A big part of this whole FinanciaLibre experiment is about improving the awesomeness of life. Wealth is a part of that equation, and we spend a fair amount of our time focusing on money.
But that’s hardly the whole enchilada. Which is why I like to burn a few pixels here and there addressing stuff like “hedonomics,” where money and decision-making and happiness seem to intersect.
And it’s why we tolerate flimflam psychology hokum and emotional stuff and other human things. Not to mention health stuff.
They’re all part of the mix. There’s no way to max out life awesomeness without a slathering of guac and sour cream and hot sauce on top of the basic enchilada. The paper plate has to bend before things are even close to fully loaded.
In that spirit, there are two things (which are really sort of just one thing) that fit right into our life-awesomeness enchilada creation. These are things we can do everyday – for free – that make the world better. And which make each of us better. And better off.
Want to get ahead in your career? Want to score sweeter deals? Want peeps to treat you more nicely? Want your biz to succeed? Want your family to be happier and healthier? Want your prospects for finding a great spouse or partner (if you don’t already have one) to go way up? Want everything to be a little shinier and richer and more slathered in guac and sour cream and hot sauce?
Then consider these two things (or maybe just one) that I am trying to be better at, and which I humbly suggest we might all try to be better at.
1. Act with Decency
This is as obvious as a used band-aid on top of your enchilada: our norms of decency have eroded. The standard that passes as acceptable in all spectra of society has declined. This is not a judgment. No one is to blame. But it’s hardly refutable.
It’s a complex thing, and there are a million reasons why it’s occurred. But I’m super-guilty of one big reason, and that’s sheer laziness. It’s damn easy to be indecent. It’s harder and takes more creativity to not be. Which is, yes, more work. But being more creative and less lazy yields a much richer life, so the payout well exceeds the cost.
Now, it’s true that not everything we’ve held as “decent” in the past really has been so great. So I’m not suggesting a rewinding of cultural standards.
But treating others with respect and care and genuine concern is a timeless and profound power. And it is always decent. And it has not been sufficiently in evidence in our society. We can do better, yours truly included.
People want to be – and should be – treated with genuine decency. And this should especially be the case when we disagree.
You don’t have to look far or wide for daily reminders of how damaging indecent words and actions are. If you’re upset by the level of incivility around you, then impose upon yourself a higher standard. Be the rising tide.
If you want people to be decent, you be decent.
You can do this today. It will make you better. It will enrich your life. It will improve your career and family and business and friendships and wealth. It will make the world better. It will resolve some of the great divides we seem to face, and it will do so at no cost.
2. React with Decency
Let’s address the other half of decency.
Decency goes both ways. Words and actions that are hurtful and disrespectful are problematic. But they are no more problematic than disproportionate or askew responses to perspectives or viewpoints we find uncomfortable. And they are no more indecent than efforts to restrict, marginalize or malign alternative views.
It is indecent to suppress real differences of opinion or perspective or belief behind the smokescreen of not offending someone.
It is indecent to respond to a genuine alternative perspective with recrimination and accusation and exaggerated offense.
It is indecent for censorship to prevail in places like college campuses or newspaper editorials or public discourse in the name of political correctness.
It is indecent to hide behind moral superiority rather than to attempt to address the heart of a contention.
If you want people to be respectful of your perspectives and beliefs and orientations, you be respectful of theirs.
If someone shares their views with you, don’t assume something about their character just because those views differ from your own.
If you want people to be decent, you be decent.
If you want to live in a world where it is unsafe for anyone to share any perspective about anything at any time, keep on reviling everyone who’s different, keep on judging everyone else’s values, keep on being suspicious rather than trusting, keep on hating, and keep on choosing to not engage.
Indecency is a disease. So is political correctness. So is censorship. So is hate.
And, by the way, they’re all cut from the same cloth.
To practice and benefit from decency requires great reserves of strength and openness.
It demands patience and civility and humanness.
It calls on the most profound depths of our abilities to empathize and love.
It enjoins us to be our very best.
The difficulties of being decent are great, and missteps occur even among the strongest and most disciplined. We’re tempted by mistrust. We’re allured by short-termism. We’re prone to justifying our own wrongdoings by pointing at the infractions of others as if to say, “They did it first!”
But no misstep or temptation or failing is grounds for abandoning the cause of raising our personal standards so as to raise the collective standard of decency of the world around us. No disagreement among us can ever change the fact that, for as singular as each of us may be, we are more similar than not. And no amount of delusion will ever vacate the truth that we are better, stronger, more human and more fully able to realize our capabilities when we engage and respect one another than when we withdraw and recriminate.
To avoid addressing our differences is not a choice. And to assume they will be resolved without active participation is a surrender of civic and social duty. We must be open about our perspectives and open to the views of others: To believe one individual’s perspectives are more correct or more valid than those of anyone else is a failure of reason and a violation of the essential truth of equality.
And to perceive we are made worse off by disagreement misses the point of disagreement itself. Society is not about the particulars of an answer to a question; it is about the procedure by which that question is addressed and the recognition that the sanctity of the method is more important than any conclusion reached. Society is about affording ourselves and others common decency so that we may enjoy life and we may express liberty and we may navigate our differences in the pursuit of answers to questions, in the pursuit of happiness.
Let’s not forget: Being decent, raising our individual standards, and subordinating our desires to be “right” to our social needs for us all to be heard is a cornerstone of success. It improves the odds of achieving goals, of obtaining satisfaction, or finding and cultivating love and happiness. And it makes us better. No matter who might be “right” in a disagreement, practicing decency is always right.
We can find commonality when we ground ourselves in decency and mutual respect. And that is the only way we will find happiness and mutual success. Which means we have to begin there. With decency. With respect. With a hug.
Let’s hug it out, everybody. Let’s hug it out.