The Cost of Being Judgmental

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the sort of email that arrives from a friend or a colleague passing on an interesting article or an interesting video.  I’m never sure what I’m going to get when they show up, although often the person they come from will have some clue as to content! 🙂

I subscribe to a number of streams of thought including several blogs so I know what I’m going to get there most of the time.  For the more random arrivals, I’m never sure and I have to admit that I sometimes “filter” without reviewing based on (a) my state of mind (b) my state of “busyness” and (c) the sender.  In other words I pass judgment based on how I am receiving things at that particular moment.

The video below arrived as random content, and I didn’t open it for several days.  It got trapped in my filters, and I only opened it because it was a Ted Talk and I’m partial to those (another judgment).  But have a look and then I’ll go on with my thoughts.

Linsey Pollak and The Carrot Clarinet

As I watched this video, here are some of the thoughts that passed through my head:

  • This guy seems nervous.
  • He’s not a very good public speaker.
  • I wonder if something interesting is going to happen as some point.
  • This is too detailed.
  • Maybe not all Ted Talks are for me.
  • This guy isn’t dressed the way most people I see on Ted.
  • What is the point of this presentation?
A place of Judgment
A place of Judgment

I don’t remember for sure, but I probably fired up some nervous habits and lost full attention. If the presenter had been in the room with me he surely would have noticed my distraction at some level.

Then we got to the end as he presented the product of his work … a clarinet made from a carrot, a kitchen funnel and a saxophone mouthpiece. He presented it to the audience with a slight bow and polite (perhaps even engaged) applause.  Still doubt and judgment on my part … is that all there is?  Maybe he will play the darned thing and I’ll at least get some amusement out of this.

And then he did play it, and I was rapt by the talent of this man. I was blown away that someone could make music of this quality playing a carrot!

It made me reflect back on all those thoughts that went through my head and re-label them as judgments, at which point they snickered knowingly at me. I realized how easy it is for our filters to kick in without our real awareness and start to make pronouncements that have no founding in real fact.

When I think about what Linsey Pollak has to teach me it has to do with possibility, creativity, divergent thinking, curiosity and add to that judgment.

Once all of this occurred to me I went and Googled more about Linsey and found that he is actually a scholar as relates to musical instrument design, and that carrot clarinets are not the end of his creations.  They include rubber glove bagpipes, chair flutes and garden hose pan pipes.

What I really started to wonder about is how these biases that arose in me stifle creativity and the art of the possible in others.  How often do I pass quick and unconscious judgment on the viability of an idea without even stopping to consider the possibility that I might not know everything I need to know?

A place of learning
A place of learning

Most of us arrived in our roles as leaders because of our judgment and our decision-making abilities, and yet those same skills by their nature have caused us to be judgmental in some way.  What would happen if we learned to set aside our learned behavior (judging) and instead adopted a position of curiosity and “servant” listening (learning) in every engagement with others, knowing we always can re-engage with our decision-making core when it is time?

It might take a few cycles of trying this, but how might our team members react to our non-judgmental curiosity after they learned that we really are interested in listening and learning from them? What great new ideas and concepts might arise for our organizations and beyond if we just let go of our internal filters?

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Ian Munro @

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

15 thoughts on “The Cost of Being Judgmental

  1. I smiled as I read your words Ian. And I laughed. I read all the way through before I went back to watch the video. In fact, based on most of your words, I didn’t see why I’d want to watch the video (yup – judgement). But, if I was going to make an honest comment, I needed to watch the video — if only to fast forward to the end part you speak of with such enthusiasm.

    So…. I was absolutely enchanted with his entire talk. I thought he was brilliant. His unassuming manner and his funny in a quiet engaging sort of way delivery, captivated me. I loved his creativity at work, his obvious passion for inspiring people to ‘see through different eyes’ what is possible when we take two previously unrelated objects or ideas and create something new.

    I’m still smiling as I write this — what is fascinating is how we both see it from different perspectives and in the end — connect through his music — WOW! Who knew a carrot clarinet could sound so amazing?

    LOL — who knew there was such a thing as a carrot clarinet? Oh right. Linsey Pollak did!

    And you’re right — it is his creativity, and his curiosity, that allowed him to see that a carrot is not just a carrot, it has the potential for so much more!

    A leader is not just a leader, they are someone who sees people and objects as so much more than the sum total of the past adding up to the total of who they are in this moment. Leaders see into what is present right now, they see the unwritten potential and possibilities waiting to be discovered when we leave judgements out of the equation and have the courage to allow creativity and curiosity to be our guides.

    Love. Love. Love this post!

    Thank you!

    1. Thank you for thoughtful response. I agree with all of it! I would also like to acknowledge that I did thoroughly enjoy Linsey’s presentation at the same time noting my inner judgments. I think you bring this to light – we can very easily be judgmental of people we like.

      On Sunday, September 7, 2014, Leading Essentially wrote:


    2. I think some judgment is necessary (one learns from past experiences), especially in a busy life or perhaps a busy life is an indicator that you have taken too much on! But I hear what you’re saying and have been guilty of writing people off before they get a chance to present.

      That carrot clarinet is amazing, although I wonder how important it is to know how to make one… perhaps if a bunch of us get stranded in a big garden one day…. or maybe the point isn’t about making clarinets at all and is meant to teach me to see different possibilities!

      Louise I also thought he was engaging and funny the whole time!

      Diana xo

      1. You’ve made me think! Some judgment is necessary. Initially I wanted to deny that as I often find that my judgmental mind shuts out my learning mind. But perhaps each decision we make is a judgment of sorts in that it narrows remaining possibility. I feel another post coming on! 😎

  2. Hi Ian. I haven’t been keeping up to date with your blog posts but decided to check this one out today. Perhaps I’ve been too involved with filtering out things in my life as you put it. I too was amazed by how he was able to create that musical instrument with a carrot. I’m realizing that in this high-speed world of information we live in, it is very important to take the time for creativity and thought; to be more open to how we perceive things around us. Thanks Ian!

  3. Great personal insight Ian. Our filters do get in the way of seeing and connecting. I loved watching him settle into the role and enjoy his crafting and music making 🙂

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