What if we owned our mistakes.   Instead of comparative morality, what if we owned what we did.

What if we said, “I was dead wrong, and I did something I’m ashamed of.”

What if we stopped letting our ego stand in the way of relationships

What if we said, “Look, that was stupid, and there’s no justification or rationale for it, I’m completely sorry, and I have no clue why I did that?”

What if apologies weren’t qualified by what the other person did and we never added a  “but”.

What if we said, “God help me… I hope I never act that way again?”

What if we really admitted–and owned–our mistakes instead of using the cruel, blame-the-victim nopologies, “I’m sorry you’re upset.,” which admit nothing, and which blame the victim for their feelings (while forgiving us our cruelty).

Would we be diminished or enhanced?  Would that show how weak we were or strong?  Would others be more or less likely to engage us?

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

It doesn’t mean doing more useless tasks better and more efficiently (though that’s a help).

It doesn’t mean being a better widget maker (that, too, is a help).

It means doing the right things, the ones that matter and not getting sucked into distractionland.

It means setting priorities and saying no to stuff that isn’t a fit with your life, your goals, your tribe.

It means simply doing things, and not adding weight to what’s hard: you don’t have to think about doing something, stress about doing something, get ready to do something, do it (for a moment), then report to your boss and your neighbor, Twitter and Facebook to take the victory lap for one small task being done.

Do the work.  Shut your mouth.  Help others.  Head down, shoulder to the wheel, and go.  Be slow to speak, quick to listen.

Get To

Another idea:

Instead of thinking that we ‘have to’ do things, let’s focus on the notion that we get to do things.

Being put upon is the de facto motif in the human existence.

But what if we changed that?  What if we controlled our thoughts?

I was talking to Heather yesterday about my own failure to get to the gym as often as I wanted.  Because it feels like a chore, I’ve not gone as much as I could.  Because I have dreaded it.  Man, I have to go to the gym.  Sucks.

We rebel against that.  Our inner two-year old kicks in. We say, “you’re not the boss of me.”  So instead of going to the gym, doing our work, we do what we want.  It’s hard to shake entitlementality.

What if…

…instead of acting as if it was something I “had” to do, something I was burdened to do…

….I treated everything that I do as a privilege.  Everything.  From paying bills (I get to support my family) to going to the gyms (I get to get rid of my front-butt).   What if I changed the way I thought of each activity….to an opportunity in lieu of a burden?

Then: what if I didn’t expect pleasure.  What if I “got to” go to the gym, and considered it a privilege?  What if I trained myself where I “got to” enjoy the opportunity to help a client, to carry water, or to shovel snow?  What if I got to do things instead of had to?

If mentally, I wasn’t stuck presuming or focusing on my own pleasure, would I be test about the predictable and mundane things that try and sap our focus?

Would I be stoppable?

Now, I know that most of my readers will say things like “Chris, you can’t always feel this way.”  No arguments here. “Chris, this is purely puerile Pollyanna pablum.”   Possibly.

When we treat something as an opportunity, a privilege  we get a bounce in our step.  We lose the drudgery.  When we try to snap back to this mode, I can see it as a wonderful thing.

I love my kids, a lot, and they’re damned lucky because they can be annoying.  But in lieu of “I have to put up with Jack/Change a Diaper,” what if it was all “I get to.”

What if we put more and more of our activities under that umbrella?

“Oh, boy, I get to go to the grocery store and get some food for our family!”

is stronger than

“Oh, man, I have to go to the grocery store in the cold, driving rain, this sucks,” which makes you defeated before you start.

So that’s saying, when you decide on what tasks need to be accomplished, enhance the link between their completion and your joy.  “I get to finish X,Y or Z” is more powerful–by far–than saying “I have to do X, Y or Z”.

When we think this way–a secondary consequence is that we are generally happier.  It feels better to be doing something you relish than doing some tedious chore.

The applications:

What chores are predictable that you don’t like? How can you re-frame them (oh, boy I get to finish the laundry).

How do you know you’re doing what you should be doing–and what is part of your nature?

How will you feel when you see things as choices and loving privs, rather than bad things?

Put Upon

We live our lives with the expectation of bliss and joy all the time.  Some prerequisite to activity is the activity being fun, pleasant or joyful.  If what we’re doing, working on gets hard, we give up and lose focus.

