The Quality of Your Life

My job title: Quality Auditor

My job function: To check the quality of the work performed and report my findings. From there I can help steer the quality in the right direction.

What I find: the things other people missed. The reason why it was missed doesn’t matter. Maybe they are having a bad day, or they didn’t get enough sleep because they had a sick baby at the house. It could have been an honest mistake or willful neglect. My job is not to investigate the reasons. It is to find the defects in the quality.

When it comes to auditing, I cannot have any preconceived judgments or misguided biases. It is only pass or fail. Do I hold the same criteria when I think about the quality of the lives of others? Or is my judgment clouded based on my own personal standards? And just because I see what they do in public, I have no idea what their lives are like in private. Their choices are not mine. Their motivations are different. Not right or wrong, only different.

Quality means doing it right when no one is looking?

Henry Ford

I can audit the quality of a product, but I have no business auditing the quality of someone else’s life. Except…

My own.

The quality of my life. Public and private. Choices and motivations. I drive my own standards of quality. I choose the level. And when it comes to auditing it as a pass or a fail, I must judge that too.

If I want a better-quality life, I must look at it through the lens of a microscope. Does it look the same in the dark as it does in the light? Both good and bad choices must be reviewed. I need to ask why I made the good decision, so I can continue making them. I need to analyze the bad and what led me to it, so I can prevent similar bad choices in the future. Are my motivations in the right place? If not, then I must change its direction and steer it back onto course.

We are all responsible for determining our own quality standards. Once we figure it out, we can develop the processes that help us adhere to it. We can analyze and course correct. We can live in a state of quality of our own design.

Peace Within

You can’t buy it. Somebody can wish it upon you, but that does not mean you will have it.

If you find that peace has departed from you, figuring out how to get it back is a must. What is it within you that is preventing you from having peace? Answer that question, and then you have the starting point to finding it.

At the end of the day, it is your actions that will make the difference. Do the right thing, and you will have peace. Do the wrong thing, and  you won’t have peace until you make amends.

A Good One

In a conversation with a colleague, we discussed the possibilities of moving to a different position within the organization. The new position is potentially cut-throat and very political. Like crabs in a bucket, the ones in this job don’t care about climbing over their workmates to get to the top. In the words of my colleague, there are some willing to sell their souls to get ahead.

How far are you willing to go to move ahead in this life? Would you be willing to play the game that has more losers than winners?

Later in the conversation, my colleague made an interesting comment. She said that some of these guys are older now and that you can see the regret on their faces and in their actions. Many are now disengaged and lacking any real enthusiasm for the job. Now that they have been passed up for multiple opportunities, they are content to sit back and coast into retirement. It is a good lesson to play the game in the right way because chances are your actions will come back to haunt you.

What these guys did was not take ownership of their jobs. If you are doing the right thing, there is no need to cover your tail. There would be no need to throw your teammates under the bus.

Ownership.

That is where our conversation headed. It doesn’t matter if you are at the top of the food chain or at the lowest of the low. We all have our responsibilities. We all have our jobs to do. As Jocko Willink says, “You must own everything in your world.” If you are scrubbing the floors, own it. Be the best floor scrubber on the planet. Who knows, one day someone might see the attention to detail you are paying to that floor and think this is the person she needs to promote into a higher position. But if you take no pride in your work, if you have a flippant, careless, or even unethical approach to your business, the opportunity for greater things will pass you by. And then you will be the one with the regret.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Abraham Lincoln

Good, not Perfect

In his book Open, Andre Agassi wrote about the time he struggled the most on the tennis court. Trying to be perfect, he realized he was making more mistakes. It was not until he finally let go of trying to be perfect and instead concentrated on being good, that he found his greatest success.

Cleanthes, the Greek philosopher and second head the school of Stoicism, said that all human being have the starting points of virtue. This inclination towards virtue is not about living a perfect life. It is about the desire the do the right thing. [Something, we have all had at least one point in our lives.]

Mistakes and failures happen to all of us. It is a normal part of life because none of us are perfect. What we cannot do is let those setbacks keep us down. Instead, we need to learn from them. We need to use them to our advantage to make us more capable people. We need to use them so that we become good.

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. -John Steinbeck.

Three Simple Things for Fulfillment

What does it mean to do the useful thing? This is the thing that needs to be done. It is the thing that will in some way, shape, or form add value to your life or the lives of those around you. It is not always pleasant, but it is useful. And in truth, that will bring pleasure in the future.

How do you say the courageous thing? You need to listen to your conscience, and that means you might have to go this one alone. It might mean rubbing others the wrong way. You might become a pariah. But if it is in your conscience, you can’t ignore it. Have some tact and get it off your chest. Be bold and considerate, and maybe those who have ears to hear will be able to hear you.

Why contemplate the beautiful thing? This is creation, whether natural or man-made. The beautiful thing is something we should all take the time to consider. It is gift to all mankind. Why waste your time with the vulgar, the cheap, and the ugly aspects of life when there is so much beauty to behold. This will lift your spirit and give joy to your day.

Three simple things, but it might just be enough for one person’s life. How can we go wrong if we give this a try?

Developed in Darkness

Who are you when you are by yourself? When nobody’s looking, are you the same person? In times past, only villains wore masks. Today, almost everybody has one on. The masks hide our identities. But in truth, they really show us who we are.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. –Oscar Wilde

For years, I pondered these words from Oscar Wilde. I thought it was literally about what we say, but it goes beyond that. Put a mask on, and we show the world who we really are. The villain wears it to hide his identity, but his heinous deeds are exposing the darkness of his soul. It is in the shadows that his true self comes out.

