1. RESPECT YOURSELF AND OTHERS
The first precept of The Code is: “Respect yourself and others.” Each time I read this I’m reminded of the 1968 Aretha Franklin song that starts out, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” We all want to be respected. It’s not only the number one principle in The Code; it’s the foundation of our relationships with ourselves and others.
Common sense tells us that before we can have the respect of others, we must first have respect for ourselves. And sometimes that’s hard to do. We know our darkest secrets, and quite often that’s scary. Our failures loom in front of us like giant elephants.
A hundred people can say we’re good at something, but let one person criticize us and we feel, “Finally, someone has been honest with me.”
Making mistakes and being imperfect is a part of life. There has been but one person who was perfect, and He ended up being turned in by one of his closest friends and hanged.
We need to enjoy our successes and learn from our failures. At one point while trying to come up with the light bulb Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
The absolute best way to get the respect from others, although it may not seem the easiest, is for each of us to develop a set of core values and stand by them.
As far as respecting others; understand, no one, not even our spouse or closest friend does or believes everything the way we do. And we need to respect the fact that people are different. Unless what they’re doing is at crossroads with your core values, accept who they are, and give them R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Here’s some food for thought: Too often when the other fellow takes a long time to do something, we say he’s slow. When we take a long time to do something we’re thorough. When the other fellow doesn’t do it, he’s lazy. When we don’t do it, we’re busy. When the other fellow does it without being told, he’s overstepping his bounds. When we go ahead and do it without being told, that’s initiative. When the other fellow states his opinions strongly, he’s bullheaded. When we state our opinion strongly, we’re firm. When the other fellow overlooks a few rules of etiquette, he’s rude. When we skip a few rules, we’re doing our own thing.
2. ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR LIFE
I was pumping fuel in my vehicle when a man in his late thirties came up to me and asked for some money so he could buy gas for his car.
I asked him why he didn’t have money of his own.
He responded, “Well, it’s not my fault, my wife and her lawyer took all my money when she divorced me.”
“Why did she divorce you?” I asked.
“Well, she caught me running around on her. But it wasn’t my fault. She wasn’t a good wife.”
“And you were a good husband?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“Then why did you run around on her?”
“I told you it wasn’t my fault.”
As nice as I could, I said, “Your situation isn’t my fault either. And I don’t think I should be responsible for getting you out of it.”
He left mumbling something about how nobody cares anymore.
I’m in the process of going through the seven precepts of “The Code” that can be by clicking on the “Living The Code” plank. This month it’s #2: “Accept responsibility for your life.”
When we were infants, adults were responsible for feeding us, changing our diapers and putting us to bed. We had little or no control over our lives. As we got older we got more control. Then as a teenager most of us fought for total control. In reality, as a teenager, we wanted control, but not the responsibility.
Remember back. If something went wrong, we always found someone or something else to blame the “wrong” on. And that was because a part of us still wanted to be an infant. We had not grown up.
Now, many years later a large percentage of us still haven’t grown up. “It’s not my fault” has become our mantra. And the world doesn’t help us as we are told our actions are the result of our genes or environment. At the same time the government continues taking over more areas of our lives that should be our responsibility.
Probably no truer words were ever spoken than, “Life is not fair.” We could all recite a litany of tragedies that have happened in each of our lives. The difference is some of us have picked up the pieces; learned the lesson; and gone on with our lives. Others have chosen to give up control of their lives by still blaming others for their lot in life.
We must remember that there is a difference between responsibility and blame. If we choose to walk down a dark alley and end up getting mugged, we accept responsibility for our choice. But not the blame…unless we knew the mugger was waiting for us. Incidentally, the mugger should take responsibility for his choice and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
3. BE POSITIVE AND CHEERFUL
We’re looking at the third principal:“Be positive & cheerful.”
For some people this statement brings to mind a Pollyanna; someone who looks at life through rose colored glasses. Maybe someone who goes around handing out flowers and saying, “Peace. Love.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth. A person who is positive and cheerful has to be tough with a high level of durability. Our lives are inundated every day with negativity. It begins with our turning on the radio in the morning or reading the newspaper. People complaining about situations in their lives regularly bombard us as we go about our daily life. Then the day is wrapped up by watching an endless array of victims portrayed on TV. During an average day we receive hundreds more negative messages than positive.
Being pessimistic isn’t just a mental state; it’s also a physical one. All of us know that if we have an emotion, we show it on our face, and reflect it throughout our body. The opposite is also true. We become what we put on our face. If we stand tall; throw back our shoulders; lift our head; put a smile on our face; breathe deeply; and put a spring in our step, we can’t help but be positive and cheerful.
We’re all familiar with the “placebo effect.” That’s when we’re given a sugar pill and told that it’s a powerful medication that will cure our illness. And even though it’s a sugar pill, we believe it and our illness is cured.
