We come into this world as a blank slate. We look to the world to help us figure out what goes on that slate. We are extremely open to being molded by those around us. Conformity with social norms is important for us to function to a very large extent; I do not deny this. My concern is that at a young age we slowly begin to be taught that thinking differently makes us different – and being different is bad. Social rejection can be devastating, especially to a child. So it’s easier to follow.
“By third grade you start to feel like something’s horribly wrong with you. You know you’re all different, but you’re taught to fit in. So you try to talk, breathe, dress, act and think like the others. I will do anything if you will let me be one of you” – Cloud Cult, Becoming One of You
What are the key messages that parents, grandparents and extended family, teachers deliver to children in an effort to help shape them? What messages do children get from media? What messages do they get from friends?
How we interact with our kids is, I think, where we start to potentially cause problems. Study after study shows that we tend to praise children incorrectly – we praise them for who we perceive them to be, rather than for the actions they take. It’s the difference between “You’re very smart” and “You worked really hard on that and got an A”. The first implies that they didn’t work to get the grade, the second encourages working hard in the future. The former type of praise tends to lead children into one way of learning and behaving – specifically thinking that they can do what they can do, and nothing more. The latter type encourages them to think and work hard, realizing that anything is possible.
We are likely also affecting the way our kids think about what they would like to do when they get older – and not always in a good way. The LinkedIn study that I referred to recently shows the top childhood “dream jobs” for males and females. There is no overlap. So one is forced to conclude that either there really is something to gender roles, or we are continuing to nurture boys and girls differently. I tend to think it’s the latter.
These influences, intentional or not, have two results. First, society starts to mold us into what it expects us to be. Second, they cause us to create limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. It’s one of the earliest ways that we bury our good.
The “Path of Least Resistance” is a phrase you’ve no doubt heard before. It is generally accepted to mean doing the thing that is easiest. I agree with this to a point. I believe the Path of Least Resistance also means trying to fit in, rather than doing the thing that you really want to do. And paradoxically, that may be the easy thing in the short-term but in the long-term it’s extremely hard. It’s hard because of how it wears us down.
The need to fit in can cause us to bury our good. And the more we follow the herd, the more good we give up.
There are a few cases where this comes to play in our lives.
Think of a time at when you were forced to “cast the deciding vote”. This can happen just about anywhere. How did you decide? Did you evaluate how your decision would sit with others at the table? How would they react if voted one way or the other? Did you worry about what they would think? And if so, did this drive your decision? Very possibly, yes. In those cases, regardless of how important or inconsequential, did you vote with your head or your heart? If you decided to go with your peers rather than making the right decision, you compromised. You gave up some of your good. The more you do this, the more you turn into someone you’re not.
I thought peer pressure was a “young persons” problem. But it’s not. Have you ever been in a situation where your peer group, (whether it was your coworkers, friends, family) wanted to do something that you just didn’t want to do? It doesn’t even have to be something that you feel is wrong – just something you didn’t want to do. This is a slippery slope. Yes, we often have to compromise to make a relationship work. But when you find yourself doing it too often, you’ve given up your good. The decision should be considered relative to the importance of that peer group in your life and the impact of you not following the Path of Least Resistance. You may decide to follow, but if you’re doing it because you want to “fit in” then you’ve given up some of your good.
Finally, how often do you cave into what might be easier for you personally in the short-term? Do you make decisions that take you further away from your vision, or somehow impede your progress? And have you made those decisions because, in the short-term, it was easier? If so, you’ve buried your good away from yourself. This, in my opinion, is the worst form of following the Path of Least Resistance. Avoid it at all costs. Follow your vision, move forward, and don’t get in your own way.
The first method of communication to discuss is Create and Wait. I’ve listed this one first because, in some ways, it would appear to be the least complicated and should have the least opportunity to lose your good in. While this may be largely true, the pitfalls are deep.
The most important things to keep in mind when communicating through any mode are the who, the why and the how. I realize this differs from the “5 W’s” rule. When communicating with this mode, remembering who you are communicating with is important. But even more important than the content is the “why” and the “how”.
The pitfalls with Create and Wait are not necessarily new, since it’s really one of the older modes of communication.
- Subtlety: Unless you’re a novelist, pulling off subtlety in this mode can be difficult. Failed attempts at implication, innuendo or other subtle approaches abound. Why is this a pitfall? Because it’s ripe for misunderstanding. And it’s even more ripe if you’re writing for lots of people, all with different perspectives on the topic and varying degrees of relationship to you. And once there is a misunderstanding, all kinds of good can get lost in trying to straighten things out. In fact, if the issue is big enough it may never get straightened out. So, Rule #1: Avoid subtlety until you know your audience and they know you.
- Brevity: It’s related to subtlety – using as few words as possible to deliver your message is always best. Too many words can cause your message to be lost – definitely not a way to have your good shine through. Rule #2: Less words, more meaning. And yes, I’m still working on it.
- Readability: A sure way to lose your good is to talk, or in this case write, down to people. No one likes it when a writer tries to prove their point by using unnecessarily complex sentences or words. It’s to darn hard to follow, and tends to violate Rule #2. So, Rule #3: Write so your audience can follow, not so you can feel superior.
- Lack of Response: The biggest issue, in my opinion, can be the feelings that a lack of response can create. I think this is where content creators can most lose their good. Lack of response can drive one to start changing messages, delivery modes, or even their position on a controversial topic – all to get a response and a perception of acceptance. Hundreds of readers “clicks” may result in only a handful of responses. Rule #4: Don’t let the lack of response drive you to change your message. That’s the fastest way to losing your good.
