By Ron Culberson. With a master’s degree in social work, Ron Culberson spent the first part of his career working in a large hospice organization as a clinical social worker, middle manager, and senior leader. As a speaker, humorist, and author of "Do it Well. Make it Fun.The Key to Success in Life, Death, and Almost Everything in Between", he has delivered more than 1,000 presentations to associations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporations. His mission is to change the workplace culture so that organizations are more productive and staff are more content. He was also the 2012-2013 president of the National Speakers Association and is a recognized expert on the benefits of humor and laughter.
In my last post, I mentioned a phrase from my childhood about our being “worth our salt.”
Here are some of the remaining principles which I embrace. Hopefully, by seeing them, you will think more purposefully about the principles you value...
A rabbi, a priest, and a nun walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What, is this a joke?”
Since I did my graduate thesis on humor and my brand is “Do it Well, Make it Fun,” it makes sense that I believe in fun and humor. The research is clear—a spoonful of fun makes the stress go down (or something like that).
You see, during our lifetime, we will encounter both joy and sorrow. To truly experience joy, we must understand the experience of sorrow—and vice versa. Yet, many of us tend to focus more on our challenges and as a result, we miss many of the simple pleasures in life. So, while we don’t need to be reminded of the adversities we experience, since we’re already good at focusing on that, we do need to be reminded to seek more fun and humor—to balance the adversity. So quit working so hard and get back to goofing off!
Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”
Honesty is the best path to take even when a “little white lie” appears to be the better course of action. For instance, has anyone ever said to you, “Now, this is just between you and me”?
When that happens to me, I explain that my wife and I do not keep secrets from each other. Therefore, I willshare the information with her. I explain this so the other person can decide if they still want to share the information with me. I could just as easily say, “sure” and then tell my wife anyway. But that’s not honest.
When we’re honest, even in those situations when we’re sharing difficult information or we have to admit a mistake, I believe the honesty shows integrity and that we can be trusted.
I am a speaker and author. That means if people like me and what I talk about, I tend to get hired more. This is risky proposition for someone who leans toward the narcissistic end of the self-centered spectrum. So, when someone says, “That was the best presentation I’ve ever seen,” I have to fight the urge to believe that I am a precious gift to the world at large.
It turns out, humility is actually a better approach. And, it’s a very powerful principle even though it may not appear to be. When we show humility by admitting mistakes, sharing credit for our successes, and focusing on others, we actually make a greater impact than when we try to take all the credit for ourselves. A humble approach to most things endears us to others because it makes us less arrogant and more gracious.
So, when we start to feel entitled and think that we deserve to be treated a certain way, we should remind ourselves that in most situations, we’re probably blessed to have what we have—rather than thinking we deserve more. And that can be a powerfully humbling realization.
Whenever I speak, I typically wear a suit. There are two reasons for my attire and both are related to professionalism. First, besides the fact that I look handsome and debonair, I found that I’m funnier when I dress up. If I look like a business speaker, my humor catches people off guard and I appear funnier. When I dress more casually, the audience expects me to be looser and funnier. And honestly, I don’t need that kind of pressure! So, I prefer to dress up and surprise them with the funny.
The second reason I wear a suit is that I respect the role I’m in. I’m being paid to deliver a presentation and I want to show my client that I take that role seriously. Even when the conference coordinator tells me that the audience’s attire will be casual, I still wear a coat and tie (oh, and pants too). I think it shows respect for them and that I appreciate the importance of my job.
Professionalism is really about taking your role seriously and respecting the integrity of the work. And it doesn’t matter what you do. I’ve seen garbage collectors take their roles more seriously than corporate managers. And when a cab driver goes out of his way to make my experience better, that’s professionalism. Someone once said, “Every job is dignified if done well.”
Professionalism is, therefore, not just what we do but how we do it.
In the hospice where I worked, my colleagues and I felt very strongly about the role of respect, dignity, and self determination in the care of our patients. Many patients had come from an environment where they felt poked, prodded, and without a voice in the care they received. We tried to give them their dignity back by respecting their situation and their input.
It seems that in the world today, respect has lost it’s dignity—especially when it comes to our differences. I believe that many challenges could be resolved if we would be willing to respect those who have a different perspective and to have a civil conversation about those differences. We’re all on this journey together and when we respect people as fellow human beings, we not only honor them, we often receive respect in return.
Responsibility means owning our situation, whether good or bad. I have found that this principle can be challenging because it’s tough to admit when we’ve made a mistake.
As a hospice manager, I made a decision that turned out badly. At my next staff meeting, I explained my thinking, admitted my error, and described my plan to correct the situation. I believe it may have been one of the best decisions I ever made because it showed my staff that I was not only human and therefore could make mistakes, but I was willing to take responsibility for the problem.
So, when we make an error, we should take responsibility. And when we do something good, we should take responsibility (with a bit of humility as noted above). Either way, we avoid blaming people or the system for our situation.
Well, here again, this principle seems obvious. But I’m amazed by how many people I’ve heard say, “I don’t ever read” or “I’m not interested in learning about this” or “I’ll just get by.”
In this life-long adventure we’re on, our goal is to end up better than we started. In other words, our goal is to always improve. If you’ve ever had a hobby, you know how good it feels when you improve. I played tennis in high school and when I learned a new way of hitting a ground stroke or got better at my serve, I enjoyed the game more.
Life is richer when we’re better at it. Try to find a few things to improve and see if it isn’t true for you too.
As I said in Part 1 of this series, the principles in our life are like salt: they season our lives. I hope you will take some time to figure out which principles are important to you. Then, as Stephen Covey suggested, write them down and put them where you’ll see them every day. If we’re all a bit more value-abled, we will season our own lives and make the world just a little bit tastier.
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