One less rhinoceros (intentions vs actions & dealing with mean people)

Treating people poorly in order to teach them a lesson — or to change their behavior in a positive way — is extremely ineffective. Furthermore, being disrespectful to people — because you think they deserve it — in order to get them to behave better often has the opposite effect.

Rather than give those who offend you an incentive to change, it often makes them feel more justified when they act badly (from your perspective) or do something contrary to your desires.

“Get a job you dirty bum!” isn’t helpful.

There isn’t a bum in the world who’s going to respond by saying, “This is good advice. I didn’t think of that. Thank you, sir. I’ll do it!”

Being rude to someone in order to elicit a positive change in behavior helps no one.

What about mean people, surely they deserve it?

The thinking goes something along the lines of: “By showing someone how hurtful, rude, or offensive they are by being hurtful, rude, or offensive to them, they won’t ever want to be mean to anyone ever again.”

No, it doesn’t generally work out that way.

By being mean to a mean person, you’re simply showing that person a type of behavior they’re already familiar with. And because it’s not new, it teaches them nothing.

It isn’t a lesson.

In most cases, all your negative actions will do is demonstrate that you can stoop to their level — or worse, you’ve just made a good example of how being mean to someone can be effective at inflicting pain.

No one wins this game.

And now, instead of just one person acting badly, there are two. And two people acting badly does not solve the problem of one person acting badly.

“But they were rude to me! They were asking for it!”

Being rude to someone because they were rude to you isn’t an excuse to act badly. You are always responsible for how you act, regardless of your intentions or how you are feeling.

Just because someone else acts like an idiot isn’t a valid reason to also act like an idiot.

The Power of Perspective

It is important to note that we judge ourselves by our intentions, but we judge others by their actions.

People don’t know what you’re thinking. They don’t hear your internal dialogue. They can only assume what you’re thinking by interpreting how you act.

Cutting a guy off in traffic to teach him a lesson because his driving offended you in some way doesn’t work. From the other person’s perspective, it’s you that’s being offensive, not them.

Your offensive actions — as justified as they may seem to you — are not reasonable to the person who has to deal with them.

This difference in perspective is an important concept to understand because it affects every aspect of our lives where people are involved. Not only people, but companies and organizations as well.

Most people, no matter how badly they act, think they’re doing “good” for someone, even if that someone is simply themselves or, in the case of companies, their stockholders.

“I’m just following orders because I don’t want to lose my job. And if I lose my job, I won’t be able to support my family.”

Many poachers, for example, risk their lives to kill endangered animals not for sport and not because they don’t like the animals, but because it’s one of the few ways they know how to survive and support their families.

It doesn’t make it right, but from their perspective, they are justified in their actions.

“What is the life of a single rhinoceros if it can support my family for 5 years or more?”

And thus, we have one less rhinoceros. And then another. And another.

Everyone feels justified by their intentions in some way — regardless of what their actions may mean to other people, endangered species, or the environment.

Sometimes we’re the bad guy and we don’t even know it.

This is why an important habit to get into is to sometimes stop and ask yourself — regardless of your intentions — whether your actions in any given interaction are truly positive or negative.

“Is what I’m doing a true reflection of what I want out of this exchange and can I be proud of how I’m acting?”

Alternatively, it may help if you imagine the people you respect & admire most in the world are watching.

If your heroes were watching, would your behavior be something they would be proud of?

  • “Do I really want to raise my voice?”
  • “Do I really mean what I am saying?”
  • “Do my words really reflect how I feel inside?”
  • “Do I really want to act this way?”
  • “What would I say or do if I wasn’t so afraid of appearing vulnerable?”
  • “Is there a better way for me to act or to make a point?”

People only change when they want to.

You won’t change people for the better by treating them poorly, but you can influence people through caring, understanding, and by setting a good example.

You can treat and deal with people in a manner that suggests that there’s a better way than being rude, abusive, or revenge-seeking.

You can use the power of effective communication to say what you mean instead of resorting to offensive and aggressive tactics.

And sometimes it’s important to remember that it isn’t always other people that could benefit by altering their behavior and making changes for the better.

Sometimes it’s us.





Pirates vs Zombies: Conformity kills creativity.

This post spawned an entire theme on the subject: Pirates vs Zombies.Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

Pirates vs Zombies: Conformity kills creativity

There is a battle being waged — not just in the Middle East — but right here, right now.

It’s the zombie virusit’s real — and it’s an epidemic. The “living dead” are here  but they are not the walking corpses we’ve come to expect from the movies. It’s scarier than that…

Because the infected look like everyone else — they blend in & conform. In fact, many go to great lengths to buy all the “proper” products & do all the “right” things — because they live in fear of expressing their individuality.

The zombie virus has caused these living dead to become the end product of what they’ve been told & sold and what they’ve bought & been taught — it causes them to believe in the world they’ve been fed without question.

And that would be fine — as everyone should live their lives as they truly desire — except that many carry the virus without ever realizing they’ve been infected. And as a result, they’ve become slaves to the system and an often negative way of thinking. The infected live with fear & indecision — afraid to make bold decisions or to express their individuality. Afraid to venture beyond their comfort zone.

And as a result, carriers of the virus often settle for much less than the amazing things they are capable of achieving. I know — because…

I was infected, but I’ve learned to resist the virus — and you can, too.

Without even realizing I was a carrier of the zombie virus, I started bowing to societal pressures to keep my head down and to not question authority and to ignore common sense. I started to equate my own and others’ job titles as true indicators of “importance”, “success”, or value. I started to believe that what I owned, what I wore, or what I drove was a real reflection of who I was as a person.

I almost let the infection overtake my desire to live a life less ordinary. I started thinking, “It’s too late to live the life I want — if only…” — and as a result, I almost settled.

