is not good to have zeal without knowledge. PROVERBS 19:2

According to Aristotle, men who want to be persuasive but don’t really have anything to say simply speak louder. That makes us chuckle, but we only chuckle because we know it’s true. Ours is a world of loud talkers—salesmen who promise one thing but deliver another, companies that offer great jobs to prospective employees but fail to follow through, and people who project one image on a resume but fail to live up to the picture they paint of themselves.

Our culture platforms the extroverted, Type A, charismatic types, but many times, those people are all style and no substance. They can talk a good line and make others laugh, but when it comes down to getting things done, they’re practically useless.

Proverbs 19:2 reveals that the most effective persuader is a person who has enthusiasm plus content. Rather than being a bunch of hot air, he or she is someone with passion and energy that is woven around a core of substance and knowledge. As a matter of fact, that’s also a really good formula for business success. A company with good intellectual property and a capable sales and marketing engine is a company that probably will fare very well.

Enthusiasm by itself doesn’t get the job done. It only takes emotional hype to have zeal, but it takes energy, hard work, and time to build a base of knowledge. Zeal will carry you along for a ways, and, for a short time, it might even seem more impressive. But if you want long-term results and long-term success, there’s no substitute for knowledge. In order to excel at work, we need substance first. Any style that comes along later is just the icing on the cake.

Do you deliver what you promise, or are you all hype and no substance?

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