Failure is Meaningless – AND Meaningful

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Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, victim of the Holocaust and author of the most impactive book on a purpose-driven existence (Man’s Search for Meaning), wrote, “Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” In the same vein, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

How true is the life philosophy that such sayings promote? To be frank their veracity can probably be underlined by the fact that so many writers on the subject of personal development and the associated psychologies quote them. But their popularity does not necessarily make them right, any more than Lady Gaga’s views on American politics have a sound academic base because she writes nice songs.*

What is your experience?

My own life is a series of successes, followed by severe disappointments followed by bounce-backs followed by plummeting failure and back again. In fact, if I delve too deeply into my history I’ll probably depress myself – which is okay because I’ll come right back in any case. History says so.

Seriously, most successes have a history of failures to look back on. (Some successes still have those failures to come!) Two good example are Abraham Lincoln – many, many failures in terms of his political ambitions before becoming arguably the greatest US President to date – and Winston Churchill, who was up and down like the proverbial whore’s drawers (best simile I could find, sorry) between:

  • entering Parliament, becoming Home Secretary and being hauled over the coals for personally attending a siege,
  • later First Lord of the Admiralty, resigning over Gallipoli and sending himself to the Western Front,
  • then being constantly carped at over his warning about a famous German painter and decorator before
  • finally being given total command over Britain’s defence during WWII, then
  • voted out of power immediately after victory before
  • becoming PM again at the age of 77 before finally retiring from politics at 81.

Churchill could really have been forgiven for thinking, ‘Bugger all this’ instead of more famously deciding to ‘Keep Buggering On!’

Both these famous men, along with the likes of Gandhi, Malala Yousufzai, Britney Spears, Drew Barrymore and Robert Downey Jr, are testament to the fact that if you have a deep, meaningful reason for doing what you do (and a talent for it that people recognise and appreciate) then the occasional setback – even the really embarrassing ones – need not be your Final Act.

The examples I use – celebrities and politicians – may not have had to deal with quite the levels of Nietzsche’s ‘what’ that Frankl suffered (concentration camp bereavements and horrible experimentation visited upon his person) but ultimately they had a sense of purpose that drove them through the pain and back towards success. As some sage put it – “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.” (I’d say Ducky from NCIS but I think he pinched it).

I’m still really awaiting my next comeback after my last setback, but it’ll come. Meanwhile I have a sense of meaning that revolves around my grandchildren and their parents. (Is that order somehow symbolic?) I am lucky in that income isn’t a big issue – not rich, but secure – and maybe one day all this writing will ‘pay’ off. But if it doesn’t I’m still going to try.

I’m going to try because The Third Resolution drives even the biggest failures towards optimism. It drives me and it serves others – even if they haven’t been served yet. They’ll come around when they need me.

Which reminds me, the grandkids are coming around and I need to brace myself……..

*She may well have a degree in politics but THAT will be why her views have strength, not because she has a Poker Face.

The Daily Win.

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I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again. All those Californian, rich(ish) personal development speakers and writers and their ‘Rise at 5AM and exercise’ freaks are invited to come and live where I do in South Wales, where it’s easier to pick up the dog eggs in the garden at 6AM because they’re rock hard with ice. Where the idea of a home gym is fine if you live with a spare room big enough for a running machine or static bike, said room being centrally heated to at least ‘bearable’ for that early effort. And where going to bed early so as to get a decent kip before getting up at 5AM isn’t easy because the road and neighbours aren’t 100 yards away and are living their noisy lives while you try to drop off. And fitness clubs remain an expensive luxury.

Which is not to say that exercising is impossible. So far this calendar year, with the exception of the 1st and the 9th, I have exercised daily. Furthermore, with two exceptions, I have done so as soon as I got out of bed. Which, lucky me, is 7.30AM because I ain’t got a proper job.

I have a spin bike, a relatively inexpensive yet reliable (3 years so far) model. I have a mount (thank you Santa) for a 7” tablet through which I watch YouTube videos which inform, entertain or anger depending on the day’s choice. And a garden shed to put it in. There simply is no room in the main dwelling. You see, I am not a financial success like all those 5AM loonies. I am a moderate professional success on that I have always been employed doing work I enjoy, on the public purse in their service. So none of that ‘earn twice as much, work half as hard’ twaddle that Brian Tracy and Jack Canfield promote – which is valid for the entrepreneur or commission-paid individual but not the vast majority of us. If I wanted to earn twice as much as a copper I’d have had to work 76 hour weeks AND ask permission, first.

