Do as I say — not as I do

How often have you heard this sentence? From superiors, parents, …?

Before I tell you why people that use this phrase are not the people you should be following, let's break down the meaning first.

Good intentions

This sentence could be phrased differently: "I know how the world works and would like to tell you how to do things properly, but I do not have the courage, willpower, or endurance to follow my words."

Phrased in that direction, it becomes more evident that we are dealing with weak individuals. How can someone who doesn't walk the talk tell you how to do it or what to do?

It is easier to tell others what than to do it ourselves. But that doesn't make a leader. You don't need to be through everything on earth, that would be ridiculous as well, but you have to know what you are talking about.

Changing a life around costs enormous willpower, and people who use the phrase "Do what I say, not what I do" have never come close to the term willpower or endurance. Therefore, it's a waste of time taking them as an example.

Choose your mentors wisely

You don't need to be perfect in every aspect of your life. You just need to do what you are preaching. Don't follow people who tell you to do 100 pushups each morning when they could only do five on their own.

Look for the track record people have. What have they accomplished in their life? Do they live what they talk about, or is it only marketing?

"Fake it 'til you make it" doesn't play well in this case because chances are high these people will never make it.

Hard Work is Hard

But what if you are one of those who uses this sentence very frequently?

Start small.

Stop telling things. You are not living by yourself. In Germany, we say, bake smaller roles. Only tell what you can hold up to.

Be a good example. It doesn't help if you tell people they should eat healthier, only to go to Subway during the lunch break and get a 30-centimeter menu with a cookie and a soft drink.

You are also allowed to make mistakes and be weak, but that's also part of the story. It's OK, I also have vulnerable moments where I prefer fast food over cooking for myself, but that is rare.


Swallow your ego and start small. Do what you preach and only preach what you are capable of, not the other way around.

Or as the last great emperor of Rome said:

"Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one." — Marcus Aurelius

To find good mentors and leaders, look for those who live up to their example.

Daniel Hauck

Daniel Hauck