Good or Bad?

It’s tempting to label events in our lives as either good or bad.  It keeps things simple. Avoid the bad, increase the good.

A missed opportunity, for example, is “bad” and a promotion is “good.”  In many cases these value judgements are sound evaluations.

However, the idea that an event carries some objective value misses a key point. Our interpretations are individual, influenced of our experiences, biases, and preconceptions.

Different interpretations of an event explain why a child might joyfully craft snow angels in the same blizzard that ruins the daily commute for others.

Shakespeare famously said, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” This idea is portrayed in the parable of the Chinese Farmer.

Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Labeling an event as “bad” limits the positive effects that the event could have. Labeling an event as “good” blinds you to any of the events imperfections.

The next time that you “miss an opportunity” consider the Chinese Farmer.

You Decide What’s Cool

To follow up on “That’s Weird,” I wanted to offer some advice on how to combat the hasty dismissal of something that you believe is cool.

If you hear “that’s weird” it’s important to understand that you decide what’s cool.

Our perception of what’s cool and what’s weird is shaped by others’ opinions. But what if you could decide what is cool, independently?

Often what is labeled as weird is only labeled as such because the actor lacks confidence in his or her actions.

Conviction in your actions gives you control over how your actions are perceived.

Short anecdote: I was homeschooled growing up. From first to sixth grade I did not attend a traditional school. Instead my mom and dad facilitated an environment where I could learn and pursue personal interests.

During this time, I had many interests, but developed two loves: bird watching and wrestling.

Both bird watching and wrestling had components that made them weird. Bird watching is a sport of the retired and wrestling is a sport of scantily-clad boys engaging in an easily-mocked dance.

However, I didn’t see either of these activities as weird, and I threw myself head-first into both activities.

The most important lesson that I learned from homeschooling was a lesson that I had missed.

I missed the day when the popular kids dolled out decrees of socially permissible activities.

I missed the tutorial on how to be cool, but gained something else.

By the time I did enter school as a sixth grader, I was so confident that birdwatching and wrestling were cool that I was able to trick others into thinking they were cool too. I created a birdwatching club and recruited many of my friends to the wrestling team.

By missing the lesson on what cool activities looked like, I learned two related lessons: being cool is subjective and you can control this subjectivity.

If you think something is cool, and pursue your interest with unapologetically, no one will know that your chosen activity isn’t cool.

Being confident in your actions is the only distinguishing factor between what is seen as weird and what is seen as cool.

You decide what’s cool.

“That’s Weird”

This simple phrase places a prompt negative value judgement on another’s ideas or actions.

Calling something “weird” could have two unintended consequences:

  1. It could deter someone from an activity that he or she might enjoy
  2. It could prohibit you from trying an activity that you might otherwise enjoy.

Approaching something foreign with curiosity, instead of judgement, avoids both these responses and allows for more enjoyment from both parties.

As mentioned in Good or Bad, language has a powerful influence in how we view the world.