Taking back my Soul…

May 29, 2015

I picked up my Soul today from the collision shop where it has been for the last two weeks – see my posts on that saga at https://normsmilfordblog.com/2015/05/27/dont-crash-your-kia/ and https://normsmilfordblog.com/2015/05/04/repairing-a-ding-to-the-soul/ .

As I was driving back with it the little phrases, “getting my soul back” and “taking my soul back” kept playing out in my head; and, sort of like the post about a ding to my Soul, I started thinking more about how some things in life can hold your soul hostage or steal your soul, and a how you might get it back. Many of us (and I was certainly in this group a few years back) “sell our souls” to the jobs that we are in at the time. We do it because we think it is the right thing to do at the time; either for our families (or so we tell ourselves) or just for reasons of ego (the most honest answer to why).

There have been all sorts of stories and movies about people selling their souls to the Devil for some sort of power devilor reward here on earth. Although cute and great script fodder for movies, it is not so much the Devil that we deal with when we sell out our souls; it is ourselves. We make conscience decisions on our priorities at any point in our lives; sometimes for all of the wrong reasons. That took me back to the dictionary definition of the soul – “a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional nature.” There are other definitions, some to do with religious beliefs and others much more prosaic; but, I think the deeply held moral nature part of the definition above is what I think of when I think of the word soul. What comes to your mind when you think about your own soul?

man rushingAs I contemplated my own thoughts on that topic I realized how much of my own soul I have been able to recapture control of just by getting out of the corporate rat race and into a business that is more my own. Of course one is not totally free of potential compromises of the soul as long as he works for someone else. Even those who are totally self-employed may compromise their soul in pursuit of some big sale or “win” in whatever they are pursuing. Later, with time and calm to reflect on their actions, they may regret their decisions and the sell-put of their souls.

Many professional athletes now regret how they sold put their souls and their bodies to the sports that they so loved at the time. Many are now dealing with the long-term effects of the injuries and concussions that they were told to ‘shake it off” at the time. It is sad to see so many crippled athletes or those with the effects of dementia from multiple concussions. It’s good that the various levels of sport are starting to deal with those issues.

Some very successful businessmen come to regret the things that they didn’t do with their families and others while they were pursuing success in business – they sold their souls to the offer from the Devil for the next promotion.  This is perhaps the most common type of compromise to peoples souls.

Politicians often sell their souls (and many would say their votes) to the highest bidders, but it is their addiction to thepoliticiaN SPEAKING power that comes with their offices that is the real corrupter.  Success in business or politics can be a powerful intoxicant. The old saying goes that “money corrupts, but power corrupts completely.”

Sometimes the allure that causes us to compromise out souls is found in pleasure – the pleasure brought by alcohol or drugs. Once either of those two gets a grip on our souls it is a real tough battle to get your soul back; just ask any recovering alcoholic or drug addict. Sex is sometimes the addictive agent in people’s lives and not always sex that is appropriate in our society.

The common thread in all of these examples is someone who temporarily loses site of what is really important in life because they are bedazzled by something temporary that looks too good to be denied – success in business or sports or life in general. The success itself in not bad, it’s the compromise that one may be tempted, or forced, to make with one’s moral character to achieve that success  that is the issue. The real “Devil” is in those details. It could be as simple as “just look the other way”, or as involved as complicity in something that you know is wrong.  Recently we’ve seen stories of many doctors who have been indicted for various fraud schemes, some involving actually performing test s or procedures on patients that weren’t needed, so that they could bill for more.  Does anyone really believe that they unwittingly did that? They sold their souls to the Devil of big money.

It’s probably a good exercise every now and then to sit back and think about the decision that you’ve been making inthinking woman your own life. How many of them caused you to compromise your soul? How can you make that right? What do you need to do to take back your soul? Sometimes what you did make have wronged others, but many times it may just involve things that only you will ever know was wrong – usually those or things that you didn’t do when you know that you should have. For any and all cases you need to get right in two places – with God and with yourself. Sometimes if you take care of the first the second will become OK, too. Getting right with God is always a humbling experience, consisting of admitting that you were (did) wrong and asking for forgiveness. After you’ve done that part the rest should be easy. You’ll be how much easier it is to ask someone here in earth for forgiveness, once you are at peace with God.

