Don't Take Anything Personally!

One of the screeds I sometimes turn to for inspiration and/or inner peace is “The 4 Agreements,” a spiritual guide by Don Miguel Ruiz that is purportedly based on ancient Toltec wisdom (the Toltecs did not leave any written records, so the term is used somewhat loosely to convey ancient Central American spiritualism...it's new age sh!t. Don't think too hard about it.).

The second of these Agreements is: Don’t take anything personally.

Lately, I have been struggling with this one a bit.

When I fell in love with my soul mate and girlfriend Deborah back in May, we both knew it was “The One.” I don’t know how we knew, but everything in the cosmos just seemed to come together in one perfect harmonious tapestry immediately, both internally and externally. Weird how that happens.

To Deborah and I, there is no doubt and no issue that we are to be together always. There’s total love, trust, and respect (the three legs that comprise what I call the “well formed stool” of a relationship). Sure, we bicker every so often, but we can usually stop ourselves before the fisticuffs (just kidding, there are never fisticuffs!). We both hate bickering and have a strict NO DRAMA policy. We have tons of other stuff in common too and we synergize well, which is why it is so perfect. She even likes that I play rock-n-roll music and supports it fully, which is still hard to get my head around, since very few of my past partners have appreciated that essential part of my very being (“it’s just a hobby…” eff off!). It’s my reason for being (aka, raison d’etre in French). Without rocking, my soul would die. But I digress.

The fact is, Deborah and I don’t think twice about the fact we are together. It’s just as natural as can be.

But then there is everyone else. Most people have been totally supportive, or at worst neutral. They are happy for us. But there have been a few naysayers – not many, but some – who are critical and or upset with us for various reasons.

To be fair, some concern is justifiable. After Deborah and I met, things moved fast. Since we were pretty much inseparable and I often stayed at her house, it made perfect sense for us to move in together, merge households and share life together as well as cut costs (always the frugal pragmatist…that’s me!). It didn't bother Deborah or me at all. Our parents (also presumably in lifelong soul mate type situations) totally "got it." They were happy and supportive.

But I had acquaintances* say things like, “I know Joe…it won’t last.” Ouch! It’s hard not to take something like that a little bit personally.

But then I think about The 4 Agreements. It’s not on me to be what other people think I should be or do what other people want me to do. It’s on them. They don’t know me, even if they think they do! They are saying negative things (Agreement #1: Be impeccable with your speech) and making false assumptions (Agreement #3: Don’t make assumptions; this one has made it into modern vernacular as “never assume…it makes and ASS out of U and ME,” although really it only makes an ass of the assumer). It's of no consequence to me.

I’m just being the best ME I can be (Agreement #4: Always do your best).

Another source of inspirado for me is the personal growth work of Derek Sivers, former owner and founder of CD BABY, an independent music distribution service I still use. He recently posted a video of a speech he gave that was titled: “DON’T PURSUE SOMETHING THAT SOMEONE SAID YOU SHOULD WANT.” The full recount of the video is neither here nor there, (though I am posting it below if you want to watch it), but the crux was that you should solve a problem you think needs to be solved, not pursue things you are told you SHOULD want (like a good job, wife, kids, house, that sort of thing).

The post could not have come at a better time. I was struggling with drama in a band project that was floundering because one of the members was literally pushing me to pursue something he said I should want…but I didn’t. I was verbally attacked and berated for not wanting it and it was just a lot of unnecessary drama. No thanks! (See No Drama Policy above…) Derek also wrote an inspirational blog post some time ago, titled: “No more yes. It's either HELL YEAH! or no.” Basically, if you don’t find yourself saying HELL YEAH about something you are asked to do, don’t do it. Say NO instead.

I was not feeling HELL YEAH, so I said no. It’s hard to say no. It makes you feel like you are giving up and it is easy to internalize that and take it personally. It feels like failure.

But actually it is quite the opposite. Continuing with the “meh” project would have been the true failure. Bailing on it makes room for other better projects that I do feel “HELL YEAH” about and I can invest more mental energy and time there. That’s actually SUCCESS. Failure is not a bad thing anyway. It’s an educational tool. Failure is directly proportional to TRYING something. It builds character and redirects you to your creative goals.

Another great man, Brett Newski, said: “Take Risks. Wait for No Man. Don’t Die.

Words to live by.

* I use the term "acquaintances" rather than "friends" because by my definition of a friend is someone who supports you, and a good friend supports you unconditionally. This doesn't preclude "constructive criticism," which is different from naysaying/negativity, and which true friends should offer up when needed.


Anonymous said...

The love you describe with Debra is real and will last! She is your soul-mate and there is nothing more natural than that. Congratulations!! I'm thrilled for you both. :) Shara

Joseph Leonard said...

Thanks Shar! A long time coming, but well worth waiting for. -Joe