True Enough?

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Oscar Wilde

Suppose Wilde is right, pure and simple. It follows that his proposition is likely not pure and definitely not simple. Truth has many forms and many faces, some of which are persisting and some of which are temporary, some of which are obvious and some of which are subtle, some of which are certain and some of which only might be true, are probably true, or are (as the physicists like to say) “approximately true.” Most of the time, one can comfortably deal with the world without thinking about the nature of truth or about the actual validity of most truths. It works out fine to proceed on a “true enough” basis.

Ice is cold and fire is hot. Your car is still where you parked it. The directions you get from MapQuest.com will get you where you want to go. Eat too much and you will get fat. If you need help, you can count on your best friend. The important quandary usually isn’t about truth or whether true enough is good enough. Rather, it’s who can you believe; who speaks the truth?

To answer the, “Who can you believe?” question, it’s necessary to introduce “integrity” into the mix. The question is, “Who are people of integrity?” because they are the only people you can or should trust. Samuel Johnson said, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” The take home point is to be sure you only seek truth from people who are clearly knowledgeable, people who know what they are talking about. For example, don’t get legal advice from your brother-in-law, unless he happens to be an experienced attorney.

Perhaps more critical than from whom you seek the truth is your capacity to evaluate the truth you receive. Know that it’s seldom pure or simple. Deciding whether it’s true enough is up to you. Key to this is correctly assessing the integrity of the person from whom you receive the truth. That to is neither pure nor simple; but there is one, essential prerequisite to assessing the integrity of others. You must yourself be a person of integrity.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” You are the final judge of the integrity of those from whom you seek the truth. John D. MacDonald likely hit the nail on the head when he said, “Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.” MacDonald also could have said that if you look in there and see a man of integrity, you are looking at a man who probably knows integrity when he sees it, in himself or in those whose truth is true enough.

Now you know so there you go.

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Be the Change We Wish to See

The idea that excellence is a product of training isn’t surprising. Athletes, musicians, and those who achieve preeminence in other areas requiring superior personal performance are well-aware of the necessity and value of continuous training. The point that may not be as obvious is that training and habituation are prerequisites for areas of excellence beyond developing physical skills and individual talents. They are necessary for emotional excellence, moral excellence, interpersonal excellence, as well as intellectual excellence. The point that may be even less obvious is as Aristotle said, “Training and habituation are prerequisite to virtue. People have the capacity to be virtuous but become virtuous people only through training and habitually acting rightly. One becomes virtuous by acting virtuously.”

How does one act virtuously? Cicero advised, “It is our special duty, that if anyone needs our help, we should give him such help to the utmost of our power.” Confucius said, “To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue… gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.” Although how one practices “gravity” is less than obvious, the other four requirements need no explanation. John Wesley was even clearer when he said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” Now that leaves little room for doubt or negotiation.

The message has not changed over the millennia. Dante said, “He who sees a need and waits to be asked for help is as unkind as if he had refused it.” Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Is virtue the path to personal joy and fulfillment? Probably not. George Bernard Shaw said, “Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.” Why? As George Eliot put it, “Our deeds determine us as much as we determine our deeds.” Remember Aristotle’s message, “We are what we repeatedly do.” The choice is to habitually act rightly or to act wrongly. At that level, it’s not much of a choice. The key is remembering that acting virtuously is an essential part of one’s ongoing excellence training.

Now you know so there you go.

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With Style, All the Time, On Purpose

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity. – Christopher Morley

You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. – Doug Floyd

The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself. – Rita Mae Brown

Sticking to the high road can be quite challenging. Even so, the associated lessons all have two things in common. First, they usually are not particularly complicated. It certainly can sometimes take a while to get it; but once you do get it, the lesson is normally straight-up and to the point. Second, and here is the rub, the lessons invariably are a “So now you tell me!” kind of thing. Oh sure, hindsight is 20/20, live and learn, no one is perfect, and you are only human. Nonetheless, having learned your lesson is not much consolation once you have already missed important opportunities to stick to the high road. Yes, you may do better the next time; but your chance to get it right the first time has passed and will not return. Much better is to get it right, the first time, on time, every time.