So, take your soul back, too. Get your head and your priorities right. Get right with God and get on with life. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much better life is if you are back in control of your soul. In the meantime, have a great weekend. Rather than contemplating your belly button, take a long look at your soul. Does it have some dings on it that you need to fix?

Don’t crash your Kia…

May 27, 2015

Lesson learned – don’t crash your Kia if you buy one; it takes forever to get them repaired.

Kia damageI was involved in a road incident in which a pickup truck ahead of me (a junk picker I presume) dropped a piece of metal bar on the road. At 50 miles an hour that sort of thing bounces when dropped and it did – right into the front of my Kia Soul. That hit split the front bumper cover, took out the passenger side fog light and apparently damaged the window sprayer fluid bottle. So I took it in for repair at a major dealer’s collision shop (I mention that so that you understand that this is no mom-and-pop repair shop).

In fairness to them, they did warn me that Kia’s take longer than other brands to repair because of the long delay getting parts. That was two weeks ago! They are still waiting for the last part – that stupid fluid bottle. Maybe they had to ship it from Korea – by boat!  Whatever the reason it is pretty ridiculous to be doing business in the U.S. and not have a parts operation in place that can support your dealers and repair shops – not that I believe that anyone at Kia really cares.

So the lesson here, which you may wish to take into consideration as you are car shopping, is that you should be willing to put up with prolonged repair times if you happen to crash your Kia and need collision repairs. They are great cars and provide a lot of value for the money; however, your ownership experience may not be all that you hoped it would be. Just sayin’.

I’m now hoping (along with the repair shop guys) that the part comes in this week and I don’t go into week three without my Soul. ‘Cause, let’s face it; a man who’s without his soul is a sad thing indeed. I’m gonna think about that when it’s time to buy again.

Be the best me…

May 26, 2015

“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”  (Mark Twain)  From the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – Have you even taken a test to determine the best vocation for you?  Are you in that vocation?  I wanted to be a fireman, but God had other plans.  MLK Jr advised some students, “If your occupation is to be a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.”    “Be the best of whatever you are” is the title of a poem by Douglas Malloch.    😉  Jack 

There are lots and lots of books and writings on the meaning of life – the “why” in the quote above – including the book “40 Days of Purpose” by Pastor Rick warren,  about your purpose in life, plus  a ton of web sites, books and other stuff out there on the topic of being the best me that I can be.

Some days it’s harder than others to keep that in mind and to focus on being the best me; but, when you think about it who else could I be? Here’s a good quote that I saw by the late Steve Jobs –

steve jobs quote

It seems like Steve was saying to be the best you that you can be and not worry about trying to be somebody else. The MLK advice above is good to keep in mind, too. Sometimes we get so focused upon thinking about or worrying about the things that we don’t have or can’t do that we forget to enjoy the things that we do have and can do. We also forget to be thankful for what we do have when we spend all of our time focused upon what we don’t have.

Happiness is not to be found in coveting what others have, but rather in being thankful for what we do have and enjoying it with those that we love and who love us. There is also unbounded joy to be had in things that neither you nor anyone else can possess – the beauty of a sunset, the fragrance of a flower, the happiness in a child’s laugh or the warmth of a heartfelt hug. Perhaps we place too much importance on things that don’t really matter in the long run and too little value in the wonderful things and people that are all around us all the time.

Perhaps it is time to take Steve Jobs quote to heart and stop living to meet the expectations of others or that were set by the expectations of others. Be the best you that you can be and enjoy that, revel in that, find reward and satisfaction in that and be happy with that. You may find that you spend less time worrying about why you were born and more time enjoying the fact that you were. Have a great day and a great rest of your week.

Memorial Day Parade in small town America…

May 26, 2015

I participated in the Memorial Day Parade again this year in our little Village of Milford. Milford is one of those Mayberry RFD type towns and the Memorial Day parade is one of our best parades of the year for all of the right Milford memorial day parade 1reasons. First off it’s totally non-commercial. There are no business vehicles with signs all over them and no politicians handing out campaign literature. No candy is thrown for the kids and there are no balloons or clowns.

