Human nature being what it is, most of us have a tendency to more easily see the problems and faults in other people, organizations and communities than we do in our own lives, our own families and our own businesses. Lucy of "Peanuts" fame — a source of humor and wisdom, one of the great theologians of our time and certainly one of the most outstanding philosophers ever — puts this observation into perspective.
One of Lucy's greatest observations occurred when Linus, obviously troubled, appeared with his security blanket in tow and his thumb safely in his mouth and asked, "Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?" Lucy's response was classic: "I just think I have a knack for seeing other people's faults." Exasperated with that, Linus threw up his hands and asked, "What about your own faults?" Lucy never hesitated. She explained, "I have a knack for overlooking them."
The only thing that keeps this from being completely humorous is the fact that that approach to life brings discomfort and misery, particularly to the one who's dishing out that kind of statement. Somebody once observed that he would prefer being the person who bought the Brooklyn Bridge to being the one who sold it. The recipient of cynical put-downs is hurt, but the one who gives them is ultimately hurt a great deal more. Acid destroys the container in which it's stored, and Lucy's humor — many people's approach to life — ends up being the acid that destroys the container. Take the humane, sensible approach. Look for the good in other people. Encourage them. Build them up. That method might not be humorous, but there are very few things as satisfying and beneficial. Try it, and I'll see you at the top!
When I was a young man starting my career, there was a chain of clothing stores by the name of OPO, which stood for "One Price Only." The suits were acceptable, and the prices were low, and with my budget, that made it an ideal place to shop.
Recently, while sifting through some trivia on my desk, I came across something that reminded me of OPO, but this time, it meant "other people's opinions," and these thoughts were born:
If we judge our future by what other people think of us, in many cases, we would have a dismal future. For example, one of Abraham Lincoln's early teachers said of him, "When you consider that Abe has had only four months of school, he is very good with his studies, but he is a daydreamer and asks foolish questions."
One of President Woodrow Wilson's teachers said this of him: "Woodrow is a unique member of the class. He's 10 years old and is only just beginning to read and write. He shows signs of improving, but you must not set your sights too high for him." Apparently, Wilson's sights for himself were considerably higher.
Perhaps the most astonishing misdiagnosis of another person's potential was expressed by a teacher about Albert Einstein: "Albert is a very poor student. He is mentally slow, unsociable and is always daydreaming. He is spoiling it for the rest of the class. It would be in the best interests of all if he were removed from school at once."
Message: Other people's opinions can be important and helpful or completely wrong and destructive. When you have a low opinion of someone else, make it your business not to express it; when you have a high opinion of another person, do express it. You just might be the instrument that will propel that person to significant heights. That approach is far more rewarding, so take it, and I will see you at the top!
To find out more about Zig Ziglar and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. Subscribe to Zig Ziglar's free e-mail newsletter through firstname.lastname@example.org.