Decide when enough is enough

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We are constantly accosted by materialism, commercialism, and consumerism. Unless resisted, these powerful and not-so-subtle ideologies can create in us an insatiable desire for more stuff.

Madison Avenue has colluded with manufacturers and distributors to establish an elaborate network of products, suppliers, and salespersons to feed our addiction. The advertising industry is determined to blur the lines between perception and reality and between what we need and what they want us to want.

Few people have ever considered the alternative – that it’s possible, and even advantageous, to own a fixed number of items. At some point in our lives, we must resist the urge to accumulate more stuff and become content with what we have.

A firm answer to just one question will help establish a balanced perspective on material possessions, and it will help bring clarity, control, and peace to our lives.

When is enough, enough?

Everyone needs an answer to that question. Everyone needs to complete this statement and hold firm to the commitment: “I have ____ possessions, and that’s enough.” 

LIFE – One of the hardest things to do in life is to see ourselves as others see us.  Bill George

LEADERSHIP – The best leaders talk often about the future and how it will be better than the present. Barry Conchie

LIFE – Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts.

LEADERSHIP – When facing a problem ask two questions. Why is this happening? What are you going to do about it? Larry Bossidy

LIFE – Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.   Will Durant

LEADERSHIP – A well-handled problem usually breeds more loyalty than you had before the negative incident. If we make a mistake, apologize and fix the problem quickly, many customers will like us more than if we had never made the mistake at all.  Parker Heil

Avoid the hot-stove effect

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The hot-stove effect was first proffered by humorist Mark Twain.

“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”

Throughout life, we should be careful not to overreact to painful experiences. Failures, embarrassing moments, and hurtful events – if not properly processed – can have an inordinate impact on our lives and dissuade us from “jumping on the stove” again.

Carefully study and analyze all of your experiences and put them into proper perspective (even positive experiences, if not properly processed, can lead to unhealthy behavior).

For example:

  • You may abandon a helpful technology because your first experience with it was distasteful.
  • Some divorcees feign the thought of marrying again because of the hurt they sustained in a former marriage.
  • Not being accepted into your school of our choice may discourage you from pursuing formal education.

I have been a public speaker and teacher for 30 years, but two embarrassing moments in my early years might have derailed this aspect of my career.

When I was eight years old I was asked (with no prior notice) to stand in front of my Sunday School class and pray aloud. I froze…awkward silence ensued…kids giggled…I was embarrassed.

But the following week, one of my teachers took the time to meet with me and he spoke words of comfort and encouragement, helped me compose a written prayer, and coached me as I practiced reading it aloud in the same room where the nightmare took place, and he arranged for me to speak the prayer in the same Sunday School Class the next Sunday. All went well and I fully recovered from the debacle.

In high school, I was vice president of my senior class. Once, when speaking before the student body, I planned on using the phrase “hook, line, and sinker,” as in, “he was so naive that he swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.” But in my speech the phrase came out “sink, line and hooker.”

My classmates were unmerciful. Unfortunately, no one helped me process what had happened; fortunately, I thought carefully about the incident by myself and decided that though it was a bad experience, it need not be a life-changing one.

A wonderful way to love others is to recognize when they may be susceptible to the hot-stove effect and take the initiative to help them process the incident and put it into proper perspective. I will be forever grateful for my Sunday School teacher (I cannot even remember his name); he might have salvaged my future career.

Summary

What? – We often misinterpret and overreact to painful experiences.
So what? – You may suffer from the hot-stove effect, but you can recover.
Now what? – Individually, identify and study your life-wounds – both small and large – to see if you have overreacted to them. Based on a more accurate assessment, adjust your thinking and behaviors. Look for opportunities to help other people negotiate their burned paws.

Leaders – Consider how your organization may be suffering from the hot-stove effect. A good place to start is to analyze past failures and trauma.

LIFE – I have argued that the difficulty with many traditional views of reality is not that they are wrong, but that they are partial. This creates a difficulty because what is not explained turns out to be greater than what is.  McGregor

LEADERSHIP – To keep misfits in jobs they cannot do is not being kind; it is being cruel. Drucker

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Portfolio Hardcover, 2008)

Why do some people excel in life? Conventional wisdom offers two answers: they are gifted (they have a special gene that the rest of us don’t have) or they work really hard.

But according to scientific research neither of these answers is correct. The key, Colvin suggests, is “deliberate practice” which is a discipline anyone can develop.

Colvin is an engaging writer so your concentration will not wane.

There are few books that I have read more than once. This is one of them.