Under the cover of anonymity, we speak our true hearts. Words that we would be ashamed to be credited with are released into the public without a second thought. Maybe this is why you see so many secondary/anonymous Twitter accounts. It is much easier to spew hateful things when no one knows who you are.

Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness. –Yousuf Karsh

Can you be the same in public and in private? Can you develop a character in darkness that once exposed to the light is free from defects? This is the transparency we all expect from other people. But do we expect it from ourselves?

Seek to Understand

Yes indeed, I am going to Bob Dylan for a little insight into justice.

Making snap judgments is almost natural. From an intuition standpoint, it may even be evolutionary. But is it always right?

A predisposition based on upbringing, cultural norms, and the popular opinion of others is probably even less correct.

The easy way out is to criticize the things we don’t understand. It is easier to go with a bias rather than a well-researched conclusion. But the research gives substance to the conclusion. It gives meaning which always trumps the “in my opinions” of the world.

I have been guilty of criticizing the things I don’t understand. I have brushed over the differences of others for an easier judgment void of critical thinking. This is contrary to the voices of my heroes, the very heroes I claim to listen to. Consider:

  • “Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding. –Solomon (Proverbs 9:6)
  • “It is no virtue to be steadfast and consistent in defending a false idea. Welcome correction, and change your thinking to fit reason. Don’t twist reason to fit your opinions.” –Marcus Aurelius
  • However, the truth will never be discovered if we rest contented with discoveries already made. Besides, he who follows another not only discovers nothing but is not even investigating. –Seneca
  • Don’t criticize what you can’t understand. –Bob Dylan

In an ever-changing world, there is one constant that will never change: wisdom. And in order to get wisdom, you must first get knowledge and then understanding. This is the path that will disrupt misconceptions. It will demagnetize us from our false assumptions and move us closer to justice.

What Is Right and Important

Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important…

Maybe it is a part of our nature. It could be innate or just developed over the course of our early years. Heck, it might have even been a consequence of our ancestors eating the fruit from the tree of good and evil. We know what is right and what is wrong. We know what is important in this life. Knowing is a good thing. It is a starting point for doing.

Doing gives substance to knowing.

It is not enough to only know what is right and what is important. We all have to do. This is the discipline part. It is a practice to constantly walk the straight and narrow.

although difficult,

At times, it is hard. Why do the right thing when the opposite seems to lead to personal gain? We live in a world where Evil prevails. It is celebrated in the things we watch and listen to. Villains are celebrated and heroes disgraced. But to sacrifice your honor by following what is popular is to be just as bad. As Cato said, “In doing nothing men learn to do evil.”

is the high road to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.

This is the kind of pride that does not lead to a fall. This is the self-esteem and personal satisfaction that comes with the knowledge that you are traveling down the right road.

Do the right thing. Do what is important. This is justice, the path that leads to righteousness.

Turn neither to right not to left, keep your foot far from evil. –Proverbs 4:27

When Nobody’s Looking

1984. Big Brother is always watching. Back in 1949 when George Orwell wrote this, it was really science fiction. Now this fiction has become reality. Can you go anywhere without being seen, noticed, or recorded? Between your phone, the satellites, and anybody else looking to make a viral video, there is a chance you are always in the spotlight.

One would hope that with this knowledge, humanity would improve, that it would live more virtuous. But it doesn’t; we don’t. We don’t look at it as an accountability tool to coerce us into doing the right thing. We look at it as a burden.

Living the virtuous life isn’t a public show for the masses. It isn’t a yoke holding us back from freedom. It is something we practice to make our lives and the lives of those around us better. It is striving to do good all the time, whether in the public eye or in your private life.

Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. –J.C. Watts, Jr.

Building our character is done internally. The fruits of our work is manifested in our actions, whether for good or for evil. The cover of darkness doesn’t hide the person we are on the inside. If anything, it only shines a greater light on who we truly are.

The Crowd You Run With

Consider for a moment the people you spend the most time with. Are they elevating you, holding you down, or is it completely neutral? Now consider these words from Jim Rohn: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Are you averaging up or are you averaging down?

The five people I spend the most time with:

My wife. Of course, I average up here. There are many reasons, but one is that she puts within me the desire to become a better man and husband.

My son. Indeed for many of the same reasons as my wife, but there is also another element. In him, I see the youthful exuberance I can’t remember having when I was younger. With him there is no thought of the past or anxiety concerning the future. He is living in the present. I spend a lot of time trying to stay in the present. For me, it is not that easy.

My Father-in-Law. From the “Old Marine” I have learned so much. It is always a pleasure to spend time with him.

My Mother-in-Law. She’s a trooper. The epitome of Semper Fidelis. Is there not anything she would do for her family? Another one that averages me up.

The fifth is actually a collection. It is my current work team. I average up with them as well. They are all seasoned veterans of the job, and their expertise goes way beyond my own in the position. I am the low man on the totem pole, and you know what? I am absolutely fine with that. Here I am the student and trying to add as much value to the team as I can. They are leveling me up professionally.

There are many others that I wish I could spend more time with as I know there is tremendous value being in their presence. Who do you spend your time with?

From good people you’ll learn good, but if you mingle with the bad you’ll destroy such soul as you had. –Musonius Rufus