It’s certainly true that no one is perfect, you are only human, and things only work out just the way you want them to in the movies. Life can be a real bear sometimes; but fortunately, you do not have to take responsibility for life. You are only on the hook for who you are and what you do. Here is a suggestion worth taking to heart. Start with developing a personal style that sets you apart, that lets everyone know that you are a class act. Think about people you know who stand out from the crowd, people who are certifiable class acts. They have three techniques down pat. First, they are originals. Their style and approach with people and situations are their trademarks. Second, they are not on-again, off-again. They are always uniquely themselves. Third, and here is the key: it is no accident. They usually make it seem easy and natural; but take a closer look and you will soon understand and appreciate how hard they work at it. They consciously and purposely do everything they do, with style, all the time, on purpose, one situation at a time, one person at a time.

Now you know so there you go.

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Failure May Not Be Necessary

Most people are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions. – Author unknown

All the mischiefs in the world may be put down to the general, indiscriminate veneration of old laws, old customs, and old religion. – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Stubbornness does have its helpful features. You always know what you are going to be thinking tomorrow. – Glen Beaman

The relationship between trial and suffering is a common theme in the success and motivation literature, although “failure” usually replaces “trial and suffering” in the equation. For example, Benjamin Disraeli said, “All my successes have been built on my failures.” The famous Anon. said, “Failure is a better teacher than success, but she seldom finds an apple on her desk;” and Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, said, “Most success springs from an obstacle or failure.” Maury Povich joined in too when he said, “There’s got to be a glitch along the way, or else you lose touch with reality.” Robert Louis Stevenson took the concept to the extreme, “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits;” and Winston Churchill echoed the theme, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Now isn’t that just dandy. It’s enough to make one get out there and fail just to get firmly on the path to success; and the bigger the failure, the better. “Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success,” according to Napoleon Hill. Perhaps a good measure of trial and suffering would also be a terrific addition to one’s optimal success strategy.

Interestingly, simply failing is, by itself, not sufficient. One must develop the right attitude toward failure. Reggie Jackson suggested, “I feel the most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it.” Dexter Yager said, “A winner is one who accepts his failures and mistakes, picks up the pieces, and continues striving to reach his goals.” It’s a get back on the horse kind of thing. Denis Waitley puts it this way, “Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.”

At least Norman Vincent Peale didn’t buy into the negative approach to success, “We’ve all heard that we have to learn from our mistakes, but I think it is more important to learn from our successes. If you learn only from your mistakes, you are inclined to learn only errors.” The conclusion here is simple. Fail if you absolutely can’t avoid it. If you fail, don’t quit. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. Having said that, success is always more fun than failing and there is never any shame in having fun. The key is to do the right things right, the first time, on time, every time. With that as your personal standard, you won’t always have fun but the odds will definitely favor your proactive approach to success.

Now you know so there you go.

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Now say, “You’re Welcome.”

Conformity: Every society honors its live conformists, and its dead troublemakers. – Mignon McLaughlin || Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path. – Author unknown

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” — Edward Everett Hale

A similar sentiment was expressed by William Penn “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” Your best strategy over the long-haul is to understand where people want to go and help them get there. You do this by talking with them about what aid and support they need from you and being sure they get it. It may seem more expedient to charge full-speed-ahead and others be damned; but being too self-serving ends up, in the long run, serving no one. Your success is best served by helping others succeed.

The glitch is that, no matter how well-intentioned, your offer to help is usually turned down or the response is, “I will let you know.” If you sincerely want to help, do not ask what you can do to help or wait to be asked. Think about what the person’s problem is or what they want to accomplish and then do something helpful. Proactively helping is most always much more helpful than help that is merely offered though it does take a little more time, a little more thought, and a little more effort. “Did that help?” is often the best question you can ask. As Sunshine Magazine pointed out, “He who gives when he is asked has waited too long.”

The famous Anon. had a particularly pithy way of emphasizing the importance of being proactive with others, “Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful.” Albert Schweitzer and William James respectively joined the help when you can, wherever you can chorus. “Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him;” and “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” Perhaps the last word on it should go to George Bernard Shaw who said, “This is the true joy in life – being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Now you know so there you go.

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The Perfect Rejoinder

I have made what may be one of the world’s seventeen greatest discoveries. It is this: “Always keep it short and to the point.” You may disagree, citing Robert Southey who said, “It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn,” or Shakespeare who promised in Hamlet, “Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.”

