Make Up Your Own Mind

By Ron Ciancutti

What if you always followed the advice of people who insisted you see things their way? What if you were discouraged from standing up for yourself and having your own opinion?

Can you imagine how many good things in your life could have or would have been passed by? Or even how many incredible things you would have prevented yourself from doing that would have just not happened had you not looked that pessimistic advice in the face and said, “I’m doing it anyway”?

What if the words from those people caused you to interrupt what you were doing and actually switch directions, despite what you had researched and decided?

Think of the house you didn’t buy, the baby you didn’t have, the job you didn’t take, the mate you didn’t marry, the chance you never took, etc.

Consider, But Don’t Fold
My wife and I were once informed that one of the tests the obstetrician had performed came back with some grim results regarding the likelihood of a healthy birth of our baby. Saddened and depressed, we went to see the doctor that afternoon, and he asked why we were so glum. We explained what we had been told. He smiled and shook his head. “That test is less than 10 percent accurate. Forget about it.” Our mood shifted 180 degrees, and, indeed, the baby was born healthy and strong. What if the first piece of news hadn’t been questioned and we had made decisions based on that misinformation?

When I was selecting colleges to visit as a high school senior, people had something to say about each school I looked into, warning my parents, “Oh, that’s a party school. He’ll never get any work done there” and “Oh, there’s a lot of crime on that campus, and the professors are too liberal-minded.” I found someone saying something negative about any college I considered. In the end, I found a good school, kept my business to myself, and associated with good people. I never had a problem. The key component was I, not the school.

This scenario is similar to the argument about whether guns kill people. A gun is just a tool—it comes down to whose hand the gun is in. And so, isn’t it crucial that the decisions that govern your life shouldn’t be impacted by the opinions of others, who have never walked a mile in your shoes? Yes, I may consider your opinion and how a decision turned out for you, but if I don’t, that’s up to me. Don’t impose your outcomes on my existence.

A Stronger Individual
During the past election, all we heard were rumors about the candidates: what they did in the past, what they are likely to do in the future, what everyone should fear. I can’t wait till the day a candidate comes forward who says, “Look, here is who I am, and this is who I was. Like you, I made some mistakes; here’s a list if the worst of them. They helped me grow and learn, just like you. Today, I stand for the following.” Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

Alas, it never seems to go that way, but one thing stands clear—the quality you build into your life has a lot to do with the number of good versus bad decisions made along the way. And while there is some latitude in making a few mistakes because of one’s youth, the longer you establish a good-natured ability to trust yourself and filter other people’s advice through a sieve that makes you your own person, the stronger individual you will become. You need to stand for something.

A good fable that exemplifies this is the legendary tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” as told by Hans Christian Anderson and interpreted on Wikipedia:

“A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two weavers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or ’hopelessly stupid.’ The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothes themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions, and the Emperor does the same. Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him, and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all, and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor suspects the assertion is true, but continues the process.”

Don’t Give In
Does that sound familiar, my fellow Americans?

Only a few months ago, some television networks and news sources were proven to be leaning towards one political party, due to the values typical of the media. Day after day, they told the American public what was happening through the lens they provided. Many people said those views were skewed and that often what the public was being told didn’t really replicate what it thought it saw.

This is what happened in the debates. It was? I seemed to interpret that differently. 

This is what the polls show. They do? The people I talk to don’t seem to say that.

Here’s what could happen. Really? That seems awfully extreme.

Then a big upset occurred in the presidential election, and the press said:

The country is shocked. Uh, not really. Maybe you are.

The people have spoken. Hey, the people have been speaking; maybe you’ve been ignoring us.

This can’t end well. Um, I think we’ll be just fine.

* * *

You, dear reader, were born strong and capable and bright and filled with a willingness to challenge what you are told and to fight for what you believe. Don’t give that up—no matter how tempting the offer to take the free ride, to go easy on oneself, and to let things just “go.” Our country was not built on the easy way out or by those who always just did as they were told.

Find that inner-core voice and use it, filtered only by the discretion and governing throttle you control. Remember the words of Walt Whitman in “Song of Myself”:

“You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look

                through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.”

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A. from Baldwin Wallace University. He has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at