Sometimes the only way you can begin to offer tips on how to do or not do something is to start with a story. This is one of those times, and I hope you hang in through the story so we can get to the tips.
There was a picture I came across that someone had posted. It showed a black woman and a white woman next to each other, although in two different pictures. Both pictures were mugshots, and both of the women had been arrested for some kind of child abuse.
The child abuse the black woman did was to leave a six-year-old and a two-year-old child in the car while she went into an establishment to interview for a new job. The child abuse the white woman did was to be stoned, drive her car down the road with her six month old baby in the baby carrier on top of the car. At some point the baby carrier fell off the car and into the street.
Both of these women lived in the same state, Arizona, one in Phoenix and one in Scottsdale. If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s pretty much the same city. What happened to the black woman is that she’s going to trial and had her children taken away from her. What happened to the white woman is that she got probation and got to go home with her child.
It’s possible that there were extenuating circumstances, but on the surface it looked like obvious racism. Obviously the two different judges didn’t see things the same way, and that’s an indictment on the justice system.
Everybody who reads this blog may not know that along with speaking on the topic of leadership, which is highlighted by the book to the left called Embrace The Lead, I also speak on diversity topics. I have spoken on racial diversity, succession planning, and the rights of women in the workplace and sexual abuse. I happen to be one of those people who, when I see issues that have to do with “isms”, I will comment on them in some way, even if my only comment is passing along what I’ve seen.
When I saw this picture I decided to share with folks who I’m connected to. I didn’t add any extra commentary to it, but I thought it was important enough to share.
I happen to be quite liberal in my politics, but I have a few friends on Facebook (very few) who are more conservative. One of the ladies who responded had a point of view that I could take into account and she could have been right. The other lady however… well, she decided to tell me that I shouldn’t be sharing things like that and that all I was doing was stoking the flames of racism because I’m always talking about it.
One of the rules of talking about diversity is that you can’t be afraid to bring up topics that some people might not want to talk about. Many people get uncomfortable when you talk about these things, and for whatever reason they can’t keep their mouths shut and just roll with the punches. Instead, they feel the need to try to justify themselves by inserting their opinions, which are always counter to the other opinions, and showing themselves for what they are.
That might sound harsh, but it is what it is. Not everybody who has a differing opinion expresses themselves in the same way. I like to think that for the most part when I have a differing opinion, I choose my words carefully so that we can at least debate an issue without it becoming overly divisive; doesn’t always happen I’ll admit.
That didn’t happen in this case. One of the things I don’t cotton to is having anybody tell me what I should or should not do, especially if I didn’t ask them. If I feel they have no idea what they’re talking about I’ll say so. I didn’t make it staying alive this long just so people can condescend to me. Anybody telling me what I can or cannot share in my own space is going to hear from me, and maybe a bit more vociferously than I need to be.
In this case, after I responded to her, she decided to go on a diatribe and say that I had no right to say anything if I wasn’t doing anything to try to change things. Once again, even though this is someone I’ve known for a long time, she obviously had no idea of the types of things I’ve done in my life and do now. I expressed that in my response to her, as well as asked her if any of the things I have experienced in my life that proved that there was racism in this country meant nothing to her and that they shouldn’t mean anything to me.
Her response was to say that obviously I was dismissing her and that we couldn’t be friends anymore (this was an adult?). Then she decided to leave me a private message to tell me how disappointed she was in me and my promotion of racism. I have to admit I was expecting it, and I almost dropped her a month ago for the same type of thing; oh well…
I let her have the last word because she’s someone from another country who had a horrible experience at one point in her life, came to the United States and made a nice life for herself. She obviously has no idea exactly what racism is in America and how people like me and people in my situation don’t have the opportunity to be racist towards anybody in the United States. If you don’t believe me just go look it up for yourself.
As a point of reference, I would love for you to check out this story I told many years ago on my business blog about an encounter I had while having a witness, who never believed me when I told her about racism I kept encountering where we were on our consulting assignment, and finally saw it for herself, titled Am I An Invisible Man. Sometimes racism isn’t quite as subtle as it seems to be.
In any case, this leads us to five lessons I’d like to give you on what not to let people tell you what to do on your blogs or in your life. I need to offer a caveat, that being if you’re reading a blog or an article that’s giving you suggestions on how to live your life better, that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is if you’re having a one-on-one conversation with someone, whether it’s in person or via email or any other medium, and you didn’t ask for their opinion.