The Milford parade has the spectators lining the entire route, especially Main Street all the way through the downtown, and applauding as the veterans ride or march by. A local florist donates flowers for the children to hand out to the vets. Many people make signs, all saying “Thank You” or “Thank you for your service”. Some stand and salute the vets as they pass. Most parents explain to their children the meaning of the day and the sacrifices that the Milford memorial day parade 2marchers have made for everyone’s sake. The younger one’s don’t really understand, but they stand and wave and yell Thank you anyway.

I rode in today’s parade; not because I couldn’t walk it, but they were asking for volunteers to ride so that the people who volunteered their personal Jeeps wouldn’t feel bad about not having a passenger. Most of the riders are elderly vets who can no longer make the walk on their own. The Jeep ahead of me had a man who is a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War. There are fewer and fewer surviving WWII vets here and elsewhere.

As I rode along today, waving at the people lining the way, a little girl ran up to the Jeep from out of the crowd and Memorial Day Paradre Cardgave me this card. I’m pretty sure that at 2 years old, she didn’t make it all by herself. Her older sister was there with her and may have helped some; but the enthusiasm and pride that she showed as she thrust the card to me was all her own. I had been given a flower earlier, a carnation I think; and I gave it to her in return.  Somehow I know that we will be OK as a nation as long as we keep honoring those who serve our nation and as long as we keep raising our children like that little girl is being raised.

It was another great Memorial Day Parade in small town America. Have a great week ahead. I know that I will.

Make the choice to stop today – stop what?

May 22, 2015

Tammy Flowers recently posted this quote on the Highland Matters Facebook group page that she moderates –

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”  – Eleanor RoosHenry Thomas Buckleevelt. The quote although widely associated with Eleanor was actually made much earlier by the English historian Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862).

So I wondered, if I’m discussing ideas for people to use when coping with events in their lives, what does that make this blog? Hmmm. Maybe it’s a greater than average blog about small things. No. Maybe it’s an average blog about great events in the lives of small people. No. Perhaps it’s about ideas on how to deal with average things so that they remain small and don’t become too great in our lives. That’s getting closer.

The thing about Eleanor’s quote is that that we (people) are impacted in ways by the events that take place in our lives and the ideas that we have or ideas that others have about us. I get that there it is a higher level of thinking required to discuss ideas and abstractions and the ability to do that with more complex ideas does seem to demonstrate a higher level of intelligence (hence a greater mind); however, events happen all the time around usgossip and to be oblivious to them and not react to them through discussion would seem abnormal, not average. As for discussing people, there certainly are things one should not do and most of them are hard to avoid for long when the discussion turns to discussing a specific person. It is a small mind indeed that allows prejudices, hate or judgements to color the discussion about a specific person. That is a pitfall that is as hard for many to avoid as a Michigan pothole.

So, perhaps the best thing to take from Eleanor’s quote is that if you can’t think of anything other than ideas or events to discuss you are better off keeping your mouth shut. We often associate the word gossip with discussions about other people and there are no good things to be said about gossip. One quote that I saw about it seemed to ring particularly true –

gossip2“Gossip is never fatal until it is denied. Gossip goes on about every human being alive and about all the dead that are alive enough to be remembered, and yet almost never does any harm until some defender makes a controversy. Gossip’s a nasty thing, but it’s sickly, and if people of good intentions will let it entirely alone, it will die, ninety-nine times out of a hundred.”  ― Booth Tarkington, author – The Magnificent Ambersons

So, focus instead on thinking and discussing concepts and ideas or about the events of the day and how they might impact you. Talking about a fellow worker or someone in your family or, worse yet, someone that you don’t really even know is not only a waste of your time, it serves no good purpose. Passing on or engaging in discussions that might impact the reputation of someone else is just wrong and something that you would not want others to engage in about you.

Perhaps this final bit of advice that I found about gossiping might be a good guide –

“How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.”  ― Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Make that choice today and be free. Have a great holiday weekend.

Beware the boomerang effect…

May 21, 2015

In Australia the native Aborigines developed a wonderful hunting weapon that would eitherboomerang hit and kill or disable the intended target (usually a small animal or bird) or it would fly back to the thrower, if it missed. I’m not sure what the Aborigines called it, but it was named the boomerang by someone. There are things in life that one can do, or attitudes that one can display, that almost always have what I call the boomerang effect…in other word s they come right back at you, most of the time with ill affect.

Examples include holding grudges, being spiteful or hateful, discriminating against others, bullying others, seeking revenge and more. I’m sure that each reader can probably think of a few more. They all have this in common; while they are actions or attitudes that are directed outward towards others they all reflect badly upon the person; thus they come back to cause harm to the originator. How? By making that person look like the ass that they are behaving like at the time.

hateful boomerangAll of the examples above and probably all that you can think of are negative things or behaviors and seldom does anything good come out of being negative. Secondly, they are all usually directed against someone or some group of people. They are meant to belittle or tear down those people or perhaps to cause them harm in retaliation for some perceived harm that they have caused. So you throw an insult out there or take an action designed to cause them some harm back. Beware the boomerang effect.

Sometimes life is like a sports event where the original infraction goes unnoticed by the refs, but the retaliation is seen by them and a penalty assessed against the person retaliating. One could look at that as being twice injured – once by the infraction and again because of thehockey penalty retaliation. Many time people have no idea what you might be responding to when you strike back in spite and retaliation against someone whom you feel has harmed you in some way. All that the innocent bystander sees is you being nasty to someone else. You come off as being an ass; and, to tell the truth, you are because you chose not to forgive and forget, but to try to get even. The boomerang effect has gotten you.

Life is not a zero-sum game, where there must always be a loser for every winner. One should not keep score in life of all of the perceived slights, or injuries or embarrassments that one suffers at the hands of others, be they real or imagined. Rather keep score of the number of times that you forgave that other person for their actions or hurtful remarks. Let them see that what they may have thrown at you missed the mark. Many times those things will boomerang back on them anyway, as others observe their behavior (and yours) and decide for themselves whether they want to be hateful and ugly or at peace with themselves and forgiving of others. Let them deal with their own boomerangs. Don’t add to the hate that already in the air by tossing your own boomerang out there, too.

I have found in life that nothing deflates the purveyors of hate and discontent more and faster than aiming their vitriol at someone who refuses to rise to the bait. Be the person who puts the flower into the barrel of the gun pointed at them, rather than pull your own gun and starting a battle. If you must fling boomerangs out there make them positive compliments to others and shows of affection towards others. Those tend to come back at you, too. Have a great day and watch what you throw out there.

What to do if they won’t forgive you…

May 20, 2015

A follower of this blog wrote to me recently with this problem –

I read your words of wisdom faithfully. I have to ask how to handle issues when you’ve apologized and the people you apologize to don’t accept your apology. Does one keep trying or just give up? Family members choose to hold grudges, etc. Usually, the person apologizing doesn’t even know what they did wrong. Curious. Thanks much.

Well, I’m flattered that you consider my musings on various topics to be words of wisdom; however, I not a counselor; I’m just an observer of life who has experience with some things, who has opinions on some things and who just likes to write about lots of things.

angry coupleI have to start by saying that my life experiences lead me to disagree about your last full sentence. I suspect that the person apologizing knows exactly what it is that they did wrong or that caused the problem. Sometimes what they did to cause the consternation may be something that they don’t think of as being wrong; however it is perceived that way by others in the family. So go back and re-think what it was that caused the issue with others in the family. The issue of right and wrong is sometimes a matter of interpretation or perspective and quite often there is denial on the part of the party being accused of being wrong. Accept the fact that whatever was done was seen as “wrong” by others and then you can move towards an apology and forgiveness.

The other thing that experience tells me is that sometimes the people apologizing do so in such an off-hand or flip way that the apology itself is offensive, because it is not considered to be genuine. Saying something like “Oopsie, my bad” is not mentoringreally apologizing; it is trying to smooth over things with a flip statement. This may again grow out of the perception of the wrong-doer that what they did wasn’t really wrong. The young especially have a hard time with that, when the offense is the breaking of some parental rule that they think is arbitrary or unfair.  Remember that a wrong may be something that someone else perceives as wrong or an offense against them.

