It happened again. I offered someone a small tip that would have — in a very small way — raised the excellence of their life. The response was (and I quote), “lol [whatever].” I can’t say I was very surprised because it happens all the time.
In fact, laughing it off is the more benign reaction. I’ve learned that it can be dangerous to point out the correct use of “their” and “they’re” and “there.” (Grammar Rules: They’re there for their purpose.) Some folks get downright hostile with regard to their own precision and excellence.
This is one of many human behaviors I have a hard time understanding.
I can only guess at what’s going on. Part of it must be the natural human tendency to dislike being corrected, or of being caught being wrong. But I get the feeling there’s more to it. Do we possibly lean away from excellence because we view it as too challenging in these complex times?
The way I see it, turning aside a helpful tip is willful ignorance (which I’ve written about before), and it’s one of the human behaviors that most drives me crazy. Someone offers you a hand up the hill of excellence, so you reject that hand? In some cases you actually bite it?
That seems awfully ungrateful.
Why go around with your metaphorical shoe laces untied, looking clueless? People — at least some — do notice and do care.
It’s a bit like dressing as a slob among people who care about style and fashion or looking like a couch potato among people who value exercise and fitness.
I’ve spent a lot of fruitless effort over the years trying to find a way to offer that hand up the hill in a way that won’t offend. Instead, people usually look at me like I’m some asshole for insinuating they aren’t perfect and might benefit from a tip.
Name one person on the planet who is perfect and wouldn’t benefit from a tip. “Yo, Caesar! Watch your back! Also, don’t be Idle in March… or something like that.”
When I was learning to pistol shoot, several people mentioned that women are often better shooters at first, but eventually men catch up and often end up surpassing them. The theory was that women are more prone to listen to — and follow — the instruction, whereas men are more likely to assume they don’t need them and forge ahead on their own.
Later the male competitive drive kicks in, and they strive to succeed. At this point they bring a heavy focus to improving along with the male interest in guns. (Guns meet several big male interest criteria: they make a loud noise (plus explosions are involved), they [the bullets] fly, they are power tools, and they have lots of cool folklore connotations.)
Meanwhile the women, having achieved the desired level of competence originally desired and not being obsessed or even really that interested, had gotten off the bus blocks ago.
It’s really that same spirit that operates when men don’t ask for directions or go off climbing mountains or discovering new continents or oceans.
It has the downside of making us late — or stupid — sometimes, but hey, new continents! Oceans! Mountains! (They just sit there begging to be climbed. Trees got that same mojo going on. “Climb me!” they call!)
But the point is that excellence doesn’t just happen. It comes from training and experience, “time in the saddle” so to speak. You have to want to be excellent, it doesn’t just happen.
And it starts with having excellence as a goal.
No one can be perfect, or excellent, in all things or even in some things in all times. Context matters. Surgery, banking and airplane piloting all call for high levels of excellence. Throwing a Frisbee, putting together dinner, or writing a blog article don’t have the same demands of excellence.
So fine, toss out the bath water, but try to hang on to the baby. The goal of excellence is always a worthy one. It should always be your goal; it’s just that you can often relax the effort to accomplish it.
Case in point: it’s easy to make a grammar mistake; everyone does (remember, no one is perfect). For instance, I’m prone to screwing up “its” and “it’s” if I don’t watch myself. I’m perfectly aware of the difference — there’s no confusion on my part — but sometimes my fingers type the wrong one.
And, let’s face it, the two “its” make one of those “oh, really” moments in English Grammar, one of the many rule exceptions, and the possessives comma business can be a winding road at times.
So I’m pretty forgiving of details at that level, but the common misuse of “your” and “you’re” does drive me crazy. I can understand people being a bit confused about possessives, but “your” and “you’re” are crystal clear.
As the saying goes, “The difference between knowing you’re shit and knowing your shit.”
It boils down to this: when you repeatedly demonstrate apathy towards excellence, when you repeatedly demonstrate that getting it right isn’t important to you, it’s like going around in public wearing a sign: Hello! I’m a moron!
Why would you do that?
Microsoft Word and PowerPoint have built-in grammar and spelling engines (so does WordPress). I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where the presenter’s slides are peppered with those jagged red underlines signifying spelling errors.
It’s like the presenter is announcing to the world: “Look at me! Not only can I not spell worth a damn, I’m too dumb to even notice my software trying to help me look competent!”
I mean seriously, how do you even go out in public like that? It’s like putting your underwear on outside your pants.
People like this are running the world now, you know. Explains a lot.