Of course you are not questioning my point, just my assertion that I personally made the discovery. Naturally, I know that Baltasar Gracián said that “Good things, when short, are twice as good.,” in The Art of Worldly Wisdom; and Thomas Jefferson said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

These great minds along with many others counsel us to be concise and not impose on the patience of anyone when we can avoid it. They have mostly intended their advice for the written word. For example, Lord Sandwich advised, “If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over
the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

Or even more expansively and intending his point for every-day conversation, Mozart reported this, “My great-grandfather used to say to his wife, my great-grandmother, who in turn told her daughter, my grandmother, who repeated it to her daughter, my
mother, who used to remind her daughter, my own sister, that to talk well and eloquently was a very great art, but that an equally great one was to know
the right moment to stop.”

Dennis Roth made the same point but even briefer, “If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind, give it more thought;” and David Belasco was even more pithy, “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.” The point is whether writing or talking, don’t be who Rabelais was talking about when he said, “He replies nothing but monosyllables. I believe he would make three bites of a cherry.” William Strunk Jr.cut to the chace for us, “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” Just omit whatever is not necessarily necessary.

That brings me back to my great discovery. Yes, I am still saying that it is my discovery, even though others have argued for brevity and conciseness long before I ever had a useful thought. Here is the discovery part of my discovery.

Whenever anyone starts to argue with whatever you have said or done, always keep it short and to the point. You will be tempted to reciprocate with a counter-argument, further explanation or justification, but there is seldom any point to the effort. Winning arguments is most always a futile hope. Instead, calmly wait until the other person has stopped pressing their argument – and they will stop sooner or later. At that point, simply say, “Thanks for sharing your perspective.” If the other person picks back up with arguing, wait and repeat.

You may not think this is one of the seventeen greatest discoveries ever, but don’t reject it until you’ve tried it.

Now you know so there you go.

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Polar Logic

“We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” Although Longfellow’s pronouncement has superficial plausibility, it’s merely an example of polar logic. One pole is what you feel capable of doing and the other is what you have already done. The judgment reduces to can and did. You judge yourself based on “can” and others judge you based on “did.” The reality is that such judgments rarely reduce to either can or did, for you or for others who judge you.

Look first at “can.” If this is a judgment you make about yourself, is it reasonable to make it without considering “did?” Relying exclusively on what you think you can do, without considering what you have done, places no value on prior experience. It also acknowledges an inability to learn. Alternatively, if you consider did to the exclusion of can, your behavior is simply repetitive; and you will need to take Albert Einstein’s observation to heart, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Look next at “did.” If others are expecting change, improvement, innovation, or new approaches and strategies, you aren’t the person they need. They can only expect you to do again what you did before. Unless “can” is considered, nothing new or different ever happens. The conclusion is that can and did aren’t separable. They are the head and tail of the coin of progress.

How then should one approach success? What is the best strategy for blending did and can? Arthur Schopenhauer pointed out, “a man can do as he will, but not will as he will.” The message is that you can’t simply “will” things to happen. You have a wide range of options for doing but no magical powers. Alexander Graham Bell said, “The most successful men in the end are those whose success is the result of steady accretion … It is the man who carefully advances step by step, with his mind becoming wider and wider – and progressively better able to grasp any theme or situation – persevering in what he knows to be practical, and concentrating his thought upon it, who is bound to succeed in the greatest degree.”

The basis for judgment is now clearer. You and those who judge you focus on both did and can. Success is a blending of the two sides of the coin; and if your goal is to get a thumbs-up from you and from others, you need to get high marks on this short quiz. – Good luck!

1. Are you carefully advancing, step by step?

2. Is your mind becoming wider and wider?

3. Are you persevering in what you know to be practical?

4. Are you concentrating on succeeding?

Sure, it’s simply a variation on the old story, “Nothing succeeds like success.”

Now you know so there you go.

