I was a second-year HVAC apprentice when the company I worked for remodeled the refrigeration system of a grocery store in Tacoma, Washington. I was asked by Craig Breuer, a fine craftsman and patient teacher, to cut some 1-1/8" pipe to a specific length. I measured and cut. It was too short. This kind journeyman just smiled, but didn't say anything. I tried again. Mistake number two. He stopped what he was doing, looked me right in the eye, and said, "Measure twice, cut once." He didn't want to have to say, "You cut it three times and it's still too short!"
He could have berated me. He could have used any of the Four False Positives to make himself feel morally superior. He did not. Craig was an early mentor and a caring coach. He understood "smashing the other guys never makes mine look any better!"
The Four False Positives
1) Pedantry - Correcting someone for saying "who" instead of "whom" is a common occurrence in an English class or boardroom. You may be right, but the other person is resentful, embarrassed, and just may retaliate later.
2) I Told You So - Misguided parents do this to their children. Bad coaches hit players over the head with this one. It's hubris, ego unchecked, plain and simple.
3) Should-ing - Second person doesn't work. This form of moral superiority never ends with a "thank you" from the person who was just told he should have taken a different route or she should get a haircut.
4) Complaining - Most complaining happens behind someone's back. We are all guilty of this one. The average American worker spends fifteen hours a month doing this. It is a destructive habit; moreover, it's delivered to a person who cannot affect change. "I'd like some cheese with my whine!"
Peter Drucker once said, "Our mission in life is to make a positive difference, not to prove how smart or right we are."
Don Corleone said, "It's not personal, it's business."
There is an old Buddhist fable entitled "It's ALWAYS an Empty Boat":
A young farmer was covered with sweat as he paddled his boat up river. He was going upstream to deliver his produce to the village. It was a hot day, and he wanted to make his delivery and get home before dark. As he looked ahead, he spied another vessel heading rapidly downstream toward his boat. He rowed furiously to get out of the way, but it didn't seem to help. He shouted to no avail, "Change direction! You are going to hit me!" The vessel hit his boat with a violent thud. Some of his produce was knocked into the water. "You idiot! How could you manage to hit my boat in the middle of such a wide river?" As he glared into the boat, seeking out the individual responsible for the accident, he realized no one was there. He had been screaming at an empty boat that had broken free of its moorings and was simply floating downstream with the current.
The message is clear. With no one at the helm, there is no one to blame. Getting angry is futile. We have no scapegoat. Acting out is silly. Playing the victim is a misuse of emotions and imagination. The moral? There's never anyone in the boat.
The cook makes you the wrong dish, a friend interrupts your story, or someone cuts you off on the freeway. Guess what? They are not doing it because of who you are, but because of who they are. There is no one in the boat. It's ALWAYS an empty boat. Who is really being punished? Who is doing the punishing? That would be me and me. Acceptance is the answer to all my problems, both big and small, today.
Dr. Paul wrote: When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it's supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake. Unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
Icut the pipe three times-and it's still too short! I need to call Craig and thank him. I need to take personal responsibility and remember to measure twice and cut once. Hand me that pipe, would you?
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