Anything & Everything

January 16, 2015

Trust But Verify: As Essential Today As Ever

Filed under: Life — Susan Morgan @ 9:00 am

Interesting to learn more about the origin of my favorite, “trust, but verify” mentality. Turns out the bit of advice has Russian origins and was used most recently by silver-tongued Ronald Reagan to Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev during the Cold War mid 1980s, before the Berlin Wall fell. It was genius then. Using this approach does not mean you don’t trust things (or allies), it means simply that your trust needs to be earned. You don’t just give it away. And once given, it can be taken if you don’t behave properly.


Sort of keeps your feet to the fire, which is as essential today as it was then.

Sadly, it’s an essential way of thinking when it comes to our current crop of elected officials. For the first time in US history, most of those in Congress are millionaires. Not just well off… millionaires. How can we trust them to act in our best interest? The evidence to date has shown these officials consistently act in their own interests, not ours. The reason they continue to succeed is that too many people are distracted, uncaring or just plain too lazy (stupid) to be involved.

The “trust but verify” mentality also works really well when dealing with money and taking financial advice. Many times people say things that sound incredible, and since we all want to make money we’re tempted. Other people hate money, don’t understand finances, and rely too much on others or make uninformed assumptions. Finances are complex and impossibly touchy — here’s where “trust but verify” will literally save you thousands of dollars and so much heartache. Don’t make assumptions… ask. Do some research on any claims of success, and the claimant, before you hand over one cent. If anyone you work with is not completely transparent, uses high pressure or insists on immediate action — walk (run) away.

Trust but verify is downright essential when doing any research on the internet. The world-wide web is a giant place, full of amazing things that may (or may not) be what they seem. Wikipedia is a great example, a place to start in researching a topic, with a wary eye to what you read and the next step being to verify what you’ve learned. That’s what research (good media reporting for that matter) is all about, not just stopping at the first tweet you read but taking things one (or more) steps until you get at the truth.

When it comes to personal relationships I think the rules change a bit. If you have no reason whatsoever to suspect otherwise, verifying someone’s every move is a sickness, not love. Love doesn’t keep tabs like that. But, having said that, anyone in your life who raises in you the consistent need (that little voice in your head that will not stop) to check out what they tell you is another example of where “trust but verify” can come in handy.

It can spare you the pain of dashed expectations and can let you know the (hard) facts, without all the drama of having to pull them from an unwilling subject. This is one of those instances where knowledge gives you so much power. The chance to decide, not in the moment but by yourself, alone, what to do. A decision that must be best for y.o.u. and no one else.

The idea is especially good for those, like me, who work for themselves. Knowing that clients will verify what I recommend compels me to make those suggestions with that much more care.


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