A few potentially useful thoughts about work and working life.

  1. When you’ve reached enlightenment, your boss will still be a jerk. The good news is that it won’t bother you any more. The secret of maintaining a calm mind is letting go of emotions and refusing to waste energy on fretting about whatever you can’t change. The world is an unsatisfactory place; your boss is an unsatisfactory person. Life is good.
  2. There are no acceptable excuses for your bad behavior. Not your dreadful childhood (most people were dreadful sometimes as children, even if their childhood was idyllic), your miserable relationships (miserable people give themselves more of them), the fact you have no money (maybe you did nothing to earn more, or wasted what you had), your frustrating job (you’re presumably too frustrated to do anything about changing it) or the pains in your neck (and the ones you give to others). Life sometimes sucks. Get over it. Don’t add to the mess.
  3. Reality keeps coming at you. There’s no “off” switch. All you can do is cope with it as best you can. Since you’re human, you’re fallible. There will be many times you mess up totally and many more you mess up a little. If you beat yourself up over each one of them, you’re going to be a continual hospital case. If you feel guilty whenever you screw up, you’ll end up a basket case too.
  4. No one can insult you without your permission. Whatever he or she says about you, it’s your emotions that make you feel bad. That, and going over and over the insult in your mind, imagining what you should have said (but didn’t think of until it was too late). Ignore them and insults will have no power over you.
  5. You can always be yourself. You don’t need to prove it. It’s impossible for you to be anyone else, however hard you try. Doing something just to prove your ability, courage, or anything else is merely showing off. Only doing something because it needs doing is the real thing.
  6. Whatever changes you have in mind, begin with yourself. Many people work diligently to change others, while leaving themselves untouched. If you succeed in making the other person better, it will only show up your own deficiencies in a harsher light.
  7. You won’t find meaning in your life by sitting and thinking about it. To create meaning, you have to take action with some purpose in mind. Locking a new car in the garage and thinking about driving it won’t put any miles on the clock. Thinking about what your life means is the same. You need to get a little mud on the wheels and a few dints in the bodywork. Later, when you look at them, you’ll recall what happened and what each one meant.
  8. If you aren’t satisfied with your life, change it. If you won’t change it, put up with it. There’s no middle way. Whatever you do, don’t keep telling us about it. We don’t want to know.
  9. Keep living until you die. Some people give up on life while they’re still alive. You can see they’ve done so, because they no longer do any of the things that show life is present. They don’t learn, they don’t change, they don’t develop, they don’t adapt. They may be alive physically, but they’re already dead in any sense that matters.
  10. There’s no such creature as a self-made person—unless she conceived and gave birth to herself, fed herself as a baby and a child, made her own clothes from cotton and wool she produced herself, taught herself, built her own house and car, and never needed to go to a doctor, a dentist, a pharmacy or a store. We’re all utterly dependent on one another. Gratitude seems more appropriate than egotistical fantasies.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life, and Working Potential, where you’ll learn about great ideas for self-development. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.

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