December 4, 2022
Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!
You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.
Precept 87: Kindness
Maya Angelou, an American memoirist, popular poet, and civil rights activist, once said…
…“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Do you understand how important this idea is? Yet, how often do you enter into a conversation, interaction, or other relationship during any given day with the single greatest goal of making that person feel loved, seen, and heard? Comparatively, how often do your thoughts settle upon your own needs, your own hunger, your own boredom, or any of your other inborn, selfish tendencies?
How often do you ask yourself, “What’s in this for me?” vs. “What can I put into this for them?”
Is a friend giving you a tour of their house? Be genuinely interested and ask questions about little relics, pieces of art, keepsakes, books, collections, photos, and everything else that you know will help that friend feel special. Do you have a lunch or dinner business meeting? Begin by asking someone something about their coat or hat or shoes, or a tattoo on their arm, or their painted toenails, or anything else that stands out to you as something that person has intentionally done in an effort to perhaps be noticed. Do you have a child or children at the dinner table as the meal is being served? Ask them about their favorite moments of the day, the funniest joke they’ve heard that week, which superhero they’d like to have sitting at the table, what dinner game they want to play, and anything else that allows them to feel special and allows you to be kind.
After all, you may not be remembered for going to someone’s house for dinner, but you will be remembered for noticing their favorite book and asking them about it when you were there; you may not be remembered for what you ordered at a business lunch, but you will be remembered for being that one person who genuinely cared about and noticed someone’s choice of clothing that day; and you may not be remembered for putting food on the table, but you will be remembered for how much you made the people at that table laugh.
Make. People. Feel. Every day.
Precept 88: Rolodex
I often dread turning on my phone first thing in the morning. You may have experienced the same sensation of dread: dread of anticipation for the seemingly endless throng of a barrage of text messages, beepy-beeps, voicemails, WhatsApps, DMs, Signals, Voxers, pre-recorded video messages, and volcanic streams of communication that often make 7 am (or whenever you do turn on your phone) feel less like a quiet awakening and more like wandering into a crowded shopping mall surrounded by screaming teenagers.
Yet, as “annoying” as these notifications can be, as much as it can feel like your life is being run by a whole bunch of people who have insider access to a walkie-talkie in your back pocket, as much as random, odd, sometimes urgent, requests upon your time seem to throw your schedule all out-of-whack…
…do you really want all those communications to just disappear?
Just the other day, I found myself thinking to myself: I wish I could just turn my phone on and know that the only thing it’s there for is for me to make a phone call or research something on the internet. Now wouldn’t that be nice?
But then I realized…
…no! That wouldn’t be “nice.”
See, relationships are why we exist. Loving our fellow humans is why we exist. Being there for others, helping others, encouraging others, building others up, and being that person who sees, hears, and loves other human beings is the most exhilarating and rewarding way to live one’s life. This means that day after day, month after month, year after year since the time I had my first phone at fifteen years old, I’ve been creating an enormous Rolodex of relationships, contacts, friends, family, colleagues, co-workers, experts, gurus, counselors, mentors, coaches, and more that – when consolidated and organized in an extremely searchable and user-friendly format – is probably one of the most valuable assets I own.
Do not underestimate the value and power of your own relationship capital. Do not wish it did not exist. After all, you possess in your back pocket a veritable army of friends, followers, and fellow humans who kings and queens of old would have paid mountains of gold to be able to possess. Are you kidding me? You can barely lift a finger and communicate with everyone you’ve ever met in your life since you very first attained your communication device?
Furthermore, what I have also realized is that it is an important part of my job to foster relationships. Although I limit screen time, have all notifications disabled, and am highly cognizant of when and how I use my smartphone, I still probably send or receive over twenty messages per hour, for at least ten hours per day, seven days a week. That’s about 1,400 tiny actions I take each day as a “relationship manager,” often conducting and coordinating relationships, facilitating introductions, and engaging in follow-up sequences that directly affect the success and operations of the entire Ben Greenfield Life organization.
So to wish that one’s phone would just shut up, is, in my opinion, the equivalent of getting so bothered by having to vacuum the living room floor each day that you wish your house would just disappear or getting so tired of pulling weeds that you wish all your plants would just wither away. No, no, no: rather it is the care of the house and the tending of the garden that allows you to be sheltered and fed in the first place. Similarly, it’s the fostering, care, and management of relationships that allow you to be the person you are in the first place, not just in a manner that creates transactional relationships, but transformational relationships too.
Think about doing this: the next time you prepare to turn on your phone, imagine you’re simply heading outside to pull a few weeds, plant a few seeds, turn over a bit of rich soil, and harvest some luscious fruits and vegetables. Foster those digital relationships, be grateful for them, understand that it may be part of your job to be a bridge-builder, connection-facilitator, and answerer of questions because that’s what God has put on your plate for the day, and then finally, remember, the very greatest thing you can do with your life is to love God and love people, and yes, you can do the latter with something as simple as a properly placed text message.
Precept 89: Blessings
Today, Count your blessings.
No: I’m serious: actually count them.
Hot water came out of your shower head: a blessing. An email magically found its way through the Internet into your inbox: a blessing. A child smiled: a blessing. The roast chicken has crispy skin on the outside and is moist on the inside: a blessing. Your heartbeat, again: a blessing.
OK, OK – perhaps you don’t need to count each and every individual beat of your heart. But you get the idea – constantly be looking for the good. From an ancestral standpoint, we humans are hardwired to look for the danger, for the poison, for the thorn, for the pit, for the enemy, for the bad. However, just because that’s your nature and your tendency doesn’t mean you can’t rewire some of that circuitry, not in a way that makes you gullible or foolhardy (e.g. don’t be the cave human blissfully whistling a cartoonish tune while fully oblivious to the saber-toothed tiger about to sneak up and pounce on you), but in a way that does spread infectious joy and hope to those around you because you are able to consistency see the blessings and pull the positivity out of every scenario, even in normal daily situations that we so often take for granted.
So try it: today count them all. I will be giving thanks for the crackling of the oil in the pan of scrambled eggs, the cooling sweat in the gym, and the car engine that started up (again!) as we together “forget not” all His benefits (Psalm 103:1-2).
That’s it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!