Should We Care What Others Think?

fishbowl

So I was talking with someone and they were telling me how self conscious they feel about what others think of them.


They said when they were in school, they were picked on, bullied, labeled, and made to feel different and excluded.


Whether it was their hair that was different or their lunchbox that got taken and hidden from them, the other kids were relentless. 


Now in life, they are still dealing with all those feelings.


Do they look right? 


Are they educated enough?


Is their profession something others will admire them for?


And on and on. 


And at a certain point, I said, “Isn’t it more important what you think about yourself than what others think about you?”


And they said, “Sure, but I still feel like I have to live up to other people’s standards. I don’t want them to think bad about me or talk behind my back!”


I understand this way of thinking is based on trauma from the past and feelings of inadequacy and not fitting in. 


And we can spend our whole lives chasing this illusive acceptance from others. 


Or we can decide to pursue we what believe in and love, and to find healing in the good we do, rather than the nods or winks from others that we receive. 


If we are trying to live up to somebody else’s arbitrary standards of perfection, cool, or being in the in-crowd, we may never be good enough.


Instead, if we pursue what we know is right from our moral compass and our heart and soul, and always do our best, we will attain the satisfaction that comes with healthy self-development and maturation. 


Seeking unconditional acceptance and love can definitely leave you feeling frustrated, self-hating, and even quite alone. 


But accepting yourself, developing yourself, and giving to G-d and to others will always leave you feeling fulfilled. 


Forget living as if your in the fishbowl, and strive for the Superbowl of achievement through incremental progress and goal attainment in your life. 

Start with making yourself proud and the others will come around. And if for some reason they don’t, it’s truly their deficiency and loss and not yours!


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Prove Them Wrong

Your Not

So I was recently teaching a certification class. 


And this was a very high-caliber class of professionals attending. 


One gentlemen was a wonderful African American who I will call John. 


As part of one of the class assignments, John,  a very successful man, told of how as a young man growing up in the DC projects, a neighbor told him something very hurtful and potentially devastating to him.


The neighbor angrily said, “You’ll never be anything in your life!”


And John described how he pursued his education, his career goals, his family, as well as philanthropic pursuits to give back to the community–and he went quite far. 


He told with great emotion and tears in his eyes how ten years ago, he went back to his old neighborhood to thank this neighbor for motivating him (even though in a negative way) to go as far in life as he did. 


You could hear a pin drop in the class–I think a lot of people could relate to this story in their own lives. 


I know that I for one certainly could. 


For me, while I am a simple person and have not gone so far, I have certainly had an interesting life and lots of wonderful opportunities.


Yet, I too remember more than 20 years ago, when I had taken a job in a wild pursuit in my youthful ambitions that one crazy boss that I was briefly working for who was considerably older than me and with his own business abusively said to me one day, “You’re not half of what you think you are!”


BAM! Like a huge sledge hammer hitting me right across my head–I was still relatively young and impressionable.


Also, I came from a pretty blue collar-type working family and although upwardly mobile, and I was certainly trying to become “more,” I never really felt at all entitled. 


Anyway, the story this student told really brought my own experience hurling back to me from my past. 


In the class, John said–you have to go out and “Prove them wrong.” 


And while I don’t exactly feel that proving others who wish us bad to be wrong is the point, I do agree that we shouldn’t let any of these negative nellies in our own lives drag us down. 


We all have our mission in life–and it’s up to us to become the best people that we can–and to hell with everyone who looks down on us, discourages us, maybe are competitive with us or jealous in some way, or simply don’t wish us the best. 


So John is right–go out there and do great things! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Big Kiss Followed By Harsh Slap

Slap

So I share this story not out of anger, but to tell of something important that happened to me.


It was when I was very sick last year from surgical complications…


And someone did one of the nicest things for me…and also one of the most hurtful.


This was at the point of hospitalization #3, I think (there was more after), and the doctors were shaking their heads–uh, not a good sign. 


Frankly, I didn’t know anymore whether I was going to make it. 


At that time, someone close reached out to me and my wife and said they were going to hold a prayer vigil for me in their home one evening to try and help. 


They did and even sent me photographs of the wonderful people taking the time to ask G-d to save me…I was deeply moved and grateful. 


But subsequently on a phone call with the person who set this up, they said to me seemingly with resentment at having to have done it and undoing all the good they had done…


“You know you really need to get some zechusim of your own!”


Zuchusim means qualities or deeds that merit some reward or good.


In other words, I was getting judged and scolded and was being told that I was in pain, suffering, and sick because basically I MUST be an aweful person who deserves it


And if not for her organizing the prayer group and those others with zuchusim that attended, I on my own probably did not even deserve to live. 


Gee, thanks for the slap, slap, and slap.


While I am sure her words were intended to help me by exhorting ultimate life betterment, at the time and even now, the roughness and shrill of them hurt–it’s nothing less than a matter of soul!


While I am no saint–and I think few of us can claim that title no matter how hard we may put ourselves on that lofty pedestal–I know that in my own way–maybe not the most traditional way that other religious people can fully relate to–I try my best to serve G-d, be a decent human being, and a good influence…while not perfect by any sense of the word. 


Laying sick and vulnerable, I needed to be told that I was okay and everything would be okay with G-d’s blessing–that whatever the suffering and whatever the reason, my life has good in it and meaning to it–even while we can all better ourselves. 


But while I felt the kiss from this person when they organized the beautiful prayer group for me, I soon felt the sting of the slap from the strict harsh “religious” judgement from someone that didn’t even really know my days in and outs. 


While I know I can do better–and I am committed to continue to try to learn and grow as a person–and serve G-d and help others–but for crying out loud have some compassion, go easy on the severity of the judgement and exhortations, and maybe give some benefit of the doubt. 


