When I was much younger – say, around 8-9 years old – I used to get in trouble with my school teachers, and other adults in positions of authority, regularly. Pretty much not a day would go by without my mother receiving some troublesome news about me.
I guess, looking back, I simply had an aversion to authority.
And while that continued until my early teens, when I learned what it meant to really show respect and understand conflict with authority was primarily in my mind, I also learned something at that young age that must have made an impression (even subconsciously) from my granddad.
Wisdom Has No Age Limits
I always loved my granddad. He was the safety net I’d cling to when everyone else seemed down on me. He was the one that would let me watch TV just that little bit later. He was the one who would let me read my comic under the bed with the flashlight, when everyone else would confiscate the flashlight.
In short, he was the one that would break the rules and let me be who I wanted to be. Except, not really.
Instead of letting me be an out of control tearaway, looking back he was actually guiding me to be a better person because of the trust I had in him. When he spoke, I’d agree and nod – even if I didn’t like it. And – usually – do as he said.
Whether or not my mother was in cahoots with him in this endeavour, I’ll never know. Perhaps, perhaps not. Either way, he made me stop and think of the things my mother was trying to teach me.
So, when I was having my brush with people in authority, my granddad pulled me aside, and said the following:
You might think grown-ups are bad, and stopping you from having fun. And, sometimes, they will. But it’s only because they love you. Now – you can choose which ones to listen to. And, I know not everyone is worth listening to. So here’s a trick – listen to the people who love you, every time. Your mum. Your sister. Me. Your grandma. Listen to your friends, but only the ones who don’t make you feel bad about yourself. And listen to your teachers who make you smile when you’ve done something. These people are all just trying to help you enjoy life. And that’s something not everyone will do.
Now, I know I’ve paraphrased some of his words. After all, this was almost 40 years ago (holy crap, I’m getting old!!). But the gist of the message is definitely there.
And it’s one I use today in pretty much everything I do, and you should too. Here’s why.
Living Life The Way It’s Meant to Be Lived
In a recent edition of TIME, there was a fantastic memorial article by David Von Drehle, about a gentleman named Charlie White. David and Charlie were neighbours, and David’s piece wrote about the lessons Charlie instilled from a life well lived. Charlie was 109 when he passed last month.
The article recounts passages of time from the turn of last century, and is a fascinating and warm look into a period of time most of us will never have known. Yet it’s also a reminder of how to live a life well lived.
Charlie’s “secret” to a happy life was the realization that you have to separate the things you can’t control from the things you can. This was a lesson he imparted to one of his daughters when she was having issues with someone that was frustrating her. Charlie’s advice?
You can’t change people like that. If I let people irritate me, I would have been dead long ago. Source.
The fact Charlie lived such a long and happy life has to have some part in this mindset. It’s the same mindset my granddad had, and is – essentially – the one I try to live to these days.
After all, let’s face it – how important are the words of others who actually have no real impact over who we are and what we stand for?
Those That Matter and Those That Meh
Back in April of this year, I wrote a post on why readers of this blog might want to unsubscribe. It was a post that shared the direction this blog was moving in, and a heads up that if readers wanted to subscribe to a purely marketing blog, this one wouldn’t be for them (and I recommended five other blogs to subscribe to instead).
I’d just become bored of only writing about marketing, social media, etc., and all that entails. We’re people, all of us – we’re not tied to talking about just business in life, so why should we be on our blogs (or other social footprints)?
After this post, I received a whole bunch of emails (as well as comments on the post itself) from others who felt the same, and were “glad” to see someone say it out loud, encouraging them do the same thing. And that’s the real beauty of blogging and content – even if you help just one person make a choice, that’s all that matters.
Arik Hanson, a PR and communications pro over in Minneapolis, shared his thoughts in a post entitled “Is the age of the independent PR blogger over?”. He looked at how many of the bloggers in his feed had either changed direction, or simply given up altogether to concentrate on, well, life and family and all that important stuff.
In the comments, social media guy Jason Falls left quite the entertaining diatribe (click image to expand).
When I got the update to the comment being left, it made me chuckle – because, really, who gives a crap?
It doesn’t matter what Jason thought (and I like Jason, he seems a decent guy), because it wasn’t for him (hence the dog picture reply). The original post was for the folks who said it helped them make up their minds to produce the content they really wanted to produce.
And that’s why we need to collectively take more of a “who gives a crap?” approach to comments, blog posts, social updates, etc. The people that moan and react usually aren’t the ones that either matter (from an audience point of view), or who have little relevance to you anyway.
If someone on Google+ calls you an idiot for having a point of view, who cares? The real idiocy comes from trying to stifle opinions with rudeness or ignorance. If that person has little effect on your bigger picture, let them stew in their own little miserable bubble.
Same goes for the content you produce. Own it, and be happy to own it.
Enough With the Egg Shells
There was a great post earlier this year from Marc Ensign, called “The Pussification of the Internet”. In it, Marc shares how the web has become this place where we’re too scared to have an opinion, because we’ll be jumped on by others, or called to task, etc.
Because of this, the web is in danger of becoming a sanitized version of what it should be – open, challenging, questioning and, most of all, bare bones honest. It’s a great – if not quite safe for work read – and well worth your time,. Because it’s true.
Last month, the Pew Research Internet Project released its latest report, and it made for some enlightening – and a little bit scary/sad – reading.
Entitled “Social Media and the Spiral of Silence”, it shared the answers of just over 1,800 adults and their thoughts on the impact of the Edward Snowden / NSA fallout in the US and beyond, and how that affected the way these adults conversed online.
There are many interesting takeaways from the report, but two in particular stood out.
- In both personal settings and online settings, people were more willing to share their views if they thought their audience agreed with them. For instance, at work, those who felt their coworkers agreed with their opinion were about three times more likely to say they would join a workplace conversation about the Snowden-NSA situation.
- Previous ‘spiral of silence’ findings as to people’s willingness to speak up in various settings also apply to social media users. Those who use Facebook were more willing to share their views if they thought their followers agreed with them. If a person felt that people in their Facebook network agreed with their opinion about the Snowden-NSA issue, they were about twice as likely to join a discussion on Facebook about this issue.
Now while these two points refer to unease on how the US government is monitoring the conversations of its citizens, it also highlights the growing issue of just going with the flow as opposed to taking a stand.
It’s a walking-on-egg-shells mentality that both limits our growth and inhibits our learning. If we were all meant to have the same point of view, we may as well quit now because there would be no need for us to be.
That’s not to say we ignore everyone else – far from it. But we do need to start standing up for ourselves and our opinions more, and not just be part of the herd.
Like my granddad said himself, think of who you want to listen to. Think of who you want to take advice from. Think of who actually matters, and whose opinion and feelings you wouldn’t want to hurt. And be respectful of those you disagree with.
For everything else – who gives a crap?