Ruffle More Feathers… And Fly!

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Last summer, Barry and I were looking for a couple of room dividers for the house we were about to move into, because the living room was one big open space, and we wanted to section off a corner. We saw a pair we liked, but the price was a little steep, so we figured we’d see what else we could find first.

“Alright, we might be back,” Barry said to the salesman who was hovering around.

The salesman, with a desperate look on his face, reached out to shake Barry’s hand, and with the other hand produced a business card. “Think of me when you need any kind of furniture,” he said. “This is how I feed my family, you know.”  The statement was said with dejected sincerity, not out of friendly jest.

Barry and I both almost gagged as we exchanged looks and hightailed it to the exit. “What da hell… ya gotta be kidding me,” he said as soon as we were outside.

“This is how I feed my family? Buy from me, not for the quality of what I offer, but because you feel sorry for me?” I scoffed.

“What complete and utter victimitis thinking,” Barry added. “A total turn-off to a potential customer. It’s just one step above standing on the street corner with a sign and a tin cup, begging for spare change.”

You might be thinking, “Well, that’s a rare example of someone with a sales job who just doesn’t understand the concept of value-for-value, or quid pro quo.”

The sad thing is, we’ve seen a lot more of it than you’d expect lately.

== Cont’d = =

Alright, yeah, I understand. Times are tough, and some people are feeling desperate. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and all that stuff, right?

The thing is, universal laws don’t change based on the economy. Value is always given for value received, no matter what. Thinking, feeling and acting like a victim will always make you a victim, no matter what. And hanging in your comfort zone will always make you uncomfortably comfortable (read “stuck in a rut”), no matter what.

Right off the top of my head, I can think of two people that we used to work with pretty closely who figure playing it safe, or even playing the pity card, is the way to go.

One recently wrote a blog post where he claimed he was going to be bold and daring, and write things he’d never written before. What he ended up doing was complaining about how his life is really in the dumps, despite having always told people how great he’s doing. He wrote about his health problems, and his money problems, and his family problems, and mentioned how he needed to sell some of his products to pay the rent.

Yikes. That wasn’t bold and daring, it was pitiful. If he needed to sell some stuff to pay the rent, he should have focused on the amazing value he offered the customer, not the incredible lack he was experiencing. Apparently he, like the salesman at the furniture store, figured people would buy from him because they felt sorry for him.

The other person feels a need to constantly be cranking out feel-good quotes and snippets of universal lessons. He figures it inspires people — and he may be right — but it’s a hollow, temporary inspiration.

See, inspiration is not the same as motivation. Being inspired can motivate people… but a good swift kick in the rear end can, too.

And that takes us back to the comfort zone. Inspirational words keep many people sitting on their big plush comfort-zone couch. Some get inspired enough to get up and do something, but most don’t. However, if you dump that person off the couch and tell him what he’s doing to keep his butt glued in place — and how he can break free — you’re more likely to see some real results.

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If you watch America’s Got Talent, you’ll understand this analogy. Nine times out of ten, Piers Morgan will have something constructive to say to the performers. He’ll tell them what he liked, what he didn’t like, and why. He’ll point them in right direction to improve their act, and often they’ll come back with something way better than they ever could have come up with on their own.

It’s the equivalent of dumping them off their comfort-zone couch and telling them how to move ahead and achieve greatness.

David Hasselhoff, on the other hand, rarely has anything constructive to say, unless he’s parroting what the other judges have already commented on. The rest of the time, it’s “That was fantastic!” “You were terrific!” and “That’s what this show is all about!”

It’s the equivalent of reading them hollow, Pollyanna-ish inspirational quotes that do nothing but make them feel better in the moment… and give them validation to stay in their comfort zone.

Sharon Osborne kind of floats between the two, sometimes offering feedback of value, and sometimes gushing like David, depending on how “harsh” (read “right on”) Piers has already been.

It’s kind of like she’s operating a safety net… she’ll be honest if she’s the first to give feedback, but she’ll over-praise if she’s not, just so nobody feels too bad. If they do, they might decide to “jump” (figuratively) off the stage, and she’d be there to catch them.

This safety-net mentality is holding many people back, every day. One of my in-laws has no ambition, and staggers along at the level of status quo, because she figures there will always be a government program or family member to lend her a hand and hold out the safety net for her.

Another in-law is a tall, young, beautiful girl who had the opportunity a decade ago to go to New York and be a model and actor. She loves show biz — she directs and stars in community theater plays all the time — but she chose to turn her back on an exciting career she would have adored because her family convinced her to play it safe, and stay small… snuggled up on her comfort-zone couch.