Words have meaning even though deeds surpass words, and we should be careful with both. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos posting of Batmancomic.infogenerator)

Words Have Meaning

Recently, I heard a very smart mentor tell a crowd that “words have meaning.”

The context was that even in relation to giving criticism, it is important to be constructive, and not destructive to those receiving it.

Some are not good at giving criticism and others can be downright sadistic–humiliating, embarrassing, marginalizing, verbally abusing, and even throwing things.

Words can really hurt people, and the kids song about “stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me”–is just not true for children or adults.

From a work perspective, I relate this to what I learned earlier in my life about being not only balanced with people and their performance, but also seeing the whole human being–listening to them and being empathetic.

In performance terms, it’s as important to say what people are doing well, as well as to point out areas where their is room for improvement–and yes, it’s hard to admit it, but no one of us is perfect, and at the same time, no one really likes to be criticized.

So it takes a special talent, but one that can be learned–if you have an open mind–to have a heart-to-heart with others, and show that you are not just criticizing to be an S.O.B., but that you genuinely accept the person for who they are, and want to help them learn and grow–and do even better in the future.

We all have strengths and weakness, and with kindness, we can help others to rise above their limitations and break new barriers in their lives.

I came across a different example of where words have meaning in terms of people looking for opportunity.

I heard a story about this person who when asked why they should get a job, responded because they are a “good person.”

Word do have meaning and we don’t give opportunities to people because they like the person they are, but rather because they have “earned it” professionally–life is competitive and opportunities are not just handed out.

One more example of how words have meaning, happened when I heard one lady ask another what her son was doing for the summer (given all the unemployment). The other lady replied, “oh, he’s busy–sleeping and eating.”

Ouch. Yes, times are tough out there, but to hear the mother say it–in that way–about her own child, just sounded perhaps a little harsh and judgmental, but who really knows their particular circumstance.

Words have meaning–they can bring lovers together, hurt those you love the most, damage reputations, destroy lives, and tear nations apart or bring unity to them and determination to their cause.

Watching what we say and how we say it–is important for us in growing as decent and thoughtful human beings and in becoming good leaders–in both, we have to have heart and treat others well in both word and deed.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Leadership Is Not A One Personality World

Myers-briggs

An article in the Federal Times (13 November 2011) called “To Change Government’s Culture, Recruit Leader, Not Loners” was very unfortunate.

According to the author, Steven L. Katz, “Government in particular, attracts, rewards, and promotes people who want to be left alone.As a result we have a government of loners…seen in the scarcity of people with a healthy balance of substantive and social skills who are needed for leadership, management, and bringing projects large and small to completion.”

Katz identifies these “loners” as Myers-Briggs ISTJ–Introverted Sensing Thinking and Judging. Moreover, he proposes that we consider “more people who test in the range of Myers-Briggs ENTJ–Extroverted Intuitive Thinking Judging”–to assume the leadership mantle instead.

In other words, Katz has a problem with people who are introverted and sensing. In particular, it seems that the introversion type really has Katz all bent out of shape–since this is what he rails at as the loners in our organizations. What a shame!

Katz is wrong on almost all accounts,except that we need people who can communicate and collaborate and not just in government:

1) Diversity Down The Toilet–Katz only acknowledges two Myers-Briggs Types in our diverse population–ENTJ and ISTJ.  He is either unaware of or ignores the other 14 categories of people on the continuum, and he promotes only one type the ENTJ–1/16 of the types of people out there–so much for diversity!

Further, Katz makes the stereotypical and mistaken assumptions that introverts are shy and ineffectual, which as pointed out in Psychology Today in 2009 (quoted in Jobboom) “Not everyone who is shy is introverted, and not everyone who’s charismatic and cheerful is extroverted.” Further, shy people are ‘routinely misunderstood as cold, aloof, or stuck up.”

Katz missed the point as taught at OPM’s Federal Executive Institute that all of us have something to learn, teach, and a preferred pathway to excellence.

2) By the Numbers–Contrary to Katz’s implication that introverts are a small and social inept portion of population that should shunned, a report in USA Today in 2009 states that ‘50% of baby boomers are introverts” as are 38% of those born after 1981 with the onset on the modern computing age, Internet, and social media. Interestingly enough, Katz is even dissatisfied with these Millennials who according to him: their “dominant form of communication and relationships is online and on cellphones.”

Moreover, according to a 2006 article in USA Today quoted on Monster.com, “Introverts are so effective in the workplace, they make up an estimated 40% of executives.

Included in these successful introverts are people like “Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Diane Sawyer, Andrea Jung, and Bill Nardelli”–Sorry, Steve!

3) Situational Leadership Is Key–While Katz is busy searching for personality type scapegoats to government problems, he is missing the point that Myers-Briggs is “neither judgmental not pejorative” and instead “helps assess the fit between person and job” (Reference: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Organizations: A Resource Book).

In fact, according to a recent study published in Harvard Business Review (4 October 2010), introverts are not only incredibly effective, but are “the best leaders for proactive employees.” Moreover, HBR points out that “Both types of leaders, the extraverts and the introverts, can be equally successful or ineffectual…”

So for example, Introvert leaders (who are “more likely to listen to and process the ideas”) tend to be better leaders in a situation with a extroverted team, while extroverted leaders (who “end up doing a lot of the talking”) tend to excel with a more introverted one.

However, the ultimate key according to HBR is “to encourage introverted and extraverted behavior in any given situation”–that is to use situational leadership to lead and manage according to the situation at hand, and not as a one personality type fits all world!

Katz is right that communication and collaboration are critical skills, but he is wrong that there is only one personality type that gets us all there.

(Source Photo: here)