Each of us loves in his or her own circumstances, which do not necessarily reflect those described by such writers. Some do. Lucky them.

Back to me.

What gets me out of bed at 7.30AM, or more specifically onto the bike at 7.40AM, is The First Resolution. ‘To overcome the restraining forces of appetites and passions, I resolve to work on self-discipline and self-denial.’ I don’t want to ride a bike first, but it would be rude of a promoter of such a concept not to try. So that’s what gets me up. My Integrity. Doing the things I don’t like to do because (a) they serve me and (b) I said I would. If only to myself.

I should also be up front and state that it doesn’t work every day. If I don’t sleep well I’d make the next day worse, not better, if I self-flagellated with exercise before starting work. (I can always exercise afterwards, if I feel up to it.) But here, the point isn’t to apply self-discipline to the point of self-punishment. That’s a route to failure.

But I will also add that doing that exercise first, and educating myself while I do so, sets me up for the day exactly as Stephen Covey promotes in his books. He calls it the Daily Private Victory and to be fair, that’s as good a description of that process as any. It is (as he also puts it) mind over mattress. Long term gain over short term discomfort. Many cliches, all accurate.

I get up. I go out into the cold shed and exercise.

I win. The rest of the day is a breeze.

So much so, this took 15 minutes to write. In the flow. And with integrity – nothing I write is a lie to myself or to my reader. Whoever you are.

Be disciplined. But be disciplined early. Ish.

I never heard David Frost swear.

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We all have an ego. Most of us would prefer to use the expression ‘self-esteem’ because for some reason it lessons any sense of self-importance implied by the shorter word. Ego is a perfectly good term and its strength lies somewhere along a continuum that runs from ‘inert’ to ‘huge gravitational pull.’ I suppose that an ideal strength-level for a reasonable ego would be self-confidence borne of principled competence and character (and thus representative of compliance with The Second Resolution).

Some, however – usually those most vociferous and combative on Twitter in my experience – suffer from an excess, an over-confidence borne from being right, once, then venerated for it regardless of their actual knowledge or character. Or they have truly, expertly specialised in one field only to be asked their opinion on things well outside their Circle of Influence – and they freely give it, uninformed as it may be.

To my mind you can often tell the difference between modest, controlled, ‘self-respect’ level ego and the ‘ooh, look at how clever I am’ ego merely by watching a conversation (verbal or Twittery) take place.

A comment is made, and the reply is:

  • a straightforward attack with no effort to address the argument originally made (huge ego),
  • a question with an evident sub-text (high ego),
  • or a genuine question or provision of alternative, researched facts (principled ego, which is borne of a desire to check or clarify understanding).

 (Another weird one I have seen is when someone genuinely knows something and asks someone else ‘am I right in thinking…..’. That might not seem egotistical on first glance but in that case the sub-text is ‘Tell me again how clever I am.’)

Have you committed any of the sins described, or do you try as hard as I do to be in the third group? I am not always successful. Sometimes I have missed a crucial point and go off on one. But in the main I try to be in group 3, asking questions to seek clarification or providing some kind of reference for my thinking.

Unfortunately there are also those who you know will make their same arguments, or attacks. You know this, in the main, by the language they use about their opponents in the debate. Reference to people they have never met by the various insults available just demonstrate how ignorant, rude and ideological they are. A case in point.

In the 1980s a new, alternative comedy arose. On the face of it, great. No more stereotype humour based on race, religion or mothers-in-law. Meanwhile, lampooning silliness on the part of politicians remained de rigeur. Then the pendulum swung the other way, and now the abuse is directed by name, using words which were banned from use on TV until the late 70s. Politicians are no longer just lampooned for their acts. They are call the c-word. By name. They are fat-shamed, which wouldn’t be permitted against fellow celebs or the public, as a rule.

