Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's none of your business

"What people in the world think of you is really none of your business."
- Martha Graham, American dancer and choreographer (1894–1991)

With respect, dear reader, note the final two words of the quotation that are different from what we might otherwise expect.

One of the harder life lessons I have learned is that the negative and destructive opinions of others about me or my work do nothing to enhance my life. Opposition and naysaying come from different places. The naysayer wants to hit and run, not debate.

We need some opposition in order to grow. Without some thought to think against, we have no traction or motivation to think further.

We don't need to win debates in order to grow. Everything we learn, even from an opponent, can be used later to our advantage. As the old war saying goes: you learn more from your enemies than you do from your allies.

In the final analysis, only one person gets to live your life, to experience your woes, your sadness, your trials and tribulations, your moments of elation and joy. You are the most important member of your own cheering section.

In order to win praise from others, once the heady days of childhood where every drawing finds a place on the refrigerator, we need to be good at something. Not the best, just better than all or most others in our circle of acquaintances.

If what we are good at also benefits others, then we get greater recognition. For example, we may not remember who got the most gold medals for our country in the last Olympics, but we remember a friend or teacher who helped us through a period of strife.

We don't have to be the most talented, the most skilled or the most muscular/pulchritudinous to receive the kind of recognition we need over a lifetime. These tend to be fairly short-lived attentions. We need to be good at something that would be deemed of some value to others or from which others can learn. In a chess club, that would be skill at chess. At a dance, it might be skill at dancing or at helping partners feel good.

In every community there are people who deem it their job to point out to others the faults and failures of as many people as they can. If we listen to these people, whether they speak about us or about others, we give them something they don't deserve. We don't deserve it either.

When helping a young person to decide what they may want to excel at in life, advise them to choose something that will last for a very long time, if they want recognition that will extend for many years.

And to not give the naysayers the recognition they desire.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help each person avoid too much sightseeing on the road of life.
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