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Do I Really Have Anything to Say?

Speaking encouragement through simplicity

bugs and daffy

For the uninitiated (or just the too darned young – that was 1957!), that’s Daffy Duck in the title. In the episode, he and Bugs Bunny had just battled over who controlled a genie and, as a result, the gold and riches in a mine. Because he was being greedy, the genie in the mine shrunk him down to the size of one of the gems. He was content to take a single gem for himself and ran off with it, unwilling to share it with anyone. The funny part of this is that he had spent the first part of the cartoon fighting with Bugs over the contents of the whole mine but, now that he was small, one gem was enough.

Is there a lesson here? I don’t know about you, but it tells me that we often get caught up in the trappings of success in material ways and lose sight of our regular accomplishments, taking them for granted now, though they were unbelievable just a few short years ago. Think about it. When we’re just out of college, we’re thrilled to get an apartment above a garage that has enough room for our futon. The older we get, our standards go up and before we know it, we “need” 3000+ sq ft with an acre of land. Why? Did we get bigger? Do we sleep better on a non-futon? (Well, being Americans, maybe we did get bigger and I don’t know about you but have you not felt the wonders of a pillow-top mattress?) Satisfaction need not be proportional, so don’t let your appetite outstrip your enjoyment of them.

But I digress. Aside from keeping up with the Joneses (which I think I’m pretty good about not doing: witness my 11-year old Volvo), what drives these “needs”? And at what cost? Is it better to have a bigger house now and less set aside for retirement? Is the money better spent on a big screen TV or on a water project in Belize? Better to have stainless steel appliances or know that 20 children can go to school in Malawi? These are all personal judgments and our decisions are based on our individual priorities. For that matter, define “better”. I mean to neither make an inference or impact your future decisions – I just think it’s important that we take the time to appreciate how fortunate we are just to have the choice of how to spend our money when so many others are without choice or money.

Assuming we have the wondrous choices above, let’s take a moment to reflect on how we have reached these levels of success. Did you work hard, behave ethically in the workplace, not take advantage of your coworkers and customers? Or did you step on everyone’s head on the way up to the top? Would the people you work with (and more importantly, the ones who work for you) agree with your tactics? Would they also agree with your assessment of yourself? In other words, does your life pass the red face test?

So many of us are so focused on that end that we ignore the means we use to achieve it. Focusing on the how is just as important as the what. Has that held me back in my career? Possibly. Do I regret it? No. My family is cared for. Nobody is starving. We’re about to move into a beautiful new home. Would I like to have more margin? Absolutely. But I am able to sleep well knowing that I have not walked all over others on the way to where I am. I’d much rather toss and turn about saving for college than toss and turn about how I’ve achieved my successes.

We all understand that our actions have consequences – most of us don’t run around murdering people – but those are societal consequences. What about consequences that impact people’s lives. I’ve seen homes broken, marriages strained, children starved for attention.  So as you blaze your career path, consider the consequences of your actions after work as much as you consider them at the office. Don’t presume the whole cave – be content with the gem.

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