For your good ideas, good intentions and truest self to come through, your communication has to be clear. With this mode, more than the others, it has to be clear the first time. My advice? Write to help others and view the messages from their perspective. With those two intentions and the four rules above, you should be well on your way to letting your good shine through in your writing.
As always, comments are welcome. But I’m not going to stress about it; see Rule #4.
One of the many places that I think we lose sight of our good is in our communications with others. This is especially true now, as the number of channels we use for communications have increased so dramatically. Each of those channels has challenges, and some make our communications more difficult than others. The insidious issue hiding behind them all though, is that I believe we rarely pay enough attention when communicating. This hides our good from the others we’re communicating with, and often times from ourselves.
With all the modes of communication available to us, I’ve tried to group them into a manageable handful. Let’s consider them as follows:
- Create and Wait: One person creates content to be consumed by another or by a group, and those individuals or groups respond. Create and Wait is one person at a time, in that the first person creates and waits. If others respond, they then wait. It is not limited to newspapers or magazines or letters via the postal service, but would include email, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, podcasts, etc. If one person creates it and then waits, it’s Create and Wait.
- Create and Create: One or more people create content to be consumed by others, with a reasonable expectation of a near real-time response. Because of that expectation, Create and Create has to be digital. Chatrooms, text message, and apps like Kik or WhatsApp fall into this category.
- Remote Exchange: Two or more people exchanging content at the same time, with a tacit agreement that there will be a response in real-time. Old school, this would be the telephone. New school, this would be Skype or FaceTime as examples.
- Local Exchange: This is the same as Remote Exchange, but with no digital device – it’s actually with someone. Like, in the same room.
The posts that will follow will by my take on the differences in each of these communication modes, and how each one can potentially sidetrack us from allowing our Good to come through. Then I’ll add one more post covering how to work through those sidetracks and stay Good.
I realize some of these lines will blur. You might, for example, argue that a Create and Create like Kik should really be Remote Exchange. I drew the line where I did because once you cross into either Remote Exchange or Local Exchange, you know with almost 100% certainty that the other party or parties are still there when you start the exchange. With Kik, it’s possible that the other party or parties have dropped and you’re not aware. We can bat this around if you want, below…
When I think about the good things I’ve buried over the past number of years, one of the key reasons that I think I’ve buried them is because I was afraid. I think this is a pretty common reason for us to misplace our good. It can be fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of letting others down, or fear of success. However you review it, fear can be something terrible. And yet at the same time, fear is something that can help us. When our fear manifests as something like “I can’t do this”, or “I’ll fail if I try”, then I think it is fear acting as a barometer. It’s telling us that we’re on to something, and daring us to push forward.
When we’ve taken the time to figure out what it is we truly want to do and step out in that direction, there will undoubtedly be times when we will question our direction. We will question your resolve. And if we don’t ask those questions, others will. It is at these times, in the face of fear, that we must recommit ourselves to our vision. I’m sure he experienced more fear than most of us ever will, but as Nelson Mandela said:
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
When we face our fear, we are facing the uncertainties that we have within us and the collective uncertainties that others have put out for us to deal with. Taping into our vision, we are able to conquer these fears because we know that we are on the path.
Since I’m in a quoting mood, and I’ve been on a music kick lately – from Rush’s “Face Up”:
If I could only reach that dial inside, and turn it up!
Face up. Face up, or you can only back down.
How do you know that you’re working towards your vision? How do you know if you’re getting back in touch with the things that you buried within so long ago? It’s pretty simple. Are you having fun? I realize it sounds trite, but seriously – are you having fun? Chances are, your answer to that is “Sometimes” or “What does fun have to do with anything?”
Turns out that fun is not only a good barometer of how happy you are, it’s also healthy. Humor and laughter, two things I think we all would agree go along with fun, have been shown to improve your health by increasing levels of IgA. If you don’t trust me on this, check out Paul McGhee and J. S. Dowling – I’m not trying to write a dissertation here.
Continue reading Are you having fun?
In Information Technology, and in many other fields, the term WYSIWYG is common. It’s pronounced “wiz-ee-wig”. WYSIWYG is an acronym for “What you see is what you get.” It’s used to convince the person buying the thing or trying to understand the thing that the product works exactly how it appears to work. It’s used to imply simplicity in design.
And there is a really big part of the equation that is missing.
Continue reading WYSIWhat?
The power of belief truly drives our reality. Words are important, but a powerful and deeply seated belief is what changes reality. Just check with your local quantum physics professional.
A few days ago, a friend on Facebook shared a quote from Lisa M. Hayes. Although I can’t find the quote anywhere on her site, I’m assuming it really came from her. Given what I’ve read on her site, it sounds consistent. Apologies to Lisa if I’m wrong on that.
Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.
I shared the quote, with a preface:
Our beliefs drive our thoughts; our thoughts, our words; our words, our actions; and through all of that, our reality. Be careful what you think, but even more so – be careful what you believe.
Continue reading The Power of Belief
There. I said it.
Responsibility is the thing that most of us hide our Good behind. And that’s a shame, because responsibility can be such a blessing. Responsibility can make us feel like what we do is important, needed, and appreciated. Unfortunately, it can also make us feel burdened, unnoticed, and automated.
Continue reading The “R” Word
Now I wish that there was a simple answer to the question, “Where did I lose my Good”. But there isn’t. The correct question is “What events in my life caused me to misplace my Good”. This is the question for two reasons. First, you can’t lose your good – that means that you no longer have it. Second, it gets misplaced and forgotten about over time as a result of lots of little things.
So what events led to our misplacing our Good? While I don’t have any scientific evidence, this is the internet and we’re all friends here so I’ll assume that my experiences are similar to yours. This discussion will likely go for more than one post, so please share your thoughts and stay tuned. Continue reading Under the Rug?