Pet peeves

Pet peeves, we all have them. Those things that people do and say that just make our skin crawl. We can’t help those things that go against our grain it’s how we’re wired. I probably have more than most, I’ll admit it. Spelling, grammar and punctuation always get a rise out of me when perusing social media. I hate to make it an indictment of intelligence but some people should really proofread their posts. It is very revealing, even more than the often stupid or controversial political nature of the post itself. I try to keep myself in check and worry about my own presence online. I’m spoiled by WordPress, my fellow bloggers actually know how to spell and structure a sentence.

My biggest pet peeve is one that bothers me more than most. I find myself calling people out when they say it. That saying is “to be honest”. When you answer an inquiry with “to be honest” what you’re really saying is, “I may not always tell the truth but this time I am”. It’s one of the most disingenuous things I’ve ever heard and it is everywhere! I hate it.

The very least that you can do for anyone is to be honest. That’s why they call it a virtue. It might as well be a virgin because nobody uses it anyway. Honesty is synonymous with the truth and we’d all be better if we told the truth. It’s less painful, it doesn’t require a good memory (see compulsive liars), and it takes a lot less time. Have you noticed that in the process of sugarcoating the shit out of something you take a statement that could be short and to the point and drag it out with filler words and lengthy diatribes just to soften what is the truth because we are so afraid to offend?

It’s painful to watch and as society gets more concerned with feelings and the line between right and wrong becomes blurry and grey this will only get worse.

People admire honesty. They admire the courage that it takes to tell the uncomfortable truth. I made a pretty decent living in sales just by being honest. Of course, my honesty has always been served with a side order of bluntness. I sold luxury cars and Honda for a long time. I was always top dog at every dealership I ever worked. And I was never slick and polished with customers. I just talked straight, knew my product and its competition and I told people the truth. More often than not I said things that could have gone either way but most people left me feeling that the car buying process was the best they ever had and it was just because I was honest. A lot of situations that often derail a sale were avoided by doing it my way, the biggest being when someone explained their budget and being able to keep them on a vehicle that they can afford. Many people don’t understand financing and may really believe that they can afford a vehicle when in actuality they are completely shocked at the numbers when presented and they leave. Time is wasted by both parties and a sale is usually lost. Totally avoidable. Especially when people often tell you in the beginning something that you recognize as not manageable. So when a customer asked. “Can I get this car for 200/month with no money down?” and you know that it will actually take $10,000 it is helpful to say no, not wait an hour to tell them that it isn’t possible. I had a customer thank me for saying no.

In short, don’t say “to be honest” because all it really infers is that you lied to them before. Nobody needs that. Just be honest all the time. It’s so much easier for everybody.

What is a man?

One of the hardest things to be in today’s society is a man. As we have strived for equality of the sexes, the thin black line between the sexes is now a thick grey one. In many, if not most, ways it has been refreshing and long overdue. Good riddance to the notion that men belong in the workplace and the “little woman” belongs barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Good riddance to gender pay gaps (yes I know we’re not there yet but we’re making progress). And good riddance to the notion that women are objects to be leered at and objectified. We’ve made tremendous progress in righting the scales in so many areas, but unfortunately in the process we’ve made it somewhat difficult for men to be men. It goes beyond eliminating bad behavior, society is pushing for the de-masculinization of men, and that will not end well. In the process of rehabilitating bad men we are destroying the good ones.

So what is a good man? This may be just my opinion but a good man has old-fashioned values, values that the men who built this great country possessed. Men with resolve, vision and a strong work ethic. Good men still exist today, despite the active marginalization, but they don’t thunder across the tundra in the numbers they once did. The ones that still exist possess the following qualities.

Honesty
Let’s face it, at the core of everything is honesty because the antithesis is dishonesty which is the root of all bad behavior. A good man is almost entirely defined by the trait of honesty. Without the reputation of being an honest man, one will not be trusted and his services and company will not be sought. Honesty is displayed through our words and our actions. If a promise is made verbally, the honest man considers it a binding contract that is iron clad. Consequently, failure to live up to the promise makes you a liar. Once you’ve earned that moniker, there is no turning back.

I was raised by two honest men, my father and my grandfather. Both showed me at an early age the value and virtue of honesty. My grandfather started me off at a young age with telling me,
“Nobody likes a liar”, and “In order to be a good liar you had better have a great memory.”
I watched my dad and grandfather in their professional and personal dealings and it became evident early on that they placed a lot of emphasis on a handshake, eye contact and keeping their word. A handshake was the measure of a man and dads spent great time and effort teaching their boys both the technique and the importance. Combined with a promise, the handshake solidified a verbal contract, one that was meant to be kept and honored.

Both my father and grandfather did side work to supplement their incomes and my grandfather once under-quoted a roofing job. He completed the job, on time, and stuck to his original quote even though he made almost no money. My father told me about it, as an example of what an honest man does.

Today the handshake means almost nothing. Eye contact has been replaced by staring at screens and the verbal contract thing? That is also a thing of the past. Entire professions are dedicated to finding ways to get out of written, signed and notarized documents. Is it any surprise that in our dealings with others we find ourselves at the least cautious and at the least fearful of being lied to? The good men among us still value the handshake and the word of an honest man.

Accountability
I have chosen Accountability as the second virtue due to its close affiliation with that of honesty. While honesty speaks of our dealings with others, accountability is about being honest with ourselves.

How many of us have taken a deep, hard look at events and realized that we made a mistake. How many of us have taken a hard look at our entire lives and realized that who we are and who we think we are to be two different entities? They’re both bitter pills to swallow regardless of age. From being in a leadership position, to analyzing a particular incident or realizing you’ve been living a lie for decades, to reach the point where blame can be put on yourself is extremely difficult. It is also cathartic and the beginning of the road to self-improvement. If only we were all capable of it and spent more energy rectifying and improving the behavior than we do denying our involvement and shifting blame.

3 months ago I took a motorcycle safety course. I failed the skills test and I was furious at myself. My first reaction was to blame the instructors, the course itself, the bike I was riding. But I quickly realized that the course was about low-speed handling and I, despite having ridden a motorcycle before, never learned those maneuvers. It was my fault, no one else’s. My next step was to set up cones in my driveway and to spend hours learning them. I then took my road test and passed. I needed to be accountable and when I did, things worked out.

From learning from a single incident to re-evaluating ones entire life, you cannot be a good man without being accountable. Your light shines from within and, as Harry Truman famously said…”the buck stops here.”

to be continued…