I began to give more weight to what people thought instead of what was actually true. I started to believe that I was the labels that people gave me — good and bad. I began to think that I needed approval to do what I truly wanted.

I started showing acute signs of the virus & didn’t even know it. And much to my surprise, I contracted it at an early age.

My entire life, I’d gained esteem by trying to impress others — I considered others’ praise to be an estimation of my own self-worth and I sought it out without understanding that the only source of true self-worth & confidence doesn’t come by counting on others to give it to you — it comes from within.

I started to believe that in order to be “happy” I had to settle — because the world is full carriers of the virus who do.

Awareness is the first step in fighting the zombie virus.

Symptoms of the zombie virus (details) are highly contagious.  As such, the infected are everywhere — telling you what you can’t do, convincing you to conform, and suggesting that any alternatives other than the most popular are “impossible” or “unrealistic”.

“That’s what we wanted to get across in that moment, particularly when Shaun goes to the shop when he’s all hungover. He doesn’t notice any of the zombies around him just because he never had before, so why should he at that point?” — Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead)

The infected are cynical & pessimistic. They say things like “it doesn’t get any better than this” and “why even bother?” — they may even go so far as to seek to crush your ambitions, stifle your creativity, derail your dreams. They point out the problems in every plan — they say it can’t be done instead of focusing on ways that it can.

It is almost certain that it will be a carrier of the virus that is first to put you down when you attempt to be “great”. Carriers confuse egotism with self-esteem or integrity. In the most ironic of ways, the infected will wear their “Just do it.” logos — while at the same time they tear you down for trying.

The infected see walls & obstacles instead of portals of opportunity — and in turn, they become obstacles instead of gateways along other’s paths. They spread their “facts” and their “that’s just the way it is” mentality without ever questioning their own reality.

Carriers of the virus are the first to accept the status quo and it is their belief that you should, too — else you’ll be branded as “different” or a “maverick” — as if being labeled as different is the worst thing in the world. As if thinking you are capable of something bigger & better than average in your life is a bad thing.

As if you’re supposed live your one & only precious life based on what others think or what they expect of you. As if standing up and being counted as a free thinking individual is not something that should be celebrated & encouraged.

It is not uncommon for victims of the virus to live their lives as psychological slaves — dependent on others’ approval & recognition — it is a life that is measured by comparing themselves to the crowd. They live in fear of being judged as anything other than what is expected of them. They’ve come to believe that others are responsible for their life circumstances and they are quick to say, “but my situation is different” and “but I’ve really got it rough”.

In the mind of the infected, everyone else’s life is inexplicably easier by comparison and full of “lucky breaks” and “good fortune” that are absent in their world.

The zombie virus is a maker of mediocrity — it makes you forget that you were born to be great. It convinces you that the “greatness” of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein are unattainable exceptions to the human race instead of what they truly were, “ordinary individuals” doing extraordinary things. These people were born, grew up, and pursued their budding interest as amateurs — just like everyone else. But they persisted in their drive to refine their skills and hone their unique talents — and that, they did.

No, you are not Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein — but their unique potential was theirs not yours. You have your own — and the only person’s unique and incredible potential you should try to live up to is yours.

Being infected makes you forget that you — yes, YOU — too, have amazing potential just waiting to be tapped into. To say that you are an incredibly unique individual is an understatement. In the whole expanse of time, there will only ever be one person exactly like you!

No matter where you are in life, you have potential that is going untapped — you are capable of achieving far more than you probably believe.

You were meant to be — and I’m appropriating this word — a “pirate”.

Pirates (details & characteristics):

Like zombies, these “pirates” are also not what you would entirely expect from the movies — nor am I referring to “illegal downloaders”, either.

No. The real pirates of the world are maximizers of potential —  free thinkers, capable of making bold & brave decisions and avoiding value judgements. They are capable of seizing each day sailing across an ocean of opportunities pursuing their dreams with passion.

Pirates are captains of their ship! They take responsibility for their lives and live with purpose. Rather than float where the current takes them, they steer their vessels to where their dreams & desires lead.

“Fortes fortuna adiuvat” (fortune favors the bold)” – Latin Proverb

When the world tells them that the Earth is flat, but offers no real proof to back it up, they set off in their ships to see for themselves. And when their fear tells them they cannot do something, they look that fear in the face and say, “Watch me!”

People [Pirates] who soar are those who refuse to sit back, sigh and wish things would change. They neither complain of their lot nor passively dream of some distant ship coming in [Again — Pirates are captains of their own vessel]. Rather, they visualize in their minds that they are not quitters; they will not allow life’s circumstances to [the infection] push them down and hold them under.” — Unknown

Pirates are explorers & adventurers — undeterred by stormy seas because they know — “Smooth seas do not make skilled sailors.” — African Proverb.  They know that “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” — William Shedd

They know that zombies resolve to do what’s quick & easy, but there are no shortcuts to success — so they resolve to be disciplined and do what is hard & necessary because it works.

Nor are they afraid to sail into the unknown, because they understand — “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.” — Andre Gide

I call them zombies and pirates — you might call them something else — but regardless of how they are labeled, these types of people are real.

In my world, Mark Twain was a pirate — “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Sir Cecil Beaton was a pirate — “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play—it—safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary [zombies].

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a pirate — “To be yourself [a pirate] in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else [of zombies] is the greatest accomplishment.”

TBWA Chiat/Day wrote about pirates in their famous Apple commercial

“Here’s to the crazy ones [pirates]. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race [zombies] forward. And some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people [pirates] who are crazy enough to think they can change the world [overcome the zombie virus] are the ones who do.”

This is a call to arms!

We must resist the virus and find ways to overcome it — lest it overtake us and make us zombie slaves in a world of mediocrity!

Thanks for reading. I think you’re awesome.

— Zero Dean