When dealing with something like this situation, you can actually use a variation of a technique that is taught in business schools for dealing with objections in a sales process. at least this might provide you with some structure for proceeding.

First, identify the issue. Don’t assume that you understand the issues involved, especially not from the perspective of the people who are offended or angry. So the first step is to clarify what it is that they are angry, hurt, disappointed or offended about. Have them tell you what they are angry about. Accept that, from their perspective, whatever you did was wrong.

The second step would be to re-phrase the issue back to the people who are angry and get their agreement that you do indeed understand their perspective on the issues.  Put into words what you think the offense was and see if those who are your accusers agree that you have identified the “wrong” that you have committed. While you’re at it, accept that it was wrong in their eyes. This may take a few iterations, because you may not understand their perspective at all in the beginning. This step also is worthless unless you finally admit that what you did was wrong at some level, especially to those who feel that they were wronged. You cannot move forward from the position of, “What I did wasn’t wrong.”

sad looking manThe third step would be to express a heartfelt apology for the actions of yours that caused their reaction. You might also want to express what you learned from the experience and indicate what you will do to make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again. Perhaps you might even have to outline a plan of restitution, if your actions caused real damage or loss. This step is important for two reasons – it shows those who were upset that you are truly sorry and it provides you with the life-lesson knowledge about what was wrong and how not to repeat the mistake.

The final step is to test for acceptance of your apology and forgiveness of your offense. You may have to ask bluntly, “Can you forgive me?”  Some amount of time may have to pass before you actually get the acceptance and forgiveness that you are seeking; especially if what you did to cause this situation was really grievous. If you’ve done step three properly it will be hard to “hold a grudge”, but don’t expect everyone to just forget about it for quite some time.

One should never just give up on other people, especially family members. If the four steps above don’t work to bring
closure to your situation, perhaps you need to take the situation to a higher authority. Ask your family members to pray withpraying you about this and seek their forgiveness as you seek it from God. You know that at least one participant in that prayer is going to forgive you if you ask for it. If your family is not one that prays together, you can still seek forgiveness from God and ask also for His help with your family members. You need to get right with yourself and with God, before you can truly seek the peace with your family that you desire. Remember to start by admitting that you have done was wrong and ask for His forgiveness and help.

I hope this helps a bit with the situation that precipitated the question. Life is filled with missteps and wrongs that we do or that we perceive are done to us. Learning to deal with them in a way that brings closure and then moving on with life is an important step in the process of growing up. Knowing where to turn for the help that you need sometimes is important, too. Fortunately, that is an easier thing to figure out. He is always there when you need Him.

Be a friend; be goofy with someone today… 

May 19, 2015

From the Jack’s Winning Words Blog – “I’ve learned that no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.”  (Andy Rooney)  Jack went on to write – I miss Andy and his “5 minutes” at the end of the 60 Minutes TV program.  I’ve read that he didn’t have many close friends.  He said you just need one…to act goofy with.  I’ve got a few like that, and maybe you have, too.  I wonder if the Queen of England has a friend to act goofy with?  What does it mean to have a friend? 

pillow fightI’ve written here before about the need every now and then to be a little goofy, maybe to make a face at yourself  in the mirror, just to lighten the mood. It’s also great to have someone with whom you feel so comfortable that you can be goofy together. Many of us have buddies – golfing buddies or fishing buddies or maybe buddies that we play cards with – but there are usually only a very few (if any) friends that we feel safe and secure enough around to be goofy with them.

Being goofy with someone is about temporarily letting go of the control that we exercise when around others and just having fun in the moment. It isn’t about getting drunk or high with a friend; although many people do goofy things (maybe dumb is a better term) when they are drunk or high. Being goofy with a friend may be about laughing uncontrollably or pretending to be someone or something else or maybe just making funny faces to each other. Being goofy with a friend is about saying,”I trust you and our relationship enough to not hold back.”

Do you have a friend or friends that you can be goofy with?  Have you ever been goofy with a friend of yours? How did that make you feel? Did you feel the release of that moment of not having to hold things in and act like others expect you to act? Sometimes, being able to be goofy with as friend feels better than achieving some goal at work or getting praisegoofy freinds for some act of kindness or charity. While those feel great too, they are things that happen in your life within the context of you acting out your role as an adult. Being able to be goofy with a friend lets you return for that moment to the joys of childhood before you became burdened by the expectations of others.