The comedians responsible for that should be ashamed of themselves. Some of them are exceptionally talented, funny gagsters. But I now find myself turning the off as soon as they start their ideological diatribes, and definitely move on when their personal abuse starts.

I hope their egos can cope. They must need a garage or second home for them.

If your objective has any nobility about it, you don’t need the language. You certainly don’t need the language if your argument has any merit. If you have any character, you don’t need the ego-boost of looking clever by bandying bad language at those who, much as you might think otherwise, can’t hit back using the same weaponry.

Although to be frank, I look forward to the day I hear Boris Johnson call Russell Howard a c**t.

The Christmas Excuse. Bin it.

Here we go again. ‘Tis the season to be merry, and in that spirit I anticipate entry into the annual merry-go-round that is the promise that “I’ll do it when we get Christmas out of the way,” I say merry-go-round because without any doubt whatsoever you know someone who says that and then, immediately after Christmas, replaces that festival with ‘New Year’, ‘Half-term’, ‘Easter’, ‘kid’s exams’, ‘the holidays’, ‘new school year’ and ‘we’re back to Christmas’. I do. I’ve forgotten what our oak dining table looks like, it’s been used as a laundry depot for so long. That’s other people dealt with. Now you/me.

These promises parallel the traditional New Year’s Resolutions, promises made to ourselves in respect of which we excuse inaction for similar reasons. This year I suspect it’ll be, “Well, New Year’s Day is a Friday, and I’ll be sleeping the night off. Then it’s the weekend so I won’t start then. I’m back at work on Monday the 4th, I’ll give it the beans then. Oh, look at all this work that built up because of my Christmas excuse, I’ll just get that out of the way….” And the failure loop spins ever onwards.

That’s the easy option, the comfortable one. The one that almost relies on stuff to happen so that we can excuse the lack of the one thing that changes everything*.

Self-discipline.

There is a continuum that runs from ‘things we like to do’ to ‘things we hate doing’. As the line runs from left to right, the levels of discipline required to do those things rises exponentially. People applaud the successful athlete and artiste, and it is true that the greats have imposed self-discipline on themselves, but I believe that their self-discipline is a reflection of the fact that they are doing what they love. It’s minimally required.

I believe in this motto:

Self-discipline is doing the things you don’t want to do because doing them serves you; Self-Denial is NOT doing the things you want to do, because doing them does NOT serve you.

To me, that couplet defines part of the route to success in any endeavour. Not all of it, because character and competence play an extremely important role as well.

In essence, the time we spend fighting against having to make the choice to do/not do what is under consideration would be better spent elsewhere.

Which means that immediately ‘Christmas is OVER’ you decide what levels of discipline you are willing to exercise in each of the roles you play in the great movie called Life, and then you start executing on that choice vigorously. Make the Hard Choice, or more pertinently Make the Harder Choice. When you don’t want to do something that you’ve decided serves you and that you privately committed to doing – Do It. Do It Now.

Author Mel Robbins wrote a whole book about the idea that when you think, “I have to….” Then you count down 5-4-3-2-1 and then just do it. I have used this to get out of bed on a cold morning, among other, more challenging choices. You can use it to go for a run, clean the car, actually do the things you said you’d do ‘after Christmas.

The time and mental effort you save will astound you.

Happy Christmas. Enjoy the break – you have a lot to do when it’s over.

(*Stephen Covey Jr says that is Trust, but my experience tells me otherwise.)

Wipe away the Tiers with Proactivity

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What a mess we are in, and what a mess the authorities seem to be creating. I don’t know whether they are right to create fear about a virulent flu that is a threat, whether this is a gross over-reaction to an annual event (and will happen every year for the foreseeable future), or whether it is a failing effort to reduce greenhouse gasses using the annual plague as an excuse. All I do know is that it is creating havoc for people, like me, who ‘make plans’ only for the prevailing rules to change 24 hours later. And I am lucky – I have no business or formal employment to worry about.

I don’t want to get caught up in the stats and how they are skewed and interpreted to suit. An increase in ‘cases’ resulting from an increase in ‘positive tests’ which results from massive testing doesn’t tell you/me how many cases have required action above going to bed for a few days. No, this blog is about how to respond to these inconveniences.

