Author Archives: Brian Darby

If honesty is the best policy, act like it

Let me take you on a mental road trip back to my sixth grade classroom. The first thing that happened in any classroom on any given morning, of course, was attendance: the teacher would call out each name and mark whether the student was present or absent. On this particular day, my teacher called out names until she came to my friend Eric. Their conversation went a bit like this:

“Eric, you weren’t here yesterday. Do you have a note from home?”class-1459570_1280

“No ma’am, I do not,” Eric answered.

“Why were you not in school yesterday?” she replied.

Eric said, “Well, yesterday morning – early – the water pipe under our sink broke and the house was being flooded with water. So I had to help my dad get the water turned off, move all the furniture out of the rooms, and help him dry, clean up, and repair the pipe.”

My sixth grade teacher looked at him and said, “Well, that’s not an excused absence.” Her implied meaning was that because it was not an “excused” absence (made official by a note from home detailing whatever calamity may have befallen that student that would prevent them from attending), Eric would get zeroes for all of the work he missed by being absent.

A couple of names later, she called my name. Like Eric, I had been absent the day before; however, I was absent because I just didn’t feel like going to school that day. I told my mom, “I just don’t feel like going. Could you write me an excuse tomorrow that says, ‘Brian had a head cold and just did not want to go’?” She agreed- reluctantly. Therefore, when the teacher called my name and asked if I had a note from home, I was able to say, “Yes I do.”

I handed my teacher a note that said, “Please excuse Brian for being out yesterday. He had a head cold, and we thought he might be more sick that he was. Sincerely, Sheila.”

My 6th grade teacher looked at my note and said, “Well, being sick is an excused absence. Get with one of the other students to look at all the work that you missed, and have it made up for me by tomorrow.”

I remember going back to the table and sitting down and thinking about what had just happened with me, and also what had just happened with Eric, and realizing that I was going to make up the work and Eric was not. I would like to tell you that I was mature enough to understand what had just happened there:  that if somebody could lie and get rewarded while somebody else could tell the truth and be punished, then the system was really messed up. Sadly, that’s not the case. All I really took away from that situation was that lying pays off.

In his book The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley, Dr. Stanley studies the habits of millionaires (first-generation millionaires, to be precise). These are people who were not born into wealthy families, but who went out and did things that made them a millionaire. “These things” are primarily hard work and starting businesses. As a matter of fact, Dr. Stanley found that an extremely low percentage of first-time millionaires inherited their wealth. Dr. Stanley looked at all the common traits of these first-generation millionaires, and the one common trait that came up over and over and over again was this: integrity.

First-generation millionaires typically have extremely high levels of honesty and integrity.

So if that’s the case, and our goal in life when teaching children is to set them up to be as successful as they can with their talents and their abilities, then why do we drop the ball when it comes to simple honesty?

Think about my story for just a moment. First of all, what would have been the harm in Eric making up the work? I remember Eric. Eric had better attendance than most of the people that I ever went to school with. His parents believed in education, and hard work, and learning, and being honest. They were God-fearing people. While the official reason for his punishment was the lack of an “excused” absence as recognized by an authority figure in the school system, we can see beyond that and realize that Eric was in reality being punished because he was helping his family during a crisis- and that they were honest about it.

I, on the other hand, was rewarded for my dishonesty. Because I managed to convince my mom to lie on my behalf and come up with an excuse that would satisfy school officials, I got away with it. What a message to send to a kid! I learned something important that day that served me well in the coming years. I remember lying a lot from that point on. If I felt that a lie would prove advantageous to me as a kid (and later on as a teenager), I told it.

And I got really good at it.

Over the years, I stopped relying on lies. However, I didn’t give them up cold-turkey. I slowly had to start realizing that, as an adult, telling the truth was not just okay. It was expected. Unfortunately, I had to transition out of an ingrained habit that I should have never been led into, however inadvertently.

We are all familiar with the concept of peer pressure, usually as it relates to kids starting on drugs and alcohol. But the truth of the matter is that I feel like I was pressured more by adults when I was a kid than I was my actual peers.

If we’re going to set kids up for success, we need to re-examine the small things we teach them. For instance, they need to know that lying is not a normal part of the real world. While I appreciated my mom’s interference on my behalf as a kid, it would have done more for my character if she had refused to write that letter and let me accept the consequences of missing school for no good reason.  Even small lies, such as this one, reinforce the message that lying gets you what you want without the benefit of hard work.

