Are You Racing to the Bottom?

By Seth Godin (Go to his blog to read the post)

Shameless vs. shameful

There aren’t many fundamental human emotions, and shame is certainly one of them.

Shame is usually caused by a collision between our behavior and our culture. Society uses shame to enforce norms and set standards. When you’re alone in the forest, there’s not a lot of shame.

Too often, marketers, politicians and others with money and power use shame as a cudgel, as a harsh tool to gain control. And it’s usually directed at those least able to thrive in the face of this sort of onslaught.

I’m not sure we’d want to live in a culture where shameful behavior is completely accepted, where sociopaths and selfish short-term people abuse our trust.

At the same time, I think we need to be really clear about the difference between shameful behavior and shaming a person.

_shutterstock_648807352Shaming a person is a senseless shortcut. When we say to someone, “you’re never going to amount to anything,” when we act like we want to lock them up and throw away the key, when we conflate the behavior with the human–we’ve hurt everyone. We’ve killed dreams, eliminated possibility and broken any chance for a connection.

The alternative is to be really clear about which behavior crossed the line. To correct that behavior at the very same time we open the door for our fellow citizen to become the sort of person we’d like to engage with.

“How dare you,” is a fine way to establish that people like us don’t do things like that. It is a norm-setting device, a clear indication that certain behaviors aren’t welcome and demand an explanation.

shamingAs the media available to each of us turns just about every interaction into a worldwide,hyper-competitive conflict, there’s way too much shameless posturing and division. If you want to “win” in social media or politics, you’re no longer trying to be the class clown among twenty high school students, you’re racing to the bottom among a hundred million teenagers or candidates. Multiply that by every endeavor and you can see why there’s so much shameless posturing.

Racing to the top is far preferable. Because the problem with a race to the bottom is you might win. Or come in second, which is even worse.

What I learned from the Ironman that changed my life

The Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride ending with a 26.2-mile marathon run. What went on from the very instant I decided to attempt it to finally finishing the race taught me more than I could have ever learned from a college degree of study.

“It was like anything that has ever been worthwhile in my life; it was hard, painful and memorable.” Michael Lantz

It was like anything that has ever been worthwhile in my life; it was hard, painful and memorable. I learned a great deal about the conflict of my body hurting and wanting to stop and my mind playing tricks on me, tempting me to quit.

If I had to sum up the top three things I learned about myself it would include these.

Commitment

I learned that my level of commitment is equal to the importance I place on my goals and dreams. When I decided to do my first Ironman on April 15, 2007, I was all in. I was not going to let anything get in the way of crossing that finish line. 

Paying the price

I personally know three convicts. Each sentenced for different crimes. One served 2 years and the other two men served 5+ year sentences. One is still serving and slated to be released sometime next year.

One of them that served two years had a tough life upon returning home. He was married and his wife faithfully waited and supported him during his incarceration. I worked with him before he served his sentence. I worked with his wife during his absence and again with him after he returned home.

Unfortunately their marriage ended and several years of a tough child custody battle raged. In the end his wife was awarded primary custody of their children. It took a toll on her and the children. They didn’t really like being with him or his new wife afterward. After several hard years his wife is getting back on her feet and

Who can you believe today?

I’ve listened to people I knew and my ears were immediately closed.

I’ve listened to complete strangers and my ears were completely open to hear more.

Why is that? Was it possible that the people I knew had a message that I needed to hear but I shut my ears?

I’ve had messages for others that knew me and I was sure they didn’t listen even though I was sure they would benefit from the truth taught. I’ve even had messages for others that didn’t know me but their ears were opened.

There is a saying, “Line upon line. Precept upon precept. Here a little. There a little.” If I tell you these simple things and you don’t believe me, how shall you believe me if I tell you truths of a higher magnitude?

Like a smart mentor told me once. If I’m helping an airline pilot, speak to him/her in their language. Such as, if I was wanted to teach them the concept of breaking though a personal barrier, I’d want them to know that it would take a great effort in the beginning as they were making new changes and then they would be rewarding with comfort after they broke through. To explain in their language I might use the analogy they’d probably understand. I’d explain in the beginning of making new changes that it would be like giving the plane full throttle upon taking off to break the earth’s gravity until the plane reached cruising altitude and then they could ease off the throttle and the plane would fly faster and in comfort.

Next time you need to teach a concept to an adult start with teaching as if you’re speaking to a child who is learning it for the first time. As my smart mentor taught me, if I’m speaking to child, speak to him/her in their language.

Line upon line. Precept upon precept. Here a little. There a little.

You get it!

 

Seeing that which no one else sees

I’ve had my kids try and explain certain things to me that they could understand but I couldn’t. “Oh, dad!” they’d exclaim.

I understand things that I wished my kids would let me teach them. “Dad, that’s old stuff!” they’d roll their eyes back in their heads.

I’m sure you totally understand certain things that you wished everyone could see as clearly as you.

When I finally understand a truth it’s really a blessing to me. I’m sure you feel the same way.

I like the quote, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

It seems to me that the key for me to teach the truth to my children is recognizing when they are ready to be taught. Usually I know they are ready when they ask me for advice or help (I like it when they tell me how smart I really am when they learn to deal with their own children). At other times when they may be struggling and I have knowledge that will help them I’ll simply ask, “I used to struggle with that too. I don’t anymore. Would you be open to learning what I did?” Almost always they will say yes.

I’m sure why you see things that others don’t is that you were once the “student” who was ready to learn. You either found a teacher or the teacher somehow found you.

Now I know why blind people can see better than those with sight. It’s that “ready to learn” pair of glasses.