I was walking up the stairs to my office. About halfway up, my toe hit the edge of the step. My hands shot out to grab the rails. Just in time. If I would have missed, I would have gone tumbling down the metal stairs and onto the factory floor.
Once I gathered myself and regained my balance, I did the usual “every time I stumble” move. I took the dreaded look around to see if anybody was watching. After the all-clear, I resumed my ascent up the steps and acted as if nothing had happened.
There are times I get stuck in my belief systems. The things I was told were true, I accepted. I didn’t do the research or ask the right questions. When I read or heard something contrary to my “supposed” truths, I would dismiss it as fake or too far-fetched. Occasionally, I would stumble on something that really challenged my beliefs, something not as easily dismissed. And when this happened, which lately has occurred more than a few times, I am faced with a choice. Do I, like stumbling on the stairs, move on as if nothing happened? Or do I pause and wonder? What was it that caused me to stumble? Is there a truth here that I need to discover? Do I need to do some research and evaluate those findings?
There is no doubt that I have many preconceived biases. When I see the error of one, I have a decision to make. What will I do? And the same goes for you when you cross the threshold that brings uncertainty to your belief systems, you must decide what you will do.
There is only one real failure in life possible, and that is not to be true to the best one knows.
How can you be true to the best you know?
If you find yourself on this planet with a sacred duty, to not fulfill it would be your only, one true failure.
There is a reason why we are here. To say our existence is only chance and that we have no purpose, then you are not digging deep enough within yourself.
An apple tree that bears apples is achieving its purpose. It is in harmony with the universe. No matter how much the apple tree wishes to bear oranges, it will never be able to do it. It will either fulfill its purpose, or it will be barren.
To be true, to do that which you were designed for, is to be in harmony with yourself and the universe. The universe is a great symphony. All its parts working in unison, fulfilling the roles they were designed for. Good and evil, chaos and order, all in balance. We are a part of this symphony. We must play our parts.
When you think of strength, the first thing that might come to mind is that of some burly individual able to pick up heavy weights. And though that may be a legitimate mental picture, strength goes beyond the ability to lift heavy objects. But since that may be your mental picture, let us start with the body.
Strength of Body
What are the benefits of a strong body? The stronger you are, the easier it is to complete physical tasks with more efficiency. This could be climbing the stairs with less discomfort. It could be carrying the groceries from the car to your kitchen with less struggle. Being strong gives you the freedom to accomplish the things that needs to get done without undue taxation on the body. The building of strength today benefits what you can do tomorrow.
Strength of Mind
Can you push through the barrier past the pain of exhaustion? As much as you need a strong body, you need to develop a strong mind. You must be able to will yourself to go farther than you think you can. I can’t count how many times I have wanted to give up while running. My mind is looking for ways to get me to stop. It is looking for the smallest reason to use as weapon against me in the game of mental warfare. The body is willing and capable, but the mind needs conquering. As Zeno said, “Man conquers the world by conquering himself.” The way to do this is to train your mind to overcome adversity.
Strength of Soul
I am reminded of the monk who sat still in the middle of the road as he burned to death. Both his body and mind were strong. But to willingly cross the threshold of death with the knowledge that there is no coming back to the body, that takes a heart and a soul of immense strength. I don’t recommend you try it, but you can learn to challenge your fear. You can incrementally increase your courage.
You cannot use the strength you do not have. If you want to be strong, you must develop it. And like a three-legged stool, each leg must be trained equally. If not, you will topple over.
How does this relate to the virtue of Justice? To do what is right requires strength. Strength then is a virtue, and one that we can all strive towards.
I know a manager who has led his department for over twenty years. When it comes to receiving feedback on the performance of his team, he is not willing to take it. As a result, they suffer, and their numbers reflect it. Instead of trying to understand and correct the issues, he wants to take the role of the bully. He will defend and fight, hem and haw, and try to intimidate others.
As I watch his face turn red and his blood pressure skyrocket, I start thinking about other bullies. There is some inherent weakness within them. Rather than exposing their flaws and working to correct them, they would cover them up. And if they feel their weaknesses are in danger of exposure, they use whatever force available to them to mask it.
I remember hearing an old story of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. If he felt he had a flaw or weak point in his physique, he would intentionally expose it. For example, if he thought his abs were a bit flabby, he would wear a cutoff shirt showing them off. Every time, he passed by a mirror he would see them. He would notice others looking his direction and would think they were looking at his midsection. He used this tactic as fuel to work even harder to correct his flaw. He did the opposite of what a classic bully would do.
The next time you encounter a rude person, consider why they are being like that. What are they trying to cover up? Is it something they don’t understand or are ashamed of? Understanding where they come from might be able to give you the opportunity to better navigate future interactions with them.
And the next time, you feel you are being rude, ask yourself if you are trying to cover up a weakness. If you are, then you have an opportunity to identify it and correct it. Turn your weakness into a strength, and you will realize there is no longer a need to be rude.
It has been a long day. You come home, kick off your shoes, and take a seat on the couch. You reach for the remote control and on comes the news. The anchor has an important message. The same message is on the ticker at the bottom of the screen. It reads: From this day forward, all news will be reported with complete honesty. Personal biases and opinions will no longer be accepted as the news. You sit there in disbelief. Changing the channel to another station, you see the same message.
You turn off the television and look at your phone. You go on social media and see a wave of unbelievable content. Everybody is professing to go forward speaking nothing but the truth. Is this possible? Has justice and righteousness finally prevailed?
Life is short, and truth works and lives long: let us then speak the truth. -Arthur Schopenhauer
As nice as it would seem, this is not the case. The news will continue to present information in a way to persuade you to their side. Social media will continue to be less about truth, choosing instead to continue a culture built around likes and shares.
Scientific laws, like the ones we learned in school, do not change. Everything else is either a theory or a hypothesis. They are generally believed to be right, until they are disproven. Laws stay the same; the others might be forgotten in time. A law is true, and like Mr. Schopenhauer said, “Truth works and lives long.” In a constantly changing universe, it is the one constant. What is true is true.
Opinions and sensationalism come and go. Bold-faced lies and little fables will pass in time. We cannot control what the world does. We cannot control how what others will say. But we can be different. We can speak the truth, knowing that in the end our words will not be forgotten. They will stand the test of time. Therefore, let us speak the truth, which in this ever-changing world, would truly be sensational.
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?
I can audit the quality of a product, but I have no business auditing the quality of someone else’s life. Except…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?