If you personally believe that lying is, in fact, an okay way to get what you want… well, then you’re part of the problem. We’ve got to slowly untangle the mess that we have created in this world, and I believe that by understanding that honesty and integrity are key parts to it – and making sure that that’s the message we are sending to our kids- we’ll get there.

Remember, being a leader is not always about spotting the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. Being a good leader is usually spotting the difference between what’s right and what’s almost right.

Stop embarrassing others for what they enjoy

 

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My daughter Hazel assisting me.

A few nights ago, for the first time ever, I brought my five-year old daughter to assist me at a trivia game I was hosting. She was there because we didn’t have a babysitter. She stood on stage with me, helped me set up, and also cleaned out the box of supplies I keep with me.

When the game started, she danced to the music that I played. There was probably about 85 to 90 people in the restaurant. At one point, she stood next to me, late in the game, and I made a joke. The joke was a self-depreciating joke about me. I use self-depreciating humor to make people laugh and have a good time. But she’s five and didn’t know what they were laughing at. She incorrectly assumed that everybody was laughing at her. She thought that I had made fun of her. She started crying, ran to the back of the stage, hid in a corner, and sobbed for the rest of the game.

I felt crushed. Even though I had not done anything wrong, the mere thought that I had hurt my daughter in that way made me feel awful. After the game was over, she started to understand what had happened and that I had not made fun of her. And the joy started coming back into her life. She was happy for the ride home.

A thought then occurred to me. It made me realize that it’s never okay to poke fun at something that somebody enjoys doing. She danced literally every song for 16 straight songs.  The people in the crowd noticed and thought it was cute. But nobody pointed anything out to her or said anything. She was on the stage, and they were playing trivia. She was not bothering them. They were not bothering her.

I get online this week, and I realize that there are people making fun of other people for playing the new Pokemon game. Now, I know very little about Pokemon. I’ve never played Pokemon. I know some of the characters just because of them being in the mainstream areas of my life, but I don’t know very much about it at all. But I have seen people making fun of other people playing Pokemon.

Why are we doing that? What is it giving us? What is it accomplishing? Why are we taking something that somebody enjoys, that frankly doesn’t bother anybody else, and make fun of people for it?

With shame I must admit that I am just as guilty as anybody else. I’ve made fun of people for really liking professional wrestling. I have made fun of people for live-action role play. I’ve made fun of people for being extremely geeky about stuff, or having tattoos. And as I watched my five-year-old cry her eyes out because she had thought I had made fun of her, it was a big lesson that I don’t need to do that.

Now, am I’m going to be perfect overnight no? But I do think we need to stand back and realize that when we are actually harming society by telling people that they should not enjoy their hobbies. Especially when these hobbies do not infringe on anyone else.

Hobbies, games, and having fun in general, stoke the creative flames inside of all of us. And with all of the problems in our world that need solutions, we need as many creative fires burning inside of us as we can possibly get.

Do people occasionally take hobbies to unhealthy extremes? Yes. But that’s not the situation I’m talking about here.

We need to remind ourselves as a society when something comes out as a fad, we shouldn’t really make fun of people who do it. If they’re getting enjoyment out of it and they’re doing it responsibly, then let them. Nobody understands all the things that I do and I’m not going to understand all the things everybody else does. But if we sat back and we just let people enjoy this short period that they have on Earth called life, I have a feeling they might also be better producers and leaders.

Go catch ’em all.

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How to Survive the Confluence of Suck

 

A confluence, as shown above, is where two rivers join to become one, or a situation in which two things come together or happen at the same time.

Something that sucks, well, that just sucks.

Over the past 11 weeks at my day job we have been moving from one warehouse/headquarters to a brand new building. This has required moving 200,000 boxes mostly by hand, all of the computer equipment, furniture, personal items, etc.

At the same time we found out that our landlord was moving back to the country and we had to move out of our residence, find a new place, move in, and take a fence down we had put up at the old place because the landlord didn’t want it.

That, my friends, was a confluence of suck.

Throw in the fact that I work a night job 4 days a week, we have two kids (one of which got a bad stomach bug during this time), a dog (who got into raisins and had to go to the vet), plus I got turned down for an opportunity that I wanted, and it’s just been a hard three months.

