Three Paths to The Truth
Bill Cottringer

“I wouldn't give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, I would give my life.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes.

As the above quote implies, there are but three main paths we walk to learn what we think is true about something. In a three words, these paths are—short, long and longer. Or, in a little more detail, this is where we walk and what we do:

• Choose the easiest way to know something by picking the low hanging fruit at the beginning of our walk, or not wanting to wander past the simplest simplicity right before us.

Walking further and trying to find the right apple tree in a seemingly never-ending orchard of all finds of fruit trees, without getting lost in the forest, which we sense is very easy to do.

• Persevering and having the courage to continue on a very long walk past the forest to see what remains in a new and unfamiliar territory without a map.

The first path usually results in finding temporary, short-term solutions to the common problems that confront us figuring out how to get what we want from our parents, a grade we want in a course in school, a job we want, or starting a relationship our right. This usually involves finding out the minimum information we need to be reasonably successful in trying to do something and get desirable results quicker than others. At the end of our day on these short walks, we often end up seeing more problems than solutions or finding solutions that are only good for one occasion.

With the second walk, we often get lost because of not being able to see the forest from the trees. We end up seeing a lot of abstract solutions and principles about how people and life work during this walk, but without understanding any concrete applications for this new knowledge to the rest of our life. Not wanting to get so lost in our meandering that nobody will find us, we often give up the search for truly creative solutions to the more perplexing problems challenging us without known cures.

It is only the bold, committed truth searchers with the required patience and tolerance for ambiguity—who seem to have the courage and tenacity to keep walking past the complexity of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ forest—to get to the other side to see what remains, especially past the many illusions that hide the real truth. What remains are the few absolute truths which represent the more long term, creative cures to the most perplexing problems that confront us, such as crime, substance abuse, mental illness, unemployment, economic instability and terrorism.

While the longest walks may represent our best hope for getting to the finish line with the best possible quality of life for all, the shorter paths do serve their immediate, conjunctive purpose. We need the smaller relative truths and short term cures from the short walks to know what might lie ahead in the complexity of the forest and then what might remain after that. All three paths lead to cumulative solutions that can be used in new and unusual ways to solve just about any problem that comes our way.

The key to finding the most usable information, knowledge and wisdom needed for long-term, sustainable success in work, relationships, hobbies or anything else we are doing, is to walk with awareness and a wait-and-see open mind, with what we find and what it really means. As it turns out, it is what we cumulatively learn from all three of these paths that help us get to the finish line.

Now let’s take the abstract prescription of finding the truth and apply it to the biggest challenge we have today—communicating in relationships—whether involving marriages, friendships, parents and children, employers and employees, coaches and athletes, political parties, or even countries.

1. The short path may give us some band aides or splints to stop the bleeding or broken bones—understanding the words better used in typical exchanges of communication, to curb the frustration and anger from the frequent miscommunication (learning the easiest ways to improve communication and avoid miscommunication).

2. The longer path into the forest will help us think a little more before we say something that will do more harm than good (avoiding contemptuous communication altogether, because the results are never good).

3. The longest path past the forest will provide the clues as to what needs to be said or not said, and when, how and why it can be said, to assure the best impact, clarity and understanding (this is peak communication where common agreement is immediate and gets built upon. opening doors ahead).

Enjoy your walk, whichever path you are on, knowing that there will always be plenty of walking space for us all. I would be amiss if I didn't offer this slight warning for the long distance walkers: Be wary that the road to Hollywood or the Himalayas is full of swamps and landmines that bruises, broken bones and bleeding are a distinct possibility. Nevertheless, the trip has some fantastic scenery.

“There are no problems, only solutions. ~John Lennon.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, and Adjunct Professor of criminal justice at Northwest University, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the peaceful but invigorating mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden), and “If Pictures Could Talk,” coming soon. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or