This is sold to us by Madison Avenue.  We are led to believe that we are to tolerate nothing short of perfect joy and convenience.  And when we get less than that, our attention spans wander to something else.   We become incensed when someone trips us up with what is, at most, a minor inconvenience.

We Are Entitled.

We go to  Starbucks, and when it’s our turn, someone gets one of 11 details a little off on one of 30 trips through.  We then act as if it’s the end of our world. “Excuse me.  I’m not usually like this but, can you PLEASE get this RIGHT for once?  What will you do for me to make up for this screw up?”

When BlueHost went down–for less than 12 hours–people were apoplectic — ranting about their $6.95/month hosting service.  As if some army of people should be waiting on us for $85 bucks a year.

Our narrative is that we are these noble, heroic creatures that are constantly put upon by someone: our spouse, the clerk at Wal-Mart, or the driver in traffic who cut us off.

We’re always put upon by something, and it’s because we expect bliss.  We use pseudo slights as an excuse for anything: to snap at our kids, to be mean to our spouse, or whatever else.

What Does Entitlement Solve?

What if  we really knew world wasn’t responsible for arranging itself for our convenience?  What if the world wasn’t going to arrange itself just to please you?

What if we took away that the expectation of driving was going to be a glittering path to our destination, but accounted for reality, for humanity?

What if we knew that we could set our course but there would be obstacles?  Instead of being taken by surprise, we’d be well prepared and ready for the next thing.

What if we knew that our flailing tantrums would never get a resolution?  What if we spent that energy in an OODA loop, looking for solutions?

What if we considered our place in it as small, and worked not to be more recognized, but for the betterment of the world?

Owning Mistakes

Today, the news is that Alberto Contrador, Tour de France champion was doping.   A positive–though minute–sample of a steroid was found.   He would have us believe that he ate some tainted meat had something to do with finding synthetic chemicals in his urine..  We are also meant to believe that Mark McGuire didn’t need steroids to make the numbers he made.

The list of absurd “no-pologies” is long.  Nobody can admit a defect in their charachter–even a momentary one.  As if we’re supposed to be all good all the time.  We all want to “look like the hero, the good guy, the only one working” without really putting the time and effort into it.  When things hit the fan, it’s better to tell a story that some people may sometimes believe than admit that we did anything wrong.

I don’t know why admitting fault is something that we don’t do.  We get trapped by past lies, and we try and paper over them for years.  It’s not as if the lies were ever believed, we just play along with the ritual.   We have to pretend it doesn’t exist for life to go on.  That the lie wasn’t told.  We all know, but we go on with the charade.

If we should happen to apologize to someone, we shift the blame: “I’m sorry something I said offended you,” is about the best we’ll do.  Or, “I didn’t mean to make you upset.” It doesn’t admit to being offensive, it just says that someone was offended.  So without owning the mistake, the lapse of judgement or charachter we’re doomed to repeat it.  We never said anything offensive, after all, you just happened to have been offended by something that happened to have come out of our mouth.

Why we can’t understand that we’re fallible, the the best of us get testy, mean, and self indulgent.  Why we can’t admit that we all screw things up is kind of beyond me.   It’s easier. It also allows for real improvement: you admit a mistake, eat it and do better next time.

Our ego requires some meaning in our lives, some heroism in our charachter when often it doesn’t exist. We’re the noble hero, the lead act in a play.  We’re always right, moral, earnest and true.  This is the fantasy we try to uphold, and courtesy requires that we afford others the same ability to maintain their fantasies.  The truth is, development only comes from owning mistakes.



Jack & Ruby,

Approval is control, even mine.  Withholding approval to coerce behavior is the lowest thing a parent can do.  I’ll do the best that I can to never do it to you–because you need me to have your back.   Don’t seek approval, and become indifferent to the approval of others.  I feigned indifference to others most of my life.  And because I did it caused me to lie, it weakened me. I was desperate to be approved of, and I had no sense of self.  I would try anything, do anything, pander like a fool to get a laugh.  For what?  Nothing is more repugnant than dealing with someone that must make you like them. Nothing is more attractive than someone that has integrity, that is indifferent to what you think because they have declared who they are.

Approval is control: people use it to get you to do things you wouldn’t/couldn’t do.

Seeking it will make you crazy.

So don’t.