Proactively.

Whatever kind of challenge presents itself, it creates a psychological anguish that is representative of the gap between ‘what should have been’ and ‘what now is’. It means that we believe that what we had under control is, for the moment, outside of our control. The key to an effective response is to decide to act within that gap, using our God-given personal endowments.

You see, whatever happens, we can control our response if we decide to do so. We tend to default to ‘Poor Little Old Me’ (PLOM) in the first instance because the change imposed upon us creates work, in the sense that as we can’t do what we intended, we have to apply mental effort – and occasionally physical effort – to regaining the control we had. But that’s life. We do it every day, but most days we are immune to the PLOM effect because we are familiar with that particular inconvenience.

Three days ago I booked an event in Kent which I know would go ahead because despite that area’s Tier3 status they were still holding events of the kind I’d booked. Then yesterday, the local authority where I live changed its rules and threatened to cock things up here, instead.

Initially, despondency. Then a moment of clarity and the decision to explore with the event’s organisers whether I can change my date and pay a slightly increased fee for a later, less threatened date. If they say No, I have a choice – wait and see what happens the week before the event (when the Tier gets reviewed as planned) and comply. Or, yes, I can choose to go in any case. If there are penalties, then I can choose to pay them. It’s up to me.

And that’s the other abiding truth. We can decide how to respond to any imposition or event that affects us. But we can’t choose the consequences. They are outside our control. We can anticipate and plan for the consequences we reasonably expect will occur as a result of our choice, but we can’t guarantee them. So (for example), in the event that I would have to bend the law to execute on my plan and go anyway, I can choose to risk the authorities’ wrath. Or I can decide to comply, wear the relatively cheap cost of not being able to go, and start a revolution instead. (I am soooo miffed.)

If you think you have lost control of events, simply decide to take it back.

Look at the event and consider alternatives. Talk to people, ask questions, and despite advice to the contrary look for loopholes that will enable you to come through on what you intended. That’s why they are there – to exercise the mind, to beef up your initiative, to make you better.

Or you can just be miserable. ‘Cause that’s easy.

By all means. explore the purchase of my book. No pressure.

Your Vision REQUIRES The Three Resolutions

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Vision is often a beautiful product of an individual’s creative imagination, but it is achieved through application of that same individual’s independent will, allied to the faithful assistance of those whose sense of purpose complement that of the dreamer.

This means that while the former is a function of identity, experience and desire, it is nothing at all unless and until it is given life through conscious activity. Performance of that activity at a higher level brings with it an expectation that the individual directing that activity is, or becomes, competent in whatever skills are used in order to achieve the outcome, including those skills that engender, empower and enable the contribution of others in the enterprise. For everything we do well and for ourselves in pursuit of a dream, we do with, for and because of other people.

That is the motivation behind application of The Three Resolutions. Whether you use those three words or prefer to use different conceptual tropes, or are even just ‘winging it’ in the sense that you are ‘doing without thinking’, all successful endeavours rely on faithful application of The Three Resolutions.

The Three Resolutions are at the heart of any success. They state:

First Resolution – “To overcome the restraining forces of appetites and passions, I resolve to exercise self-discipline and self-denial.”

Second Resolution – “To overcome the restraining forces of pride and pretension, I resolve to work on character and competence.”

 Third Resolution -“To overcome the restraining forces of unbridled aspiration and ambition, I resolve to dedicate my talents and resources to noble purposes and to provide service to others.”

The primary message of each of these statements needs little explanation – they are all self-evidently true. No success would argue that they are not.

Yet people will actively argue that they are not, that there are nuanced rationales as to where and when they do not strictly apply. And even as they make those arguments they seem unaware that any success they have is the result of focused effort, industry competence, knuckling down when they’d really rather not, and providing sufficient service to others so that those others help them as they are themselves helped in a synergistic relationship.

At the same time as they argue against the timeless wisdom of philosophies that parallel The Three Resolutions, these people discover that their success is fleeting – they spark brilliantly for just a few moments before indiscipline, incompetence, a lack of character or a burgeoning, overwhelming self-interest grips them and casts them down – often very publicly.

