Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Not that you asked me how you should live your life, but...

My wife asked me recently if I have a philosophy on life and I realized that yes, in fact, I do. And (like most thoughts I have) it can be expressed in four easy to remember bullet points. Far be it from me to tell you how to live your life. I'm just another guy slogging through each day, trying to be reasonably happy and successful. But if I could make one person one tiny bit happier (or make one person just slightly less irritating to the rest of the world) by enlightening him with my list, wouldn't it be horrible of me not to? So, without further ado, here is my four bullet point philosophy on life - the DanJanifesto Four Commandments:

I - Don't Be A Dick

II - Nobody Cares About You

III - Stop Complaining

IV - Throw People A Bone

Don't Be A Dick

I already wrote about this a while ago. Check out the full posting here. The concept seems simple enough. But it does seem to fall through the cracks quite often.

Nobody Cares About You

I don't mean this in the depressing "nobody loves you" kind of way, but rather in the liberating "nobody is going to pay one millisecond of attention to whether your pants are wrinkled" kind of way. You are at the center of your own world, but you're a bit player in the worlds of almost everyone else. People who like you will like you in spite of your bajillion minor deficiencies. And people who don't like you won't like you even if you fix every single one. So when you start to fret about whether the tone of your coworker's email was irritated or whether your barista noticed that your belt doesn't match your shoes, forget about it. They don't care. Nobody does. With that weight removed from your shoulders, you'll have more mental energy to think about warm apple pie or babbling mountain brooks or whatever it is that makes you happy.

Stop Complaining

It's OK to complain if someone you love has died, if your house burns down or if you lose a limb. But that should be about it. One of my former early-morning-shift bagel store coworkers used to respond, every single day when I asked her how it was going, by saying "it's gonna be one of those days." And I used to think, holy shit, it's 5:30 in the morning. What could possibly happen to you every day before 5:30 in the morning that would make you say that? Of course it's gonna be one of those days. Life is a vast patchwork of minor irritants, most of which are amazingly uninteresting. When you regale other people with stories of those irritants, you are probably not only boring them, but irritating them as well. If they locked themselves in a dark broom closet, they would likely just be bored, and not irritated. That means that when you complain, a dark broom closet is doing a better job at making the world pleasant than you are. This is not to say that you have to go around pointing out how lovely and inspiring every flower blossom or piece of dryer lint is (people who do this have to worry about getting their asses kicked in the men's room). But spending just an infinitesimal little molecule of energy focusing on the good stuff in life never killed anyone.

Throw People A Bone

Human beings are hard wired to think more highly of themselves than they probably should. But what's wrong with a little self-delusion? If thinking we're smarter, better looking and more generally wonderful than we really are gets us through the day, what's wrong with that? Why not let people think what they want about themselves and treat them like the superstars they think they are instead of the schlubs they may actually be? (Unless, of course, they're having trouble following rule #1, in which case it can be hard). If I tell you I'm 5'7" and can do 15 pull-ups, why not just accept that at face value, even if it doesn't even pass the laugh test? There's no finite amount of flattery in the world. And a little praise, while no skin off your back, can really make someone's day. So why not spread a little love? In the words of John Belushi in Animal House, "it don't cost nothin."

In Conclusion

If you've made it this far through my self-help tome without vomiting or blowing an infuriated gasket, well thanks for that. I know, easier said than done. And I know that, contrary to my commandments, I can be as much of a dickish, self-important, whining misanthrope as the next guy. But it's good to share. If I turn this posting into a book, sell a million copies, start a cult, buy a tax-deductible not-for-profit corporate jet and fly to Aruba, I'll save you a seat.


Rich said...

I still think DBAD should launch itself via a bumper sticker, mug, and button campaign. It really says it all.

NYpolak said...

"That means that when you complain, a dark broom closet is doing a better job at making the world pleasant than you are."

love it.

veryfrank said...

Well said, Bodhisattva, or should I say, Janhisattva.
Amazing how a simple question from Lesley will inspire such brilliance

Anonymous said...

To borrow a phrase from talk radio, my second favorite source of entertaining opinions behind the DanJanifesto, "Long time reader, first time poster". Just needed to say that this post is truly one to live by. It should be printed into pamphlets and handed out in airports and other public places. I'll volunteer!