On Sunday a friend sent me this link to an article in The New York Times
about one of our friends from Cornell . During college, Carl – that’s his name, Carl Bass – could be seen walking around snowy, freezing streets barefoot with his dog, Charlie, tagging along behind him. When about eight of us lived together in a rundown old barn on Williams Street, he used to go to the computer lab at all hours of the night, feeding slotted papers into a huge machine, talking about computer programming and things that nobody else understood anything about before he dropped out, took off for five years, and then dropped back in again.
I assume he’s now wearing shoes – although the picture in The Times was from the waist up. He was talking about running his company, Autodesk, and how, as the CEO, he has to stay on course and not keep swerving the bus.
So this is my tool for Tuesday: Don’t swerve the bus.
Let’s take it down a notch to our personal lives. “You’re the one who’s driving the bus,” Carl said. “And if you’re erratic while you’re driving, everyone gets pretty nauseous. It’s really important to be as clear as you possibly can be and not just wake up one day and say we’re going this way and the next day we’re going that way.”
Don’t be afraid to make decisions that people might not like. You can choose what you want to do carefully, but ultimately, put yourself on the line. Get into the driver’s seat. Be willing to risk other people’s disapproval. People often get depressed because they get stuck. They can’t make a decision. They are so worried they might make the wrong one. They get so paralyzed with fear that they’re going to make the wrong choice that they don’t make a choice at all. Look at what is and then act.
Take risks. Don’t hesitate and wonder how Mr. X will react or what Mrs. X will say. If you’re faced with a decision, get out a pen and paper. Draw a line straight down the page. On one side, write, YES. On the other side, write NO. List all your reasons for doing something, no matter how silly they seem. Then list all your reasons for not doing it, no matter how silly they seem. This is your list between you and you. Nobody has to see it if you don’t want. Then count up the reasons. The list that has more items — even if it won’t bring you popularity — is the thing you need to do. Or not.
You can talk it over with a trusted friend but it’s your thoughts that count in the end. Then get on the highway and stay in your lane. Don’t swerve the bus. Keep going. Do whatever it is you feel you must do.
Run in the rain. Get divorced. Stay married. Dye your hair red. Let it turn gray. Wear suspenders. Don’t wear socks. Skip down the street. Sit and watch the birds. Go back to school. Learn tap-dancing. Write a haiku poem – 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables – about what you feel right here, right now. Knock on your neighbor’s door and bring her nectarines. Oh, do anything you want but don’t keep swerving the bus back and forth.
Make a decision and stick with it no matter the consequences. You can’t know everything until you get started. And sure, you’ll make mistakes and get knocked down along the way but keep going. Don’t keep trying to get everyone to like you. They’re not going to approve of what you do all the time. But you need to approve of yourself.
Send in your haikus. Send me your thoughts. Don’t be shy! Pick a funny pen name. Be bold. Be the hero of your own life. As I emphasize again and again, especially in this link, To be more you, be less you.
Don’t keep trying to get everyone to like you. They’re not going to approve of what you do all the time. But you need to approve of yourself.