Form Without Substance Is Self-Worship

What I am really saying is just what Grandma would say, “what you are speaks so loudly, people cannot hear what we are saying.”

Form Without Substance Is Self-Worship

Picture the scene; have you ever had one of those weeks where it seems so draining, yet if someone asked what we did – it would be hard to put into words? That was my last week.

I was travelling back from northwestern Ontario this past week, so I flew out of Winnipeg. I arrived early at the airport to allow for line-ups and other delays, everything went perfectly smoothly, and I was through check-in in record time.

So, I started to do some reading, and a gentleman with a younger colleague sat down in front of me. I say gentleman as he had some visible signals that came across this way – cane, fedora hat, a proper leather briefcase. Then, when he spoke, he had a UK accent.

I am wearing my dress work shirt, FORTLOG Services, which prompted the question, ‘so what is FORTLOG Services?’. I thought I did not have the energy, so I gave a brief introduction, with a courteous response – ‘so what do you do?’

For the next 15 minutes, he shared that he was a neurological science professor at a university in Eastern Canada. When he paused, I asked if they’d like coffee or tea.

Neither one wanted anything, so I went to the coffee spot – where I have an app that allows payment without using cards or cash. I approached the cash, and the young man took my order.

I held out my phone to pay and discovered they did not have a scanner to read the QR code. He told me, ‘we do not use the app here, sorry, but how would you like to pay?’

I started to chuckle and informed him that he was asking the wrong question; I do not want to pay. However, I am going to pay using cash.’ 

He started to smile and said, ‘well, I did not expect that response.’


The first person I met this morning when I started my shift wanted to pay using the app. She became angry when I told her we did not use the app. The person with her tried to say it was okay, but she proceeded to rip me a new one. When I told her I was not the owner, it was not my decision. She told me to shut up and that I should have said to her before she placed her order. I couldn’t believe it; starting my shift, and the 1st person told me to shut up! What a great way to start the day, not to mention not being treated as a human being by another human! So when you responded the way you did and laughed, it actually threw me off guard. You are not a typical response that we deal with!

Inside I think I want to be alone and read my book. But the outside voice, I started to chuckle and say, ‘yup, such a great way to start. But it is funny, isn’t it, however, if you have siblings, you would say it to them, and they would say it back to you – and everyone laughs.

Then he started to share with me what it was like working there; if he didn’t need to work to pay his parents back, he wouldn’t take this ‘stuff’ from people. They treat us like we have no feelings and are not human.

Then he added the zinger, ‘I wish more of my customers were like you!’ As I grabbed my coffee and walked away, I thought about his reality. However, I also felt that he could have heard my thoughts.

People talk these days about DEI, mental health, and well-being, yet when it comes down to it, sometimes it sounds like talk is cheap. It is form more than substance as it is just about the self, not the other.

In the workplace, however, many of us hear the same theme as this young man. People getting strips peeled off them, on the receiving end of that behaviour that should never be tolerated.

I want to talk about the elephant in the room that I keep seeing. Perhaps the real issue is what Time Magazine reports Microsoft’s study revealed about the attention span of a goldfish versus human’s attention – we lose.

Whether this is true, the real issue is simple, fundamental principles.

  • Are we really listening? Most say we don’t; we skim.
  • It’s a form of listening, but not the substance of it!

These are the days, as there are way too many moments where form gets exposed – where there is no compensation for the lack of substance.

  • Are you ensuring you are being encouraged, supported, and cared for? There are lots of relationships but do they have meaning? Are they the ones who will ask the hard questions about substance?
  • If you are a leader, ask yourself why people’s wellness matters to you. Please do not use some corporate rationale, but practically. When you want to read a book, can you still be the leader you are called to be?
  • What do you want to be known FOR when you think about what others will see, meet at the coffee till, or the airport chairs?

Wouldn’t you agree that being a person with influence is less about title, position, or even education today? It is the person who has the qualities and qualifiers of substance, even when their form may be lacking at times! Who a person is when there are hot water moments of pressure to have what’s inside ‘leak out’ shows what they are made of.

It is those moments where the pressure gets added that –  what we are speaks so loudly people cannot …

Do you want to be the person people trust, respect, and even follow when they may not always like you?

It’s about substance, not merely form; after all, Form Without Substance Is Self-Worship

If you need encouragement and/or a private thinking partner, let’s talk.

The Fortlog Advantage

Organizations across North America have been benefiting from FORTLOG’s Interpersonal Crisis Management, Coaching & Consulting services for over 30 years, counting on John to help shepherd them through their most challenging storms. Today, a growing number of workplaces benefit from John’s proven strategies, systems and speeches that focus on integrating core-value practices “not just policies and procedures''.

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