The pitfalls of being judgmental of other people’s lives

25Feb 2018
Guardian On Sunday
The pitfalls of being judgmental of other people’s lives

LAST week was one of the most tiring weeks I’ve had in a long time. My days literally got linked into each other until at some point I found myself not remembering which day I was in.

Actually I remember someone calling me on Friday afternoon and on asking me how my week had been, I just told them it had been one long Monday.


In addition to the deadlines I was dealing with, I also had some major personal challenges that came up unexpectedly, and they were not only taking an emotional toil on me, they were also demanding my mental input.


By Thursday I was almost reaching my breaking point but then I started using the same remedies I give others who are at the point of giving up.


I often tell people that I too go through the same challenges every human goes through, but many people don’t seem to believe it. I am human too you know; I get challenged by life too, people do stupid things that have the power to annoy, irritate or cause me to behave in an unbecoming manner, but thankfully I don’t.


I feel disappointed and discouraged sometimes, but when that happens, I quickly find a way to counter that negativity. This last week was such a week and by Thursday I knew if I didn’t do something about it I would open a door for negativity to flood in.


I remember I specifically had to write a note to myself that said, “One breath at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time, for strength I pray.” As strange as this may sound, those words helped calm me and I was able to get a breakthrough in a situation that I was almost giving up on. True story.


One thing I am glad about is that in the midst of all that was threatening to consume me, I was able to accomplish some very tough, time consuming and brain draining tasks.  

Thanks to the book by Brian Tracy, No Excuses, every time I felt like giving up on the things I was working on, I would be reminded of The Power of Self-Discipline, and specifically the part that says, “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not”.


Many are the times this last week I really didn’t feel like doing what I had to do because of the amount of brainpower I was required to use, but I am glad I didn’t succumb to my weaknesses. I remember there’s a day I went to sleep at 04:57 and another at 01:38. That’s the kind of week I’ve had.


Of course nobody would have known what I was going through unless I told them, but for most people, the assumption is that I always have picture-perfect days.  


Right now as I write this article I am having some major back, shoulder and neck pains because of being hunched over my laptop for more than 19 hours a day, for almost 5 consecutive days (and nights).  


So if I decided to go out and get a good full body deep tissue massage, and a full body scrub thereafter just to pamper myself after such a tough week, my guess is that some people might misunderstand my actions and say I’m wasting money, or I love myself too much. Well, to such people I only have one thing to say, “Do not judge my story by the chapter you walked in on.  


Human beings are so judgmental it is shocking! They see one aspect of your life and they make a conclusion about your entire life based on that one aspect.  


Then there are those shameless ones who actually make it a point to talk to you to ‘advice’ you on how best to run your life, even though you really didn’t ask for their opinion.


Please don’t forget that they will be ‘advising’ you based on the chapter of your life they walked in on, without attempting to find out what the other chapters were all about.


And don’t forget you didn’t ask for their advice, yet they have the audacity to summon you to give you their opinion and advice.


This reminds me of a story shared by Paulo Coelho, the guy who wrote The Alchemist, which, by the way, I came under fire for the other day for recommending it as a good read. Anyway, here goes the story...


There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.


The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.

The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”


The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person.


“From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish.

Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”


The fisherman continued, “And after that?”

The businessman laughed heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asked, “And after that?”

The businessman said, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”


I am not sure what the businessman had to say to the fisherman in response to that last question, but I have a feeling he must have felt kinda stupid. Why? Because he had made an assumption that the fisherman was poor.


It is quite obvious from his side of the conversation that he thought the fisherman was just another poor man who only went fishing because maybe fish was the only source of food for his family. 


Of course, this is a fable and your guess is as good as mine as to what went on after that, but today I would like to extract a few lessons from this story.


The first lesson is well captured by Jonathan Anthony Burkett in his book Neglected But Undefeated. In this book there’s a quote that says, “You know my name, not my story. You’ve heard what I’ve done, but not what I’ve been through”.

In short, before you make an assumption about anybody’s life, or current actions, please think twice because you could be very wrong as to why they are doing that. It could be wrong in your eyes, it might not be the best possible solution then, but until you have all the facts, keep your thoughts to yourself.


The second lesson is about knowing who you are and living life on your own terms. When you know who you are, when you are sure of your destiny, nobody can sway you to any other direction because you are comfortable in your own skin and in your ordained purpose.


The businessman was trying to convert the fisherman into someone he was not. If you look at this story critically, you will notice he was trying to turn him into another businessman like himself. Truth be told, I get the feeling that the fisherman was leading a more fulfilling life than the businessman with his PhD was.


I mean, if you are employed, or you are a businessman, when was the last time you took a nap with your wife on a Tuesday afternoon?  For some of you, you can’t even remember the last time you saw your wife in daylight.


 You are so busy with work and business that you get home when everyone is asleep; your kids are almost beginning to call you uncle instead of dad. Anyway, that’s a story for another day...


Leila Sales, in her book This Song Will Save your Life, wrote, “Sometimes people think they know you. They know a few facts about you, and they piece you together in a way that makes sense to them. And if you don't know yourself very well, you might even believe that they are right. But the truth is, that isn't you. That isn't you at all.”


Do you know who you are? If not, are you aware you risk being turned into who you are not by people who think they know what or who you should (not) be?


Last lesson I’d like to talk about is from a business angle; know your customer well before rushing to provide services, products or solutions to them. What they need could be very different from what you think they need.


Stop trying to influence them to buy what you have packaged for them but instead take the time to understand their needs. Customers may not necessarily be the people who are buying stuff from you, but they can also be the people who depend on you in order to play their roles e.g. in an organization set up.


You need to know how to satisfy those customers (people in and out of your department) too by studying their needs and anticipating them before they even tell you.  In short, don’t just assume things; have your facts right before you make your move.


In concluding this article today I would like to encourage people to stop assuming things. Just because you think you know someone doesn’t mean you actually do.


If you took the time to understand that person you might actually be shocked at what you will find out. When you see someone doing something, before you judge seek to find out the truth.


As for being on the receiving end, not every advice that is dished out to you is for you. Remember the story of the man and his wife who were taking the donkey to the market?


Every person they met on the way gave them an opinion as to how they should take the donkey to the market. In the end what happened? The donkey died simply because they kept taking advice from every Dick, Tom and Harry.


Lastly, don’t be too quick to judge. You may end up regretting the rest of your life.


Be ignited. Be inspired. Be influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.


PS: My recommended book in the ongoing #52BooksIn52Weeks2018 has nothing to do with this article today. The book is called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by Dr. John Gray. This is one book you’ll want to read regardless of whether you are married or single.


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