Those who argue against such concepts as The Three Resolutions are hopeful that they won’t need to be disciplined; that they don’t need to have character; that they need serve only themselves.

For the most of us, however: we don’t argue against them. We acknowledge them, even as we wish they weren’t true!

So be in no doubt. Writing the book was and remains easier than complying with it. But well worth the effort.

Look at YOUR Vision. Will it/did it happen without application of The Three Resolutions?

If you find that you did apply them in order to achieve success in terms of your Vision – tell someone else. They need to know, too. So that they can work on their own.

Self-publishing. A Case, and a Plea.

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Let’s be frank. If you search Amazon for a book by subject you will come across some plainly self-published books, and you might wince. I see ‘summaries’ of other writers’ works and ask, “Why not just buy the original!?” Many such books also come across as having only a few pages (with HUGE fonts) and that makes you question the value you’ll get as a purchaser.

However, I have read some very deep, well-written books that have been self-published via Amazon. The quality of the binding is fine if not spectacular, the authors have clearly considered their content and, occasional grammar and spelling goofs aside, they have been a pleasure to read. A good example is Tim Brownson’s “The Clarity Method” (although the © he insists on using for ‘his’ name for a values-based coaching method that has been around for 40 years irks a little.) Another fine book is Unified Power by Charles R. Hobbs and Greg  W. Allison – relatively short, but a deep exploration and description of how the principles of Integrity, (secular) Faith, Love and Purpose underpin our best work. So here’s the case for my efforts.

First of all, my books are 150 to 300+ pages, and I recently amended one because a purchaser said that the 130 pages of The Way had too small a font. It’s now 150 pages. My revision of Police Time Management will be well over 300 in A4, 12-font. MASSIVE. The Three Resolutions is also in a small font and 300 pages long. (Might have to make that bigger for the age-related squint.) In a nutshell, you get lots of paper and words for your buck.

Second, they are original. I’ll rephrase that. While any thought that gave rise to them arose from my own studies and experiences, they aren’t merely summaries of someone else’s efforts with little or no input from me. The Three Resolutions is a broad self-development  philosophy and approach to life based on a three page article by Stephen Covey, and brings broader self-help advice into a three step developmental process or paradigm. Police Time Management takes a lot of what I have learned and applied over 25 years and directs it specifically at policing and at the professional and personal lives of those with whom I was proud to serve. And The Way is a book in which I provide a progressive approach to identifying your own – not mine – approach to a congruent life. Yes, they have derived from my studies, but they aren’t in any way ‘just’ a summary of other works. (I was tempted to amalgamate them into one big book but you’d get a hernia carrying it.)

So they are self-published. I haven’t got a huge company behind me, just a life very much like those of most people. But when you first picked up a book by Sinek, Robbins, Covey or anyone else – did you know or care who they were or did you look at the description and contents page and think, “I must read this”?

Okay, that’s my pitch finished. But what about you?Is there a book in you? Do you have a philosophy, a story to tell, a standpoint that needs to be strongly promoted? Do you want to make a story up? Well – what’s stopping you?

You can write and self-publish at no cost via kdp.amazon.com, like many do. It’s easy and, as in the case of The Way font, you can immediately edit any errors in time for the next order! What’s more you can paperback AND Kindle your book, although there is an art to that.

You may only sell copies to yourself. But here’s the kicker. If you put enough thought and effort into your work you might find, as I did, that your cognitive and reasoning abilities, your understanding of what’s happening around you (and how you’re being played!) and possibly even your IQ, will be enhanced. You’ be better – ‘all round’ better. And you’ll feel a greater sense of self-esteem just for having done the writing.

So I’d ask you to do two things. First, write a book. Second, don’t dismiss a self-published book without at least using the ‘Look Inside’ facility that Amazon provides so that you can get a sense of the content of the book, the author’s style and the effort that was – or wasn’t – put into it.

We amateur wordsmiths thank you for the few minutes you give to us when you do that.

Two perspectives on Goal Setting

Goal setting. The subject of many a seminar, book and audio presentation. Look it up on YouTube and you’ll be overwhelmed with responses. The ‘accepted’ mnemonic is SMART and, to be frank, this is as good a memory-prompt as any when it comes to this subject. BUT.