Yesterday, though, we turned in the keys to the landlord. 4 weeks before we were required to, (but still 4 weeks after we were already sort of in the new place). For 1 month we paid rent at two different places because my schedule severely limited the time we had to move. Note to self: next time, hire movers.

This Saturday is the final Saturday I should have to work for quite a while, and our lives will slowly be returning to normal – or at least as normal as someone who works two jobs. How did we survive? Well, looking back, here’s how:

1. Acknowledge that this DOES suck!

The simple of fact of stating out loud “man this situation really stinks”, validates the tiredness, the irritability, and the stress. So you and your partner should occasionally remind each other “Yep this isn’t exactly paradise”.

2. Make sure that it’s TEMPORARY, and REMEMBER that!

In my situation, we knew going into it that there was an end date. We knew the last box would eventually get moved from both the old warehouse and the old residence. If you’re going through a tough time, try to determine when it will be over and mark it on the calendar. If it goes beyond that date, you need to figure out why and how to make sure it’s temporary.

3. It’s sometimes better to extent the suck, if you get a short break in the middle.

Mothers day weekend we didn’t move any boxes from the warehouse, we also would occasionally not work a Saturday evening moving the things out of our house and into storage. While those breaks probably delayed us by a few days, it helped keep our sanity, and our health.

4. After it’s done, rest and recover before jumping into something else.

I have a bad habit of going, “Wow look at what I can accomplish when I’m in crisis mode, we should be this busy all the time!” Don’t do this. Rest and recover from surviving the suck, and then you can move on to another project.

 

The confluence of two rivers into one is a mighty big deal. But all rivers are temporary. They eventually reach the lake or sea. So hang on, and ride it out. You CAN do it.

Beware of your emotions tilting you

FreeImages.com/michelle kwajafa

FreeImages.com/michelle kwajafa

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity stumble across my desk. Without going into details, let’s just say it would have been a life changing experience that would have also put me in a place that would have helped me achieve many goals that I have.

I went through the application and interview process. I was praying I would get it. I thought I had it. During this time I found out that some contract work that I do on the side would be ending, so finding something that would replace that income would be perfect timing.

I asked people on Facebook to pray for me. I had close friends giving me encouragement…and then….

I didn’t get it.

I received the word, that I had not been selected. I was crushed. I spent the next seven days in an emotional swirl. Anger, sadness, disbelief, indifference.

While my emotions were churning, I was reminded about an opportunity that a few weeks prior I had said “No” to. I asked the individuals about that opportunity.

I was considering taking it, when I realized that committing to that opportunity would actually take me farther away from my writing goals than ever before.

So, I said “No” again. But this time, just barely.

Professional poker players like to use a term called “Tilt”. It’s actually an old pinball machine term. When pinball players would get worried about their ball being lost down the chute, they would try to tilt the machine to have the ball veer towards one of the flippers. Most pinball machines have a sensor, and if you tilt too much, the machine will stop responding and the turn will be over.

Poker players have started using this term to describe when they feel like they have won a hand, only to get beat at the last second. Their emotions will cause them to “tilt”. This means that they start to play with emotions rather than sound strategy, and lose even more chips because of it.

When I lost the opportunity that I really did want, my emotions started to tilt, and I almost took an opportunity that I knew I wasn’t the right fit for. Luckily, I followed these steps and avoided a mistake:

1. Slow down and think about it

Initially when I heard about the opportunity that wasn’t good for me, I said, “No.” When I revisited it later, I ended the conversation with, “Let me think about it.” Very few times in life does a big decision need to be made immediately. So take your time.

2. Talk to your spouse, significant other, or trusted friend

My wife and I sat down and discussed all of the pros and cons of taking both opportunities. Once we did that, the answer to both was obvious, one was “Go for it!” The other was “I don’t think this is the move we should make.” In both cases, talking to someone allowed me to verbalize concerns and thoughts that kept things moving in the right direction.

3. Imagine yourself in the opportunity

For a day, as I drove around in my car, I actually had conversations out loud that I would have to have with both opportunities. The more I did, the more I realized the answers for each one.

4. Review your written goals

I keep a list of goals. When I went back to review them, that’s when it REALLY became clear which decisions would actually cause me to drift away from what I want to accomplish. This was the nail in the coffin for me.

I encourage you to be methodical about big decisions that pop up. Make sure that your emotions aren’t leading you astray.

Resist the tilt.