So, find that BFF of yours that you can be goofy with and go have some fun today. Maybe you can just call them and the two of you can get goofy over the phone, reminiscing about the last time that you got together and got goofy about something. It will lighten up both of your days. Be goofy with someone today.

Someone is waiting to talk to you today…

May 17, 2015

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”  (Carl Sagan) – I saw that little saying some time ago on the Jack’s Winning Words blog and filed it away for future comments.

saganSagan is one of the great scientific minds of our time and he is certainly right about great things waiting to be known.  Just in my lifetime some many great things have been discovered or done that there would not be enough room to list them here. The pace of discovery has picked up too, as seemingly the more that was discovered the wider the frontiers for even more discoveries. Sometimes I wonder, what took them so long to make the connections between one thing and another in order to see even more things that were hitherto unknown. Sometimes it’s the development of instruments or tools that hold up discovery for a while, but many times it is just man’s inability to see beyond the obvious or the current and to look for something new just beyond what is currently known.

I think the same little phrase could be easily modified to read, “Somewhere someone incredible is waiting to be known.”  Don’t you often wonder, “ I wonder what their story is?”;  as you pass by someone, maybe someone with an unique look or perhaps an intriguing “air” about them. Haven’t you ever seen someone across the room at a party or gathering and wonder who they are and what their story is, what they do, where they came from and where they’re going? Maybe you’ve overheard someone talking about living overseas and wondered how that must have been. Perhaps you’ve listeninglistened to a speaker and thought about what they must have gone through to get to this point in their life.  There are all examples of incredible people who are waiting to be discovered.

While our lives all march forward with time they do not do so in parallel; rather they come and go from all sorts of angles, intersecting our lives for a moment and then disappearing off in their own direction. What makes life really interesting is those few moments of intersection when we can share experiences and knowledge with each other. Many people think their lives to be uninteresting or even boring; but, most have actually done or seen or experienced things that others may not have, so they do have something to share. The problem is that none of take enough time during those moments of intersection with others to really get to know them and let them know you. Admittedly, a chance meeting at a gathering is unlikely to be that opportunity; however, we do get more than that with many people in our lives. How often do we actually explore their lives and share ours?

I wrote recently about conceit and perhaps it is that which tends to drive us to focus upon ourselves, rather than to blah blahexplore what the other person has to offer. If you spend the entire time with with someone them telling them about your trip to the grocery store or the little league game, they may not have time to tell you their story about going to tiger Stadium and meeting Justine Verlander. If you care more about relating your story of your last vacation to Disney World, you may miss their story about meeting the Pope in Rome. Maybe your child’s latest bout with pink eye is more important than finding out from a woman that you meet that her mother went to school with your mother and that her mother almost married your dad; but, you’ll never know that because you never got around to listening to their story.

Then there are the stories of the people that we avoid. The homeless man sleeping in the doorway may have been a successful businessman and a family man – how did he get here? The bag lady pushing the grocery cart down the street wasn’t born on the street. How did she get here? Does she have a family somewhere? What does she need to get back on her feet? How will you ever know if you don’t ask? There are so many people whom we might meet with stories that might help us better understand different perspectives on life, if only we engaged with them in conversations. It is so much easier to sit back and condemn people who pursue the GLBT lifestyle than to engage them in meaningful conversations that might help us better understand. It is also easy to dismiss and avoid those of different faiths that we do not understand, rather than seeking an understanding of their view of God and the influence of faith and religion on their lives.

Don’t you think that the Good Samaritan in the Bible story probably talked with the man that he helped on the road that day and even listened to his story; or do you believe that he just threw a few Shekels at the inn keeper that he took thatGood Samatitan
man to and told him to take care of the robbery victim. Using charitable giving is sometimes so convenient because we don’t have to take the time to actually meet the poor people that our money is supposedly helping.  Just dump a buck or two in the can of the poor guy sitting on the sidewalk, but try not to make eye contact. His sign says that he’s a homeless Vet; did it ever occur to you to ask how the hell he got there after serving his country?