SMART applies only after you’ve identified a goal, at least in a general sense. You want ‘X’, so apply SMART to ‘X’. Or you can take the versions developed by those with sufficient ego to feel the need to add irrelevancies and try SMARTEST or SMARTER as your setter’s guide. W’evah. But to identify the goal, you first need a context for it.

I’m not all that athletic. I do want to be adequately healthy, though. I value health and ‘enough’ fitness. So I could set a goal of running a marathon if I wanted to address those values, but as I have no desire to run that far I’d set that goal in the knowledge that I was completely wasting my mental effort unless I had a context for its achievement. I cold SMART-ify it all I liked, and still not achieve it.

In my favourite books on the subject, written by different people who all ‘start on the same page’, as it were, there are two solutions to the challenge that lies between between setting a SMART goal for the sake of it, and achieving the sought outcome. Authors Charles R. Hobbs and his partner (and later court opponent) Hyrum W. Smith wrote the ‘same book by different titles’ (long story). Both opine that goals should reflect our personal values and both seem to suggest that knowing our values should direct the identification of our goals. Stephen Covey differed in his approach, suggesting that goals should relate to our life roles, which include professional but also private roles.

I have tried both approaches and discovered that Hobbs/Smith’s suggestion about setting a goal related to a personal value is difficult. Values tend to be intangible. They provide a motive behind a goal – a WHY – but ‘Excellence’ is hard to achieve unless you have a context in which to apply it. Excellent at what? With whom? ‘Integrity’ is a nice value to possess, but integrity where? Without challenge, how can you experience integrity?

In comes Covey, with a suggestion that in setting a goal we can use the context provided by careful identification and consideration of our roles. I was a police officer, so my goals related to promotion, specialisation, community-projects, specific investigations, and whatever else came to mind. I set a goal – and then I applied excellence towards that goal. I had other roles – public speaker, trainer, writer, family – and setting goals in those roles was easier than trying to ‘Be frugal’ with money. It’s easy to Be Frugal – don’t spend any money. Hardly a SMART-able goal, is it?

But having a context goals then allows you to apply your values to it. Study for a promotion exam? Then be excellent, be disciplined, be organised. Want a sports car? Then be frugal, work planned overtime. Want to specialise within your profession? Then do the study, join the Associations, meet the people.

Context goals. ‘What do you want?’, ‘what role will it serve or support?’ – and then ‘why do you want it?’

Make your goals real by knowing the context in which it needs to be sought, even if your first goal is to obtain the role itself.

On Corporate (and Personal) Integrity

“People attempting to write a mission statement for the first time often write to please or impress someone else. They don’t go the distance or pay the price to create a deep inner connection. Their mission statements become a series of platitudes, a ‘to-do’ checked off the list and filed somewhere for occasional inspiration.” So wrote Stephen Covey, A Roger Merrill and Barbara Merrill in the 1994 book, First Things First.

Character requires Integrity. Integrity requires identifying, defining and complying with a set of personal values. Personal values are NOT copied without thought from someone else’s homework. For all the Codes of Ethics decreed and disseminated from Mount Olympus, an individual must do the work required to discover their own virtues. They may match the tablets of stone, or they may differ a little. But blind compliance with someone else’s dictated values system is no more an example of personal congruence than that shown by U2’s Bono, who demanded greenery from the world while sending his hat on a First Class flight across the Atlantic.

To be frank, I think I’m seeing that all over the world, now. For all the positive intent of the less violent anti-racism activists, the constant reporting of corporate self-flagellation is kind of wearing.

The companies who avoid paying tax despite billions in profits, telling me how socially aware they are? Platitudes.

People saying we should ‘have a conversation about’ an issue, whose meaning really is ‘you have to listen to and agree with me or you’re a …..’. False prophets.

Luvvies feigning shame over something they haven’t done or aren’t remotely responsible for? Bandwagon.

Companies introducing Unconscious Bias training and banging on about it? Marketing.

Character – true character – does not need explanation, marketing, or platitudes. It doesn’t have to be seen to join a movement – it is a movement all of its own. It sells itself, no budget required.