And the very show I just mentioned — America’s Got Talent — proves again and again that people are fascinated with the underdog.

Even Piers turns to mush when it happens. First it was Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. Yes, she had a beautiful singing voice. But people loved her because she looked frumpy, and even started an uproar when she got a makeover. They wanted to feel that she was as “ordinary” as them, so they could, on the one hand, live vicariously through her… but on the other hand, keep her on her comfort-zone couch.

It’s like they’re saying, “Hey, lady, you show the world what you’ve got… but don’t become unattainable. We want to see you singing karaoke at the pub again next week!”

When all the attention caused her to have a nervous breakdown, I swear I heard some people quietly cheering that she would, in fact, stay just like them for awhile longer… suffering, but staying curled up nicely on that couch.

Now it’s all about Grandma Lee. She’s a 75-year-old comedian who has a few snicker-worthy jokes, but she’s just not laugh-out-loud funny. She’s in the finals of America’s Got Talent, not because of her talent — it doesn’t come close to any of the other finalists, or even a lot of the people who didn’t make it — but because she’s another underdog.

And nobody — not Piers, not Sharon, not the media, not anybody else I’ve heard — will give her constructive criticism. They just tell her she’s great… because, after all, she’s a grandmother who looks like Moe from The Three Stooges. How can you, or anyone for that matter, possibly say anything “bad” about her?

Just like everyone was afraid to say anything “bad” about Susan Boyle, as long as she didn’t stop being an underdog who was afraid of success (which is what kept her on that darned couch for so long in the first place).

It’s probably what the victimitis salesman and marketer at the top of this article were trying to do. “I’m an underdog, so you’ll help me, right?” Except that people support underdogs emotionally, not necessarily financially.

As far as offering them some advice goes… contrary to popular belief, constructive criticism is not “bad”. If done right, it’s constructive — hence the name. And constructive is helpful.

Unfortunately, most people see “criticism” of any sort as “confrontational”. And most people think confrontation is “bad” because it ruffles feathers.

Here’s what personal development writer Robert Ringer, whose tagline is A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World™, has to say about that:

I’ve always felt that the saddest way to go through life would be to never even make a ripple. Whether it’s Al Gore or George Bush, Michael Moore or Jerry Falwell, the Dalai Lama or Rupert Murdoch, they all have one thing in common:

They make ripples. In fact, they make big ripples.

And so should you if you want to live life as opposed to just passing through on your way to the grave. When you get up every morning, the first thing you should do is ask yourself if you did anything yesterday to make a ripple. Even more important, ask yourself what you can do to make a ripple today.

All great achievements begin in the mind. Thinking about ripples leads to making ripples. Don’t fear being different. Don’t fear offending people who get their noses out of joint because they don’t like what you say or do. Don’t fear downside consequences to the point where you can’t bring yourself to take action.

Above all, don’t fear making big ripples. Do things that no one has ever done before. Shock your competitors. Leapfrog over the pack.

Making ripples, or ruffling feathers, is a great way to make sure that not everybody will be pleased by what you do.

But so what? That’s why they say, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

Ruffling feathers doesn’t mean going out and seeing who you can upset or make angry. It means being straight, direct, and doing it for all the right reasons: to teach what you know, and help those who can’t see the forest, because they’re stuck sitting in their comfortable little nest, looking at their own little tree.

Ruffling feathers allows you to fly to great heights, because it means you’re adding value to the world.

So go ahead and fly.

Your Partner in the Quest For
Living a Life Without Limits
,

Filed under: Critical-Thinking, Personal Achievement

12 Responses to “Ruffle More Feathers… And Fly!”

  1. And the best thing about “making ripples” is that ripples always make more ripples….and the ripple effect can change families, communities–even the world!

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Tough love! Heather, I like the stuff you’re writing these days, telling it just like it is. I might not agree with it all but I am motivated and inspired by it nonetheless. Thanks!

  3. Great article… now you and Robert Ringer have me wondering what in the world I could do to make a ripple!

    Maybe I could start a campaign: Ringer for President.

    I’ve been reading his stuff for a long time, and he has the right ideas!

    Once upon a time I wished I could figure out how to not need to earn money for a few months – or maybe get a project grant – so I could do a study on why people want to remain victims. Entire communities (like the one where I live) seem to love wallowing in the “depressed area” designation. Almost like being unsuccessful was some kind of badge of honor.

