“I believe” is a difficult and scary way to start a sentence.
It means that you’re about to say something extremely important. You’re about to reveal something deep; a long held belief, a faith, a passion, a point of view. Whatever it is, you’re stepping out onto a limb. You’re getting ready to take a stand.
Belief is decisive.
It implies so much more than a passing affinity or an inclination. To use the phrase “I believe” is to loudly declare that you’ve picked a side; you’ve made a decision. After all, you wouldn’t believe in something unless you’d made up your mind about it.
If you hadn’t made up your mind about it, then belief would be far too strong a word. Something like “I think” or “I feel” would better. How effective would the language in the Declaration of Independence be had it read, “We think these truths to be self evident?”
Not much of a declaration, is it?
By its nature, belief draws a line.
If my belief is contrary to yours, then we disagree. We argue and we discuss. The “appropriate” solution is to meet in the middle. I take elements of my belief, mix them with yours, and we come up with a whole new thing for us to believe in.
This is the civilized way of having this discussion.
I tried to have this kind of argument with gravity when I was a kid. I would climb tall trees and jump from the highest limbs. I believed that I could spread my wings and take flight at least once. Unfortunately, gravity did not respect my beliefs.
Gravity refused to meet me in the middle. It had the truth and I didn’t.
True leaders operate from a deep conviction that drives them. They believe that the direction in which they’re leading folks is for the best. Some of the greatest business leaders we know (Henry Ford, Darwin Smith, Steve Jobs) operated from a devoted belief in their vision.
This doesn’t mean we’re prideful and arrogant. We should always be willing to listen to reason. Still, the time will come for a leader to be resolute in their direction. You can’t fold in the face of opposition. It’s up to you to stand up for what you believe in.
Martin Luther King Jr. operated from a belief that all human beings were created equal and deserve equal rights. Plenty of people believed the opposite. The politically correct thing for him to have done would be to accomodate those conflicting viewpoints.
I’m glad he didn’t.