Uncompensated Expense

“The basic difference between being
assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behaviour affect the rights
and well being of others.” — Sharon
Anthony Bower

Assertively stick up for yourself. This level of personal
initiative extends to people and organizations with which you are associated.
Of course, needs are prioritized and have to be met. Interests need to be
pursued. Personal and organizational goals need to be realized. For you,
though, meeting your needs at the uncompensated expense of other people is
unacceptable. As Euripides observed, “Joint undertakings stand a better chance
when they benefit both sides.”

Pursuing self-interest in ways that prevent others from pursuing
their interests is problematic. Reaching goals in ways that make it impossible
for other people to reach their goals is to be avoided whenever possible.
Sticking up for one’s self and one’s interests is consistent with your approach
to everything, so long as every reasonable effort is made to avoid injuring
other people and their interests.


“To have a grievance is to have a purpose
in life.” — Eric Hoffer

You are slow to complain. This is because you only complain when
you are very sure that you have a significant, valid grievance and that
pursuing it stands a reasonable chance of changing things for the better, from
your perspective. You seldom complain just to express displeasure, resentment,
or dissatisfaction. You complain because you want to change something and think
you will succeed. Complaints are, thus, proactive, not reactive.


“Don’t make excuses, make good.”
– The Famous Anon.

You don’t make excuses for not getting the job done. Since you
most always get the job done, the situation does not come up very often. When
it does happen that you don’t get the job done, you accept full and personal
responsibility for the outcome. Even if circumstances have worked against
getting the expected outcome or if someone else hasn’t done what they were
supposed to do, you accept responsibility for not anticipating the problem or
glitch. You know that, had you been smarter or cleverer, you would have
anticipated and handled the situation. Through accepting responsibility and
retrospective analysis, both your cognitive and intuitive capacities will serve
you better the next time.

Bridges To Cross and Bridges To Burn

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small
enough to win.” — Jonathan Kozol

In the realm of life’s little lessons, this seems axiomatic. The
problem is that many of the battles that are big enough to matter aren’t small
enough to win; and those that are small enough to win tend not to matter. The
challenge is in knowing when to fight and when to walk away. Kozol’s advice is
to fight if the outcome matters and you can win, otherwise walk away. Although
this is certainly a practical approach to self-preservation, it’s also a clear
cop out. There are battles that matter way too much to avoid, even though
winning is far from certain.

The more important lesson may be in David Russell’s observation,
“The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to
burn.” Life is full of conflicts and tensions, battles large and small, bridges
to cross and bridges to burn. Life is a journey; and usually, when it isn’t
working out, you can change direction, back up and start again, and generally
change your plans. Now and then, though, the bridge has burned and there is no
turning back, nothing to do but live with the choices you have made.

No, there isn’t an easy way to know when to cross that bridge
and when to let it burn, when to be decisive and when to equivocate, when to
hold back and when to make an irreversible choice. However, there are questions
that you can ask and answer before choosing.

1. “Am I burning any bridges by making this choice?”

2. “Are the bridges being burned ones over which I may want to
cross again?”

3. “If I cannot cross a bridge again, what will I do instead, if
the time comes when doing something else is necessary?”

4. “If I cross this bridge, how will I handle it, if things
don’t work out as I hope they will?”

5. “How will I be worse off if I neither cross the bridge ahead
of me nor burn the one behind me, including the lost opportunity cost?”

So, you have asked the questions. You have answered the questions.
What next? Stand up straight, take a deep breath, and deal with that bridge.
Cross it; burn it; take a different road; but whatever you choose, don’t forget
the old Chinese proverb, “Talk doesn’t cook rice.”

The Companion Of Wisdom

“Life is tough, but it’s tougher when
you’re stupid.” — John Wayne

It’s surprising hearing Wayne
confirm this, from first hand experience, one might assume. Socrates said, “The
only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Since knowing nothing
and being stupid are pretty close to being equivalent, maybe Wayne had true wisdom, as a compensating
virtue. The interesting notion is that knowing nothing and true wisdom can
possibly co-exist. Sigmund Freud added to the critical perspective when he
said, “What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of
the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.” You can take the word
of no less authority than Freud and John Wayne. Stupidity, knowing nothing,
feeble mindedness, and wisdom may inhabit the same soul. That’s likely why
Woodrow Wilson advised, “We should not only use the brains we have, but all
that we can borrow.”

“Wisdom” seems to be the key to figuring out how this works,
since being stupid, being feeble minded, and knowing nothing are clear enough.
Elbert Hubbard offered a clue when he said, “Every man is a damn fool for at
least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.”
Sure, “damn fool” gets added to stupid, etc. but Hubbard hints at a way out of
the denseness. Limit how often you are stupid, feeble minded, know nothing, and
are generally being a damn fool. Yes, this kind of self control is tough but,
as St. Augustine
said, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” The choice is between wisdom and
stupidity; and although you can be a damn fool right away, wisdom may take a
while. For that, you will need to be patient.

What do you do while you are being patient? Doug Larson
suggested, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d
have preferred to talk.” There it is. Listen and learn. Wisdom will come in its
own time, if you are patient and resist the temptation to be a damn fool.