Life in WYSIWYG

Lance Communication, Integrity, People Comments

Reading Time: 3 minutes

(Whizz-EEE-Wig): What You See Is What You Get

It’s an acronym for a computing concept that is no longer very remarkable. “Back in the day,” a simple task like typing a document on a word processor required a level of technical knowledge beyond that of simply writing and typing. The formatting of document attributes such as margins, line-spacing, and font characteristics (bold/underline/italics) was handled via a series of technical control codes, and the results did not appear on the screen. You wouldn’t know if everything was formatted correctly until you sent your document to the printer.

With the advent of WYSIWYG word processing, users were no longer in the dark: formatting changes became visible on-screen in a way that accurately reflected how they would appear on the printed page. Suddenly, writers could just write and still produce error-free documents with modern aesthetics and formatting without any additional technical expertise.

The impact of WYSIWYG was even more pronounced when it came to web publishing. Back in 1995 when I started with my very first website, html coding was mostly done in a simple text editor and looked like this:

Note how the code is setting the background to aqua and the text color to red, but that isn’t what appears.  Neither is the image file “matt.jpg” visible despite the coding language calling for it.

(For the record, my first website was for an online Star Wars gaming/fan club, which is amazingly still around (the club, not my site). And yes, I’m still a bit of a Star Wars nerd at heart, but no, I’m not still an active member.)

Now, thanks to WYSIWYG html editors, user-friendly platforms like WordPress (which I use for this site) have made website construction and publishing as easy as using a word processor. It’s a lot easier to build a website when you can see the results of your design choices rather than just the code.

Editing this post with WYSIWYG…

… and without WYSIWYG.


What you see is what you get.

It’s more than a way to describe easy-to-use software. It also describes a couple of fundamental aspects of living and leading:

1) Integrity as a WYSIWYG tool

To paraphrase the quote often attributed to Steven Covey: Honesty is making sure your words accurately describe Reality; Integrity is that process in reverse — doing what is necessary to make Reality conform to the words you said. More than just the corporate buzzwordy concept of “transparency,” real Integrity is muscular. When a leader leads with Integrity, the people who follow have the ability to perform their responsibilities with the confidence that comes from being able to trust the words of those in charge.

What you see (and hear) is what you will get.

Uncertainty is a potent demoralizer and organizational speed killer. Integrity is the WYSIWYG tool that provides clarity instead.

2) Focus as a WYSIWYG tool

While the circumstances of life and how they unfold are often beyond the reach of our control, our experience of those circumstances is more controllable than most realize.

  • If you look for opportunities, you will find them even in the darkest of circumstances;
  • If you look for problems, you will find them even in the brightest of circumstances;
  • If you are constantly on guard against people taking advantage of you, trustworthy people will prove to be very hard to find;
  • If you lead in a way that furthers your own personal benefit, you will find yourself surrounded by selfish self-preservationists;
  • If you focus on people’s shortcomings, you will consistently get the frustration of being surrounded by people around you coming up short.

WYSIWYG: What you see is what you get … and even more importantly:

What you look for is what you see.

This principle isn’t limited to the arena of leading others. It is true with equal force on the personal level:

  • If you focus on consuming only political news, you will experience life as a never-ending array of political problems;
  • If you focus on your insecurities, you will experience life as a hostile place full of things and people who continually wound your tender place;
  • If you focus on changing the behaviors of others, you will experience the perpetual frustration of a life lived among people who are always doing things that irritate and infuriate you.

What you look for is what you see, and what you see is what you get.

Shape the reality of others with your integrity, and shape your own reality by being attuned to what you are looking for.