    It would be fun to figure out why. But I don’t have time. Gotta get back to work…

    Thanks for the article,
    Mrte

  4. Thanks for the wake-up. Your article jarred me out of my hole, kicked my butt into Drive and got my brain to working. Roy Jones

  5. When you are on top, as Noah St. John infers, you often are there because…because…you really don’t know. The Nike “Just do it!” falls on deaf ears and confused minds.

    You can then make a living telling people your “tricks of the trade,” assuming (usually wrongly) that common people can bond with you once they find an empathetic connection and change for the better.

    What passes in your recent columns as tough love is really a holier-than-thou attitude with whip cream topping.

    That salesman may be pathetic or despicable, but first and foremost he is a frail human being.

    Lecturing achievers and seekers like us with the “gagging” behavior of a desperate underachiever smacks of condescension. More importantly, you missed a point to touch a life.

    Instead you took the easy path and escaped to the Ivory
    Tower to lecture us about the weaknesses of mortals.

    The next time you have a chance to make a difference, touch the person your with with this tough love, then (in victory) step aside and teach us how to apply your success to to the common wretched.

    * * *

    [ Barry’s Reply ]:

    Oh, Dear “Delicate” Humans, forgive us. For we know not what we do or why we do it.

    Surely, holy universal crusader of compassion and social norms (hey, there is such a specialist God up there, right?), there is no intended or deliberately planned reason for why we’re such insensitive washouts.

    Bestow mercy upon us, Sir Richard, for there truly is no justice in our paths. Our unrecognized need for ongoing soapbox-speak has turned us down a crooked road.

    My, we must say: you found the key to unlocking our long-lost “missing” ingredient: to actually be easy-on-the-soul and accommodating to the readers who… well… as you say, are “Frail.”

    Sorta like catching flies with “honey,” huh? Except, here’s the thing, Sir Richard: we’re pretty sure we didn’t hang up a sign on, or anywhere around, our LWL (Life Without Limits) brand/logo that says: “We promise to mind our P’s and Q’s and please everyone.”

    Actually, an exact excerpt from a previous post was:

    “… we never promised our ‘Life Without Limits’ motto means ‘Life 100% filtered For Your Protection,’ and we’ve never stated that success (self-growth) is only derived from clamoring to the sunny side of spirituality.”

    And, more to the very purposeful point of Heather’s article above: we live in a world where folks like yourself constantly associate passion/intensity and irreverent/contrarian thinking with thoughtless negativity and blow-hard unenlightenment.

    It’s a sad, sad proliferating mindset and honestly, Sir Richard, there are way too many people who are broke, unhealthy, and unhappy who ALSO don’t operate with self-reliance, self-responsibility, and honest personal contemplation.

    Haven’t you gotten the message by now that, no matter what, we’ll be here to pick up the slack?

    Let’s face it: in this arena (the business of life) there are more pseudo-metaphysical intellectuals/gurus and ethics watchdogs than you can shake a stick at.

    There are some obvious key points of Heather’s article you missed: Heather gave many examples of people who act like wall flowers for the simple reason of NOT upsetting somebody else.

    And, the counter-thought was simply: “Why?” or “How does acting like a goodie-two-shoes mamby-pamby inspirator make a true difference?”

    Hint: it doesn’t make any difference at all.

    If we’re truly here to open up the world to new ideas, see different perspectives, challenge beliefs, and consider unlimited possibilities (we’re here for that, and much more… you ?) then we, collectively, sometimes just have to highlight the absurd so we have a foundation from which to grow — a barometer of inner-world growth, if you will.

    “Holier than thou” is how victims react when something rings true, but they don’t like hearing it. And calling someone a “frail human being” is just giving them an excuse to stay on their couch, curled up in fetal position and sucking hard on their thumb.

    We’re giving your very distorted view of us some air time for a simple reason: it’s a very good “Case in Point.” Heather said: “Making ripples, or ruffling feathers, is a great way to make sure that not everybody will be pleased by what you do.”

    And, again, we say “awesome!” You’re not here, Sir Richard, to “please all the people all the time.” If you attempt to ‘try’ that, in the words of Robert Ringer, you’ll end up: “turning yourself into a big chunk of mush disguised as a human being. No one hates you, but no one loves you either.”

  6. Hey Barry and Heather,

    Love you guys! I do believe what you have to say is true, valid, and needed (not that you need or want that from me)! As Marianne Williamson says so sweetly, “The Truth will set you free, but first, it will really piss you off!”