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Excellence Is a Habbit

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather we have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle

The idea that excellence is a product of training isn’t surprising. Athletes, musicians, and those who achieve preeminence in other areas requiring superior personal performance are well-aware of the necessity and value of continuous training. The point that may not be as obvious is that training and habituation are prerequisites for areas of excellence beyond developing physical skills and individual talents. They are necessary for emotional excellence, moral excellence, interpersonal excellence, as well as intellectual excellence. The point that may be even less obvious is that Aristotle also said that training and habituation are prerequisite to virtue. People have the capacity to be virtuous but become virtuous people only through training and habitually acting rightly. One becomes virtuous by acting virtuously.

How does one act virtuously? Cicero advised, “It is our special duty, that if anyone needs our help, we should give him such help to the utmost of our power.” Confucius said, “To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue… gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.” Although how one practices “gravity” is less than obvious, the other four requirements need no explanation. John Wesley was even clearer when he said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” Now that leaves little room for doubt or negotiation.

The message has not changed over the millennia. Dante said, “He who sees a need and waits to be asked for help is as unkind as if he had refused it.” Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Is virtue the path to personal joy and fulfillment? Probably not. George Bernard Shaw said, “Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.” Why? As George Eliot put it, “Our deeds determine us as much as we determine our deeds.” Remember Aristotle’s message, “We are what we repeatedly do.” The choice is to habitually act rightly or to act wrongly. At that level, it’s not much of a choice. The key is remembering that acting virtuously is an essential part of one’s ongoing excellence training.

Now you know so there you go.

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New Kid In Town

Hello and welcome to Audio Tidbits.

I am the newest member of the podcasting team and am excited to have this opportunity to talk with you today.

As the new guy on the team, it’s not easy to know exactly how to behave and what to share with you as my first chance at podcasting. I suspect you have been in the position of being the new kid in town. If you were like me today, you weren’t quite sure how things work at your new gig and are anxious to get off to a good start. To say the least, it’s a little awkward. Even so, I am taking a very big silent breath and hoping for the best. Here I go.

I thought I’d share with you as my first podcast some thoughts about being helpful and helping others. I know, maybe I’m just hoping that you are patient and help me get off to that good start we all hope for when starting something new.

Edward Everett Hale said, “Look up and not down. Look forward and not back. Look out and not in, and lend a hand.”

You are seldom too busy or stressed to lend a hand, pitch in, to help others succeed. This does not mean that you let others intrude on your personal space or time. Rather, it means that you are usually able and willing to assist, help when there is an immediate need, do what you can for others, deal with what needs dealt with.

I sure hope I got that one right and you really are someone who wants to be helpful when you can. At the same time, I trust that I haven’t intruded on your personal space or time. Well sure,I know that I intruded but hope that you’re pleased that you pressed play and shared a little of your valuable time with me. I sure appreciate getting to spend this time with you.

Thanks and I hope we get to share some time together again real soon.

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The Very Dickens To Change

Samuel Johnson told us that the chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken; and John Dryden added that ill habits gather by unseen degrees — As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas.

The truth of it is that Arnold Bennett got it right when he said that habits are the very dickens to change. Abigail Van Buren was also on point when she added that a bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project. Of course Mark Twain was also there, egar to join in, “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

Naturally, St. Augustine had a wise caution for us, “Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.;” and as we would expect, Mark Twain inserted his take here on putting too much stock in saints and wisdom, “To have nothing the matter with you and no habits is pretty tame, pretty colorless. It is just the way a saint feels, I reckon; it is at least the way he looks. I never could stand a saint.”

“Habit is a man’s sole comfort. We dislike doing without even unpleasant things to which we have become accustomed,” according to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. We already knew that habbits are sticky and not easily abandoned so aren’t surprised that Georg Christoph Lichtenberg added that habit might be described as a kind of moral friction — as something not allowing easy passage to the mind, but rather so binding it to things that to work loose from them is difficult. A Spanish Proverb puts it like this, “Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables;” and Horace Mann like this, “Habit is a cable; we weave a thread each day, and at last we cannot break it.”

As much as there is to say on the side of giving up our bad habbits, Eng’s Principle advises that “The easier it is to do, the harder it is to change;” and bad habbits are definitly hard to change. At least mine are and I suspect yours are too, so we don’t want to stop short, without reminding ourselves that habbits are not without virtue. Frank Crane said that habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them, either. They keep you. Well that may not be quite the virtue we had in mind so let’s leave it with this from William James, “Habit is thus the enormous flywheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor.”

Now you know so there you go.

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