Somewhere someone incredible is waiting to be known; but you’ll have to look them in the eye and listen to their story. Maybe someone will take interest in you long enough to listen to your story. We will all get there someday – to that place where we are hoping that someone wants to take the time to talk to us and listen to our story. Be that someone for someone else today.

Beware of conceit…

May 16, 2015

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” – John Wooden

Wooden’s advice certainly applied to athletes, especially those with enough God-given talent to progress on to the highest levels in sports. It also applies to people in the entertainment business and to life in general. Most of us will never achieve fame, but that’s doesn’t mean that we cannot become conceited.

world revolves around meConceit is defined as excessive pride in oneself, synonyms – vanity, narcissism, egotism, self-admiration, self-regard; pride, arrogance, hubris, self-importance; self-satisfaction

I actually think that some of those suggested synonyms are OK, so long as they are not taken to excess. I would encourage people to have pride and hopefully find self-satisfaction in the things that they do in life, especially the good things that they may do for others. Often the self-satisfaction that one may feel is the only thanks that they get for their actions and hopefully they continue to find that to be enough. I’ve also written that you most love yourself before you are capable of truly loving others. In that regard synonyms like self-regard and self-admiration in appropriately moderate amounts would see also to be good.

kissing mirrorThere’s no way to spin vanity, narcissism or egotism in a positive light; those are always wrong in almost any amount. Those may also be the most common that we encounter in everyday life with non-celebrities, especially in the business world. We have a little saying in business about people like that – they are legends in their own minds. Of course there were other things that we called them, too; but I won’t repeat them here.  The people in business who attracted attention for such behavior were almost always in management or leadership roles and they almost always eventually failed, many times because they just couldn’t live up to their own hype. Remember the guy who claimed to be the smartest person in the room? He ended up with his own little room in a Federal prison.

I recently saw a little feature piece on a NASCAR driver whom everybody loves because he has remained so humble and so down-to-earth. He signs autographs for everyone, does all of the interviews that he’s asked to do, gives of his time to worthy causes and is beloved by his fellow competitors.  You find examples like that in every sport and when they do any kind of in-depth story on those people you almost always find that they had a great upbringing by a mother or family who instilled in them the messages of John Wooden’s first four sentences above. These are people who don’t have a “posse” of hangers-on following them around telling them how great they are. They are usually also people who understand the frail and temporary nature of fame and of any fortunes that they may have now.  You probably won’t hear of them having to sell off their memorabilia later in life.

The thing about conceit is that it holds itself up as a mirror right in front of you, so that all you see is yourself. You get so focused on yourself in that mirror that the other things in life, many of them important, fall out of sight. Once you begin to post your own press clipping up on that mirror and start to believe them, you lose the ability to see all of the things that you aren’t doing.

When you become so focused on the “I” and “me” in your life the “you” and “we” that you may have had with a loved onealone at sunset begin to fade away. Once your fleeting moment in the spotlight is through you will discover that having room for only  “I” and “me” makes for a lonely life. More than a few once-great athletes can testify to how quickly the adorning posse disappears once a career-ending injury has taken them out of the spotlight and the big-bucks contracts ended. Too many also discarded the wives and families that they had before they achieved that fame.

So be careful as coach Wooden said to avoid conceit. If you must surround yourself with people, try to make it ordinary people, maybe people who don’t know about or don’t care about whatever level of success in sports, entertainment, politics or business you have attained. There are people who really don’t care about all that; and, if you can find them and treat them like ordinary people, they’ll return the favor without asking for favors. If you start acting like you’re a big deal, the real friends in that group will call you out on it and hopefully embarrass you back to reality. I remember a scene from the movie Julius Cesare in which Cesare was in a triumphant parade into Rome, with adoring crowds calling him a god. Cesar had a man walking behind him whispering to him, “Remember that you are only a man.” Those who let conceit take over their lives would do well to hire a guy like that to walk around with them, instead of a posse.

celebrateSo, go out and use the talents that God gave you. More power to you. Achieve all of the success and fame that you deserve; just never stop deserving to be liked as a fellow human being. Remember where you came from; because when this ride is over, you may end up trying to get back there and that’s very hard to do over bridges that were torched by your own conceit.