Don’t take yourself too seriously

This “mail box” pictured below is just down the road from my home. I ride past it on my routine 11 mile bike ride. It’s on a street of raised ranches, capes, and new homes with picket fences. I even saw a nice new BMW pulling out of the neighbor’s driveway a week or so ago.

I don’t know who this is, or the story behind the mailbox, but I have to assume this is a person or family that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom.    Queen Elizabeth

What’s the lesson here? These folks could easily have done the standard, met the expectations, never dared to step outside  conventions. I can imagine a conversation in this house that went something like this:

A different mailbox? What sort of different mailbox?

Well, how about a bug?

A BUG? What do you mean, like a Volkswagon?

No No, a big insect, painted blue and red and yellow!!

Huh!!!??? What will the neighbors say? People driving by will think we are crazy.

I, of course, have no idea what the neighbors say. I am sure some are appalled and some think it’s off beat, but this is America, it’s a free country.

Me, I smile often when I see it and wish them well.

How often do we take the mundane in life and build it into something big. Someone makes a comment at work, we think we’ve just been slighted and it gnaws at us, we build up scenarios in our minds about that person.

I have seen this in large companies where in these difficult times there is always the threat of layoffs, mergers, and cost cutting. Our boss is as anxious as we are, she makes a comment and we read this as a telegraph that we are on the short list for getting the proverbial “pink slip”. Or some friend doesn’t think of us when making an invite to lunch and we are off into the mud pit of self righteous indignation. We think “after all I have done for him and he leaves me out, how ungrateful.”

Making a “mountain out of mole hill” is nothing more than taking ourselves too seriously in action.

This lesson was taught to me by a former boss who became a mentor and friend. I presented a project to a committee which included his boss, peers and  divisional business leaders. It was important, and I was both excited and nervous. I failed in all sorts of ways, poor preparation, incomplete data, and I could not connect and communicate with the people in the room that day.

Walking back to my boss’s office, I was silent for while, finally I spoke and said something on the line of, “I’m really sorry, I blew that. What do you want me to do, I think I’ve ruined my reputation and yours around here.” His response, “Forget about it, nobody can bring his “A game” every time. Besides no one will even remember it in a month.”

It was a good reminder not to take myself too seriously, no one else does anyway 🙂

  1. Brad Eisenmann says:

    I love the picture of the mailbox! This post really resonated. My dad has always said a sense of humor helps you navigate the tough times — and being able to laugh at oneself is the starting point of a healthy sense of humor. Really, isn’t this what humility is all about?

    A corollary might be in a saying I heard awhile back, “We’d worry a lot less about what others think of us if we realized how infrequently they do!” 🙂