I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my place in the world, and what kind of footprints I want to leave here. And I don’t mean the ecological ones, as important as those are. I have a soft spot for the butterfly effect; I believe everything we do affects at least some part of someone else’s life, and that one simple ripple can create oceans of change we may never even recognize. This doesn’t mean I live my life walking on eggshells, but it does mean that I make very careful decisions about the way I interact with people and conduct all parts of my life. To me, my business is personal and my personal life is intertwined with my business, so everything I do has an effect on my reputation in both these spheres. 

In thinking about where I’d like to be in five years, I sometimes find the idea of following my elaborate dreams sort of daunting. Ok, completely daunting. How do I get there? How do I make them happen? Can I use my connections to help me attain my goals? Can I rely on others to help me? Should I? Can I help others reach their goals without compromising my own integrity? Clearly I have too much time for introspection. But I do have a point here. Like almost every single person reading this blog entry, I want to be somebody. I want to make a positive impact on peoples’ lives, and be remembered by my family and friends (and hey, strangers too) as someone with a big, loyal heart, someone who would fight for what is right, and someone who was genuine (perhaps to a fault). This isn’t me being morbid; it’s just a reflection of how I want to be in this big ol’ world. I live with the constant realization that regret is the only thing more insurmountable than death. I can’t stand the idea that I’ll regret something, ever. So I choose wisely, act wisely, apologize when necessary and re-evaluate often.

Living in the online world in particular means bobbing along in a sea of faces and voices that are often all struggling just to be thrown that golden life ring: Opportunity-with-a-capital-O. Opportunities seem to abound in this new world where we’re able to personally connect with individuals and organizations like never before. But these opportunities aren’t free; we must work for them, just like always. And this means we need to fight like salmon for our place in the fierce stream of talent. And do you know what that means? It means a lot of voices shouting their own praises. It means we often have to take people at their word, instead of evaluating their actions. It means we need to hang on tightly to who we are, and what we believe when it is often easier to give in to the current and sell ourselves short.

What was it Margaret Thatcher said? “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” (Aside: I worked with a clever woman once who modified this saying to be, “If you have to tell people you’re classy, you’re not.” and that never failed to totally crack me up.) Anyhow, where was I? It goes something like this: what/who you are is very clear from the way you behave and the things you say. No matter what lip service you offer, your genuine self can never be hidden behind false professions. I hear you out there: yet again, here she comes preaching her mantra of being honest, genuine and natural. Borrrrrring. I know. Bear with me.

I know this woman who likes to use the phrase, “No word of a lie” an awful lot. As it turns out, pretty much everything she says is, in fact, a lie. And the funny thing about saying, “Trust me” is that more often than not, saying that follows (or leads up to) saying something totally preposterous. Have you ever really felt comfortable with a person who constantly tries to convince you to trust them? Yeah, me neither. If you have to tell people to trust you, or swear that you’re being honest, chances are you and I both know you’re not trustworthy. And where does that get us in the end? Those ripples aren’t the kind I want to ride.

I’ve always loved the poem “If—” by Rudyard Kipling. (Well, right up until the last line when he tells us that we’ll be “a man” if we live up to all the feats he lays out in the previous stanzas.) That’s where those excerpts up there come from. That’s some pretty amazing insight into the world we’re living in today, even though it was written in the late-1800s, wouldn’t you say? How do we immerse ourselves in this world and maintain our selves? How do we connect and give (and take) just the right amount? It feels like a tough wire to balance on sometimes, doesn’t it?

That’s what I’m reflecting upon this week. If I stay true to my values, can I make the impression I want upon the world? If I act a certain way, am I being honest with myself? If I dive into these waters, can I maintain integrity?

If. If. If.

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2 thoughts on “>"If—"

  1. >The reason you've been successful so far is that you are all that. Honest. Hardworking. Respectful. Generous. Genuine. No matter what you want to do, those same things will carry you. You can do it. And you will help shape the landscape of success in the process.

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