There is also something called a “nocebo effect.” That’s when we have a negative belief or attitude and against all odds, we produce negative results. Studies have shown that a person with a negative attitude experiences reduced blood flow to the heart and has a greater risk of death.
Often we feel that we have too many problems to be positive and cheerful. It’s all in the way you look at it. Dr. Norman Vincent Peal had a man come to him complaining about all the problems in his life. Dr. Peal asked the man if he would like to get rid of his problems. The man responded, “I sure would.”
Dr. Peal said, “I’ll take you to a place where no one has a problem, and you can decide if you want to join them.”
Dr. Peal drove to a cemetery, and pointed out that no one buried there has a problem.
He concluded by saying, “Since dead people have no problems, the more problems you have, the more alive you are.”
The next time you go to the grocery store, look around. You’ll see people with a frown and a scow on their face. They look as if they’re just waiting for someone to say or do something so they can give them the wrath of God.
You’ll also see people with a smile on their face, and a cheerful word for everyone. Which person would you rather be with? You know, everyone else feels the same. Be positive and cheerful.
4. BE A PERSON OF YOUR WORD
Over the last three months we’ve been looking at the precepts of “Living The Code.” This month’s precept is “Be a person of your word.” It’s interesting to note that over the last couple of weeks there were a couple of events…one being the closing of the Roy Rogers Museum…that I wanted to editorialize about. But I had committed to doing the seven precepts. In this instance I’ve kept my word.
As I grew up I can remember my father saying things like “A promise made is a debt unpaid,” or “You word is your bond.” And I can honestly say that I can remember few, if any, promises my father made to me, or others, that he broke. I can remember a time or two when he made a promise and wished he hadn’t. But, “he was a man of his word.” Today we would say, “Person of their word.” Women keep their word also.
As a young adult sports fan I can remember a professional football player who wanted to renegotiate his contract because someone else on the team had signed one for more money. I thought, “Wait a minute. He, along with his lawyer and agent, agreed on this five year contract. Now, just because someone else got a better one, he wants to go back on his word?”
But then, that was another time. Today wanting to renegotiate or just outright ignoring a promise is often the standard…even for our government.
I’m not a purest in that I believe all agreements can be done with the shake of a hand. Business arrangements are complicated and honest misunderstandings happen. I’m also not against lawyers. Many of us are not astute when it comes to complicated business and legal practices. So we need help to make sure that when we sign on the dotted line, we’ve agreed to something we can live up to.
Whether it’s something as simple as telling our children we’ll go to the show this weekend, a friend that we’ll pick up an item for them the next time we’re at the hardware store, or that we’ll give a lifetime guarantee on that product we just sold, we need to really mean it when we say it.
There are times when we get wrapped up in the heat of the moment and make a commitment that minutes later we regret…Often it’s the “people pleaser” in each of us that causes us to do it. When this happens we should immediately tell the person, “I just misspoke. I’m not going to be able to do that.” Incidentally, I love that word “misspoke.” It’s a non-threatening way of saying, “I lied.”
We’ve all been hurt, irritated or angered when a person, product or company doesn’t fulfill their promise. And I can guarantee that it will happen again tomorrow, next week or next month. It’s the age in which we live.
But this is no excuse for you and me not to “be a person of our word” and commit to fulfilling our promises. It’s got to start somewhere.
5. GO THE DISTANCE
As I look back on my life I see my number one reason for failing at something I wanted to accomplish was my quitting before I had victory. Sometimes I quit because I no longer wanted to accomplish that goal…It happens. We change. A high school basketball star who had as his goal to be a professional basketball player when in college realizes he would much rather be a doctor. And he becomes one. I wouldn’t consider him a quitter.
But, the majority of the time we quit because our objective isn’t as easy as we thought. Or we discover we’re not the brightest or the most talented in that area.
I’m reminded of that great Paul Newman movie “Cool Hand Luke.” While at a prison work farm, Luke got in a fight with a bully fellow prisoner. Luke was totally outclassed. But every time he was knocked down, he got back up. Finally the bully gave up. Luke won, not because he was the toughest, but because he refused to quit.
One characteristic all super successful people have in common is the belief there is no such thing as failure. There are only results. It isn’t that they don’t fail. It’s the attitude they have about failure. It’s been said that a successful person enjoys their successes and learns from their failures.
There’s a legendary story about Thomas Edison. After he had failed 9,999 times to perfect the light bulb, someone asked him, “Are you going to have ten thousand failures?”
Thomas Edison supposedly responded, “I didn’t fail. I just discovered ways not to invent the electric light bulb.”
Would you call this person a failure? He failed at business not once, but twice. He ran for Congress three times, and lost each time. He lost a Senatorial race, and an attempt to become Vice President. Finally, at the age of 52, he won an election. He became our 16th President. His name is Abraham Lincoln.