When an individual takes the time and puts in the effort to identify, define and then live by their values, they don’t need to make public statements. What they say, they do. What they believe, they are. There is no incongruence, no hypocrisy. One person, one set of values, one set of behaviours.

So I’ll admit that when I see Sainsbury’s, Ben and Jerry’s and the BBC’s efforts to enlighten me, I find the cynic in me asking, “Where were you before the 25th of May? Are you enlightened, or just pretending to be? If the latter – what are you afraid of?”

And since their errant hypocrisies are constantly being brought to light – Sainsbury’s admitting they have a racial pay gap, the BBC having a gender pay gap, Bono using up half the National Grid to light his face up on stage – I ask myself “Who the hell are you to preach to me?” I suspect many others feel the same.

God knows I am not perfect. But I don’t pretend to be. All I am doing with these posts and my books is trying to find, as much for myself as for others, how people could be better. I don’t tell people what to think – I invite them to ask themselves the questions to which they can find their own answers. Not what to think – but that they can think. For themselves.

Help me help others – and help me to help me.

Keep me honest, make me accountable. And find someone who can make you accountable, too. But for the right reasons and in the right Way.

Go to Amazon for a preview

The Only True Pride – is Pride in the Truth

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As we all sit at home obeying the advice, or sneak about defying the impositions placed upon us, we must all be wondering what the heck is going on at the top. We seem to be watching the Leader of the Opposition both supporting and attacking the Government in such a way as to be able to one day say, “See, I was right all along” because he’s playing both sides of the Lockdown argument while not being responsible in any way for the action that has to be taken. He’s a bit like the crowd of fat, XXXL team shirt-wearing, pie-eating experts in the stands at a Premiership football match, who all know they could’ve done better than the millionaire on the pitch while safely avoiding any exercise that reflects that expertise.

Which made me think about the Second Resolution as it relates to Competence and Character, and their opposites – the negatives of Pride and Pretension. On first seeing Pride as a negative you may be forgiven for thinking that Pride is a good thing, but in this context we are talking not about the sense of peace when we do a good job, but about excessive pride. This is the pride that prevents us acting with integrity when, having made a mistake, we refuse to acknowledge it. It is the pride that also makes us try to cover up that mistake, but that is outside the scope of this brief article.

What I see in politicians today is both disagreeable, and understandable at the same time. They exemplify ‘pride and pretension’ in the sense that they bluster and blather while insisting they have better ideas than the other side, while making sure that their position will not result in their being held to account. We know this to be true because the opposing ideologies are so obviously present – otherwise the parties wouldn’t ‘all’ be in agreement. But it’s understandable, if not forgiveable, because the minute any principled politician listens to advice and changes their policy – they’re slammed for being ‘forced into a u-turn’, as opposed to thanked for listening.

(Watching both sides of Congress debating the Supreme Court nomination is funny. Watching them arguing that the other side is wrong because the other side is doing what the first side did last time, after the other side opposed it, is quite funny. Attacking the other side for finally agreeing with you, while changing your own mind? Not at ALL partisan.)

This element of Pride is the sin of ‘Being Right’ regardless of incoming data. It’s about blind following of your preferred ideology even when you know, inside, that what you are doing is incongruent and undermines any integrity you claim to possess.

When I imagine the parties discussing “We’ll say that, because it means they’ll have to do that, and then we can claim that….”, I cringe. That is playing both sides against the middle instead of clearly deciding – and declaring – what is right. Now the mind-blowing bit – that applies even if they ZRE right.

Truth serves itself – it doesn’t need deception to justify its existence.

The other thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to make up defences. You don’t have to tell another lie to support or cover the first. Gary King (http://garykinglive.com/truth-challenge/) talks about how research suggests that for every lie told, you have to tell seven more to cover it. And as per the Siphonaptera and its fleas, each of the seven lies has seven more little lies on its back to bite ‘em.

Exercising excessive pride to the extent that you lie – and ‘lie’ includes exaggeration and ‘being disingenuous’ to use the politicians’ obfuscation against them – is not good debating, positive strategy or justifiable in the (any) moment.

So stop playing games – we can see right through you, Mr/Madam Representative.