Years ago I was working on a job north of here. I had little authority and was mostly in a position of response rather than initiation. My supervisor set me up on a task that required me to be on a ladder and work for some time in the ceiling. I was by myself and the day was going well until a man from another trade showed up.
“You’re in my way.”
I glanced at him and continued my duties.
“I have work to do here.”
This time I responded but didn’t look at him. “Yea, me too.”
He was starting to get irate and I was honestly becoming somewhat amused; though I didn’t let my antagonist on to how I was feeling about the whole situation.
This time he came at me with a heightened verbal attack. “I need you to move! Are you not listening to me, I have work to do!”
Now, I’m sure we could have figured out how to get around each other, but this time I thought a little defense was in order. I stepped down with my tools in hand and faced him looking straight into his eyes.
“You know, if your opinion meant something to me I might get pissed, but since it doesn’t, I just don’t care.”
He lost it and I had a hard time keeping a straight face. As he was throwing his tantrum I continued with a steady voice. “Look, I don’t hate you, I don’t love you, I don’t anything you at all. As far as I’m concerned you’re going to do one of two things and only one of two things. You’re either going to keep talking or start swinging.”
He stopped and looked at me a little slack-jawed. After a moment of contemplation he said, “I guess I’ll just keep talking.”
I laughed a little, “There you go, keep talking, doesn’t matter to me.”
He left and I never saw him again.
I’ve lived a long time not worrying about the so-called “bad things” others thought of or expressed about me. The simple fact that I can’t do anything about what others think is all I need to embrace this philosophy. When I acknowledge someone else’s opinion I give it power; when I reject it, it has no energy. Even if I had the ability to change the mind of someone who didn’t agree with me, I wouldn’t. To do so would be against everything I believe in. Persuasion of those who don’t align with my agenda by initiating actions and examples is fine, but to try to leverage my way using fear and intimidation is out of the question. I’ve had this way of dealing with potential adversaries for some time, little did I know that the opposite was also true, and finding that out was one of my greatest epiphanies.
I’m a fan of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, among many other teachers. He quotes Abraham Maslow quite a bit, mostly in reference to becoming a self-actuated person. One of the qualities projected by these people is an ability to “be independent of the good opinions of others.” Honestly (without sounding like I’m throwing myself under the bus) I had a difficult time understanding this bit of information. What did it mean exactly? I found out quite by accident while working on another job.
Tony and I were in a crawl space installing drain lines and having a pleasant conversation while we working.
He was still an apprentice and I was showing him some techniques as we progressed. “You know Daniel, I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about you.”
I shrugged, “Wouldn’t matter if they did. I chose whom I live to please, and that group is very small. Everyone else is on their own.”
He laughed and the conversation continued. “As a matter of fact, all I’ve heard is good things, you get a lot of praise.”
This is where it got weird for me. I had no idea how I was going to react until I said it. “That doesn’t matter to me either. I’m grateful for it, but I seek neither applause nor even endorsement.” That’s when it hit me, I was independent of the good opinions of others. The realization shook me tremendously and I felt a little light-headed. I had come full circle with this belief.
By no means am I saying that others opinions aren’t important to them, of course they are. My opinions are important to me as well, but if I were to accept that everyone’s opinions were as at least as important as mine, I’d lose sight of my path. I’m not talking about becoming self-centered or arrogant. What I’m really focusing on is not letting others sway me from reality by either letting negativity dissuade me, nor letting praise give me false sense of accomplishment. I seek no approval, I accept no hostility. I do however accept criticism from those I choose to admire, and allow appreciation from those I have a close connection with. It sounds like a fine line. It’s not. I simply keep a small, very tight circle of influence around me.
Ask yourself “How many people actually have opinions that matter to you?” and you’ll see what I mean. It seems to be five or less for most people I’ve talked to. Too many and you’ll end up living the life of everyone else; constantly striving to please and fulfill their agendas. I don’t think anyone has ever made the world a better place by attempting to silence their audience with the promise of pleasing all of them.
Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.
With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood