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Can Trust Be Life's Ultimate Enabler?

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I was recently asked about the notion of trust and how it contributes to success as a lens on the world. As I reflected on the question, I struggled with how to classify trust. After all, it is not a virtue or character trait, and yet it is an essential catalyst for so many important human interactions.

For me, trust enables three important life drivers. One, trust enables the most productive kind of dialogue for relationships, whether personal or professional. My company, along with many others, has a lot of conversation around innovation and creativity. There are, of course, many conditions that are critical to innovative thinking among teams. Most would agree that among these is the ability to take risks, to break paradigms, to reframe the problem, to fail fast and to learn from mistakes. But without the kind of trust that facilitates honest dialogue -- allowing groups to test ideas and look for the holes as well as the remarkableness -- none of them matter.

Trust is also critical to embracing the future. Many years ago, Miriam, our elderly but spunky realtor, had a way of thinking about the future that I still use in my everyday decision-making. My husband and I were trying to decide between two condo units in the same Chicago building. One had a view of Lake Michigan if we crooked our necks but needed less work and was less expensive. The other had a lovely view but the original floor plan, one of the best features of the unit, needed to be restored. As we wrestled with the decision, Miriam looked at us and said, "My dears, think of it this way. My late husband used to say, 'Some things in life are right just because they are right, and some things in life are right because we make them right.'" We picked the "crooked neck" apartment and never looked back. Trusting that the future will be better than the past, that we will figure it out and make it happen, enables good decision-making.

Finally, trust in yourself is critical to living a positive life. As a mom, I always thought that trust in yourself, or the self-confidence it creates, was one of the most important things I could instill in my children. I learned this philosophy from my Dutch mother, who was progressive at a time when others were not. As early as elementary school, she would tell me, "Always make sure you can take care of yourself. Don't depend on others. You never know what happens in life... even your husband may not always be with you. He could leave." While I thought it was a reasonable philosophy, it seemed improbable that anything like that would happen to me. And yet, I made a series of decisions during my younger life based on that philosophy. Andy died suddenly three years ago and did in fact leave me, and our three children, just like my prescient mother said. The youngest had just turned 11. Trust. Trust in myself, and in the foundation we built together for our children, is now more essential than ever. It is an enabler for progressing our lives.

In a day when enabling has become a dirty word, trust is perhaps the ultimate enabler. It is the rootstock for talking and thinking with unfettered freedom and clarity. We want, and need, the element of trust softening the beach. It allows and facilitates the other important interactions and decisions in our lives to take place, and define success with the honesty it merits.

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