A fellow board member on a local nonprofit organization recently sent me a list of axioms he uses to help guide his life.
The dictionary tells us that an axiom is “a self-evident or universally recognized truth; an established rule, principle, or law; a self-evident principle or one that is accepted as true without proof as the basis for argument.”
While he provided nearly 100 bits of truth, several caught my attention:
“Individuals unable to speak positively about what they do always resort to speaking negatively about what another does.”
Far too many of us find it easier to bring someone down to our level than to bring ourselves to a higher plain. We cast stones without thinking about how our own glass house could be shattered. We console ourselves by justifying how “everyone else does it” so it should be OK. Though elevating ourselves is often far more difficult than pulling others down, we gain far more by lifting ourselves up — bringing others with us — than we could ever achieve by immersing ourselves in a pool of mediocrity.
“If you cannot be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.”
This reminds me of a saying from the Disney tale “Bambi.” As Thumper’s father told him: “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, it is better to say nothing at all.” It seems our society revels in the “details of the fall.” We don’t seek answers to unfortunate situations so that we can avoid them but rather seek all the sordid details so we can validate our own standing as being better than those around us. We don’t seek details so that we can help but rather so we can embellish them as we talk to others. Perhaps we should try to help more as we hurt less and seek to provide a cushion upon which others might land rather than an open abyss into which they will fall.
“Everyone brings joy to my office — some when they enter, others when they leave.”
OK, so this one is tongue-in-cheek — but so appropriate! How often has someone interrupted you in the middle of a thought — just as you were about to solidify an epiphany that would surely change the world forever? Sure, we need others to live life to its fullest, but we all have times when it seems others might “do more good” talking to someone else than they do disrupting our thoughts. Enjoy the variety people bring to the world around you. If everyone thought and acted as you do, it would be a terribly boring (or extremely predictable) world.
“Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday when they lie around in hospitals dying of nothing.”
We all have a time and a season. It is good to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude and to avoid many of the known dangers in life — but avoiding all risk and minimizing every hazard we face serves only to delay the inevitable. All must live a balanced life to enjoy the gifts we have while securing as healthy a future as is possible, but sacrificing joy in the present for the possibility of a prolonged future is not a healthy (nor reasonable) solution. Maintaining our sense of reality (and of humor) during these times of Affordable Care and other health care solutions might serve us all well.
Several axioms I have used as guiding principles include these “self-evident truths” penned by Ayn Rand, mirroring some of the thoughts above (but from a slightly different perspective):
“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve — not by the desire to beat others.”
“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident that everybody has decided not to see.”
“Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death.”
What about you? Do you have any baseline “truths” upon which your life has been built? Feel free to email them to me. Perhaps a new thread can begin from the “best of the best” axioms gathered here.
As a starter, one of my favorites is about removing limitations we place in our own path: “The question is not who is going to let me. It is who is going to stop me?” Do not become your own worst enemy by becoming a roadblock — by believing a dream to be impossible, abandoning it before the journey toward its realization can even begin.
Remember that all things are possible — some take a little longer to accomplish, though, as they require a bit more creativity, thought or planning. In the big picture, improbable does not equate to impossible. Equality is not the same as equitability. Holding back does not mean giving up, unless you fail to begin. Life has many beginnings but only one end.
Make the most of your opportunities as you seek new and different ways to make life — and people, in general — truly matter.
David J. Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.