Life’s Little Instruction Book – an old gift

On my first Father’s Day many years ago, my wife gave me “Life’s Little Instruction Book” compiled by H. Jackson Browne, Jr. I was leafing through it today as it lay on an upstairs table near my computer. Here are few of the 511 pearls of wisdom that can be found therein.

#454 – Show respect for everyone that works for a living, regardless of how trivial their job.

#276 – Patronize local merchants even if it costs a little more.

#186 – Be insatiably curious. Ask “why” a lot.

#158 – Pray not for things, but for wisdom and courage.

#107 – Smile a lot. It costs nothing and is beyond the price.

#246 – Wave at children on school’s buses.

#426 – Share the credit.

#375 – Take charge of your attitude. Don’t let someone else choose it for you.

#127 – Wear the most audacious of underwear under the most solemn business attire.

#58 – Always accept an outstretched hand.

Many of the above are not among the usual instructions. The first two remind me of what we need to do more of in today’s pandemic. Of course, the more startling one is my favorite about “audacious underwear.”

It reminds me of the a staid company I worked for, where the very dignified manager of a department had an “underwear optional” day for the troops. Going commando was never so much fun.

The last one is hard, but should not be. Why don’t we want to accept help? After 9/11, America’s approval ratings were at its highest. Other countries wanted to help, but we did not accept it very well. That was unwise.

The one I gravitate to the most and often advise is a variation of don’t cede your power to someone else. Take charge of your attitude. You are not offended, if you do not take offense.

No good deed goes unpunished – a sequel

There is an old saying in Human Resources that simply says “no good deed goes unpunished.” This saying has been around since well before social media. But, social media has highly leveraged this phrase into over-sensitive political correctness.

Mind you, I am all for treating people like I want to be treated. Yet, there is another quote that comes to mind which was told to me by a friend who advised high school students. She said, “Do not give your power away. If you do not take offense, then you are not offended.”

It seems almost daily that someone with notoriety makes an effort to communicate a message offering a self-help tip or commenting on maltreatment of a group or person. Yet, someone or some group takes offense at the tip saying it demeans another group. A key question to ask is did people speaking on behalf of that group take offense? Another is was the slight intended or was it inferred?

I fully recognize there are people like the US President who often intentionally and accidentally offend individuals and groups. These folks need more pushback because they seem less inclined to change or could care less. With that said, the President will often use derogatory comments to distract the media from a greater malfeasance, so focusing on a slight, allows him to change the subject.

What I am speaking to most is people who blow small or unintended things into major transgressions. Using an old phrase, they react as if someone killed their mother. Folks, don’t make mountains out of molehills. In so doing, it is akin to crying wolf. One gets ignored on the more impactful transgressions because people become inured to the constant criticism of smaller ones.

Recently, a celebrity made a point to say exercise and watch what you eat during the holidays and was accused of fat-shaming. She apologized for any perceived slights, but said that was not her intention.

Comedians often focus on generalizations that help people see we all have imperfections. They also are keen on poking fun at lies and hypocrisies in leaders. Of course, they need to be mindful of not going too far, when the humor becomes cruel, but if we cannot laugh at ourselves, we will have a very boring world. I am reminded that President George H.W. Bush loved Dana Carvey’s impersonation of himself as did President Obama of the the “angry Obama” portayed by Keegan Michael Key.

So, let’s pull back on punishing folks for every unintended slight. Let’s not punish good deeds. Pick your battles. ┬áLet’s reserve our offense for more serious slights that lead to bad policies, military deployment or demonize (or make false equivalence for) groups of people or their actions. If we focused on every lie the President said, we would be at it all day.

 

 

Bless his heart or God love him, we are all imperfect

There are two expressions that either precede or follow a phrase where someone’s imperfections are mentioned. A Southern minister once told a group that “Bless his heart” is used to sand over a more offensive indictment. In other parts of the country, “God love him” would fill that role.

“She does not have the sense to get out of her own way, bless her heart,” someone might say. “He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, God love him,” another might add. Invariably, the author of the quote would have their own imperfections.

We are an imperfect lot, all of us. Mark Twain famously said, “Common sense is not all that common.” Having been a manager of people and a HR consultant, one of the observations a colleague made sticks with me. “Every employee thinks they are above average, but that cannot be true.” If you contrast the self-grading performance to that of managers or peers, the self-grading would tend to be higher.

So, maybe we should use “Bless my heart,” when we self-reflect. “I need to do better at giving people the benefit of the doubt, bless my heart.” Or, “I need to not be critical of something I know little about or without knowing the context it was offered, God love me.”

Let me close with a great lesson from Dr. Wayne Dyer, the late, renowned self-improvement speaker. He used a term to “defend the absent.” So, if he was in a conversation which went in a direction of running someone down, he would defend the person’s actions since they were not here to defend themselves. “You know that does not sound like something (that person) might say,” he would interject.

We are all imperfect, bless our hearts. Let’s do better to listen to each other and understand points of view and the context in which they are offered. I am reminded of a Black man who convinced KKK members to turn in their robes – he did so by asking questions and listening to the answers. What a novel idea!