Even in our failures there can be success. Everybody today uses Post Notes. They came about as the result of a bad batch of glue.
Everyone gets discouraged…even successful people. And that’s O.K. You can be discouraged and continue. “When running up a hill, it is all right to give up as many times as you wish, just as long as your feet keep moving.”
Sixty-eight years ago this month the then Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill, gave the greatest motivational speech ever. England was in the midst of World War II. Winston Churchill stood up and walked to the podium. He looked the audience over and said, “Never, never, never, never, never quit!” and then turned around and sat down.
Never quit! Go the distance!
6. BE FAIR IN ALL YOUR DEALINGS
Having grown up during the "golden era" of the westerns and early rock and roll, two of my favorite people from that time are Roy Rogers and singer Buddy Holly. It’s interesting to note that, although extremely popular during their careers, neither of them made much money because of unscrupulous businessmen taking advantage of their innocence and love of performing.
Although probably in a much smaller way, we've all been on the "short end of the stick" in a business deal or two. And quite possibly we’ve been on the "long end" as well.
It doesn’t always happen, but I love "win-win" arrangements. When a person feels he or she has been taken advantage of, that person may fulfill the contract, but often with little enthusiasm. However, if both people are happy in a deal, each person may not make as much, but there is an excitement and energy that makes the project something special. In addition, chances are, the two people will do additional projects, thereby making much more in the end.
Old West con artist Soapy Smith always maintained he never conned an honest person. The reason for that was that he played on people's greed. His "marks" always though they were getting the best of Soapy. Obviously they learned differently in the end. It's a fact that honest people looking for an honest deal are less likely to be taken advantage of, because they'll walk away if things don't look right.
There's another element of being fair in all your dealings. And that's being fair to yourself. For whatever reason, some of us have a great desire to please other people. As a result, we're not being fair to ourselves.
A parable is told of a father and his son who were taking a donkey to sell at an auction. Along the way a man criticized the father for not adequately utilizing the carrying capacity of the donkey. So the father put his son on the donkey.
They then encountered another person who chastised the son for riding when his elderly father walked. So they both got on the donkey.
Now they were criticized for overloading the donkey.
In frustration, the father tied the four feet of the donkey together, stuck a pole between them; and he and his son carried the donkey on their shoulders.
The moral is that trying to please everyone creates a heavy burden.
Be fair in all your dealings…even when dealing with yourself.
7. BE A GOOD FRIEND AND NEIGHBOR
When I think of being a good neighbor, like many of you, I think of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. For the people of that time it was a dramatic illustration.
During the three hundred years that the United States had a frontier…even though the pioneers were the strong, independent type…they realized they needed the help of their neighbors and their neighbors needed them. With neighbors miles away, people still got together for cabin raising, barn raising, log rolling, clearing fields, corn huskings and quilting bees.
Today we have fences in common with neighbors who we barely know. We want to believe this is because we work and commute such long hours. I can assure you that frontier people worked longer hours and a five-mile commute in wagon or on horseback to the closest neighbor was more difficult than walking next door.
The big reason for neighbor not knowing neighbor is that we no longer need our neighbor to survive. We hire someone to build our house and maintain our yard. We go to the grocery store and buy food semi or completely prepared.
We may not need the labors of neighbors. But, there is a greater, even more important need for good neighbors and friends. Recent surveys show a large percentage of people are what the surveyors classify as “significantly lonely.” And that number is growing. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau; many of us are living lives of quiet desperation.
Even though the frontier life was difficult, the pioneer was confident in the future. They believed it was limitless. Hospitality and generosity was a natural outcrop of that confidence. Today we’re living in financially difficult and politically divisive times.
During these times, we need more than ever to be a good friend and neighbor. The interesting thing is that being friendly; smiling at a stranger; asking someone, with conviction, “How are things going?”…and then listening, not only helps the recipient, it helps the giver. Even walking around with a smile on your face, makes people feel better. If nothing else, they’ll wonder why you’re smiling.
So, let us resolve that no matter how bad things may be going, we should be friendly and be a friend. It may not help your situation. But, I can assure you; it won’t hurt it.
Returning to the Good Samaritan parable…A problem I’ve dealt with over the years is people who come up to me in a parking lot or on the street and ask for some money for food. Part of me wants to help them. Another part of me says, “They’ll just use it for booze, drugs or cigarettes.” If I don’t give them anything, I spend the rest of the day feeling guilty. If I give them something, I feel like a sucker.
I think I’ve come up with a solution. McDonalds has $1 gift certificates in books of five. I keep a couple of the $1 certificates in my wallet, and when I’m asked for food money, I give the person a certificate or two. That makes sure they spend it on food…even if it isn’t the healthiest food…and there’s a McDonalds on virtually every corner.
Again, in 2010, especially during these difficult times, we need to be a good friend and neighbor.
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