    A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I was grateful for anything in my life. WOAH! That got me. Me, Polyanna, Miss Positive, Spiritual quote of the day sharer…of course I’m grateful – aren’t you listening? He was listening. Truly listening and watching. Who I said I was didn’t match with what I was actually saying. Knocked me right off that darned couch I had been sitting on! The truth will set us free. First, we have to be willing to listen.

    I woke up and I’m so glad. That’s what you guys do — wake us up.

    Thanks!
    Gayle

  7. Now we can ad Obama to the list of “ripple” makers!

    Thanks for the article …I was GREAT! //•¿~\\

  8. Refreshing article.

  9. Re. Richard Posner’s comment.
    Barry, I think you’ve shown something of yourself there that isn’t very nice.
    You received an adverse reaction and resorted to belittlement…’Sir Richard’, and much stamping of feet!
    It smacks of political tactics. What are you trying to hide?

    I was expecting an intelligent response from you, or none at all. He made a point that he obviously felt was valid, and the least you could have done was explain yourself with some dignity. Or you should not have bothered, and just let the comment stand.

    I presume Bin Laden is ok to ‘ripple away’….? Just asking.

    [ Barry’s Reply ]:

    As you already know the saying Simon: “opinions are like A__holes…everybody has them.” So, what I SHOULD have done is precisely what I did. Speak my mind, regardless of how irreverent and direct is was, to an opinion I felt was way off mark. How long have you been a reader? I ask simply because: I’m pretty sure — nah, I know — we’ve already given our own opinion about what we’ve affectionately labeled as “Spiritual Hall-Monitors.”

    Actually, if my memory serves me, I touched upon “the crowds” perception of speaking out against stupidity here:
    http://www.lwlworldwide.com/blog/hidden-heroes-bill-hicks/

    And, the whole Bin Laden analogy reeks of nonsense. Somebody who was fictionally-created for the sole purpose of keeping the wheels of a non-declared pointless war greased.

    Appreciate the attempt at scolding me for my lack-of-intelligence, manifested through my “passion” (ah, wait, sorry ‘temper’ – that’ll make it easier for you to swallow), but it just caused me to have some more fun, this time with you.

  10. Barry, you are perceptive! I’ve not long been aware of this site, and I have much to catch up on.

    I enjoyed the link you supplied regarding Bill Hicks. I’ve long been a fan of his, both when he was with us and after he left…only the good die young! I felt the loss at his passing.

    I cannot possibly comment on whether Bin Laden is real or not, because, like you, I am never likely to be in possession of the truth, but every person has an opinion….so fair enough.

    I’m pleased you replied, and that you are having some fun from it. I’m naturally suspicious of people that I feel are unnecessarily defensive/offensive, so felt the need to ‘test the water’. At least I’m now sure that the posts are from real people.

    I’ll continue my reading in the hope that I’ll learn something, as that is the reason why I logged on in the first place.

    [ Barry’s Reply ] —

    So, my admonishment here — my tough-love sorta finger-waging no-no back your way — is this:

    Don’t presume something’s an over-reaction UNTIL you first “get,” or completely understand WHY, from a historical context, it’s been said or HOW, from a teaching perspective, it’s being written.

    As you’re a Bill Hicks fan, you then undoubtedly understand there’s a BIG difference between uncontrollable over-reactions and premeditated (but irreverent and sometimes vitriolic) responses… or, to put it another way:

    There’s a method – a very one — behind the carefully-written PLANNED critical-thinking that BOTH Heather and I put into their writing and/or their communication with select readers.

  11. You are in perfect sinhronicity with me. I just started making a ripples after lifetime of being a nice good girl. I started telling teaching truth creating hate then passionate hate. I see your letter as incourigement and conformation I am on right path. Yes truth will set them free but first it will piss them off. Thank you for your efforts on the path.
    Greate work guys
    Thank you

  12. I’ve personally dealt with panic anxiety problems my whole life. It started when I was just a teenager and I’ve had to cope with them since then. I’ve finally figured out that has helped me get them done once and for all. I will tell you that it wasn’t quick or easy, but after a while I was able to finally get rid of them. I’ve finally got rid of them and its like I’ve started a new life not dealing with panic attacks. I also saw a Dr. Oz special a few days ago, sometimes it isn’t a panic attack that is the root of the problem, I’d also recommend talking to your doctor. I wish you the best!

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