Now, if someone’s giving you an opinion because your life is going down the toilet, that’s another caveat, but in a way you might have asked for that advice. In general terms, these are five lessons, or five things you shouldn’t let people tell you what to do.
1. Don’t let anyone tell you what to write on your blog or anywhere else. Once I wrote a post about a friend of mine who was being bullied about her blog; I had her back.
I’ve given people advice on this blog over the years on the types of topics they may not want to address if they don’t want to deal with controversy. That’s general advice to the masses, not specifically directed at any particular individual. Write on anything you want to write on, as long as you’re willing to deal with the consequences.
2. Don’t let anyone tell you who to be friends with, or who to hang out with. I’m very picky on who I allow myself to call a friend, and I’m that way for a reason.
To me, a friend is someone I have something in common with who I can pretty much talk about anything with. A friend allows me to be me and allows me to have other friends and other interests. A friend doesn’t control what you do or what you do with others unless you ask them for advice. Those are people who don’t want you to be anything except what they want you to be, and none of us needs to be with people like that.
This lady was never a friend but a nice acquaintance. I actually met her in person when I was in Florida for a conference. If I won’t take that from anyone I consider as a friend, why would I take it from anyone else?
3. Don’t let anyone who hasn’t already succeeded at something or even tried and not succeeded give you advice on what to do unless you want to learn what not to do.
One of the most common themes I see on a lot of blogs is where the writer talks about mentioning to someone else that they wanted to either work for themselves or wanted to try blogging for a living, and how the other person put them down for their dream. You can believe that none of those people who put them down ever even read a blog, let alone tried to write one.
There are times when all of us asks the wrong person for advice about something they have absolutely no clue about. Most of the time their advice is negative because those folks don’t have any experience with it, and have no idea how to support you when you present certain things to them. Even if they’re trying to let you down nicely, their words aren’t ever helpful.
I tend to believe there are people who can give you advice on almost any topic and not kill your dreams because they have common sense knowledge. I also believe that a lot of people don’t look to those folks, and instead look to someone who they hope is going to put down their dream because they’re not confident enough in themselves already.
Don’t do that to yourself. You may not be able to do everything you want to do for one reason or another, but you can probably do pretty well, especially if you research, invest the time, and give it the very best you can.
By the way, you’ll often hear motivational speakers talk about “failure” or failing. People only fail if they quit too early. Everything else is an experiment; you try things, then you try again if they didn’t work how you wanted them to work. A change in perspective can be a strong thing.
4. Don’t let people hold you down by finding ways to keep you from going for your dreams. I did a video years ago, which I’m going to include below, where one of the things I said is that you don’t have to give up your friends in order to succeed. However, you might have to change your behaviors with some of those friends who don’t offer you support in trying to better yourself or achieve your dreams.
If you do end up dropping some of your friends, realize that it’s not your fault that things are changing. A true friend would wish nothing but the best for you and try to help you get there in whatever way possible that they could, including giving you time and space to work on your dream.
5. Although this is difficult, try not to get caught up in someone else’s drama. On that Facebook post, I could have gotten vicious and really made things ugly across the board. However, I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to continue making everybody else uncomfortable.
As you’ve seen on this blog if you’ve visited often, overall I’m a pretty positive kind of guy. There are people who will be negative no matter what the issue is. Sometimes their negativity can affect you, and it’s never in a positive way. Sometimes it’s directed at you, sometimes it’s not. But it always drains you, takes away a part of your soul, and that’s no way to live.
When drama is a consistent thing, you need to take stock of your life and decide if you want to feel bad, if you can handle someone else’s drama and be there for them, or if you need to step away and work on yourself. When it’s intentional drama and you keep getting caught up in it… I just can’t imagine that anyone can be happy with that for long.
If there’s a person among you who’s content with an unhappy life, I wish you well. If you have dreams and inspirations, don’t let the proverbial “man” keep you down. Get help, get motivated, get planning, get moving, and get it done.
Whether it’s blogging, life, love or dessert (hey, someone had to say it), live life your way. If you need help doing it… just read some of this again, or watch one of my motivational videos.
And while you’re at it, check out the one below: