A Condensed Self-Help Primer
By Ron Ciancutti
There’s a very popular televangelist out there who also writes “self-help” books. I think he has published more than 20. Twenty books to tell you how to live and what you should be thinking? Should anyone really need more than one of these books? Should you need more than a paragraph of “instruction” on such matters? Should you really need more than a few sentences? And shouldn’t those sentences have come from a grandparent or teacher or coach way back in your life?
Since this religious figure has a mansion the size of Houston and a bank account that looks like Fort Knox, is it possible he doesn’t want you to find too many answers so you keep buying his books and listening to his message? I think so.
So, I want to ask you a favor. I’m going to take a crack at a self-help primer, if you will, and see if I can fit it onto the next couple of pages. If it rings true and seems sound, will you please share it with a friend or two? Maybe pin it up on a bulletin board at work or make a copy and send it to some of your closest friends. And if by chance you know someone who can circulate it to even more people, ask that person to do so. Let’s send this simplified message out there and see if we can’t get some of these profiteers to find something else to do.
The Simple Path And Way Of Life
There are blessings in your life you probably ignore—good health, a loyal family, a roof over your head, a reliable, solid job. Sure, you’d like a better house, better job, and more, but think about those who don’t have anything near what you have and, once in a while, reflect on how much worse things could be. Next time you pass a puttering jalopy on the road, be thankful for your well-heated, reliable vehicle. And maybe the next time I’m cursing my inefficient and ancient furnace, I can remember the folks sleeping in cardboard boxes under a bridge. Admittedly, I tend to forget.
When you lie, people know it. Your word becomes weak, and people put little value in what you say. “Yeah, he’s a nice guy, but his word is no good.” A man usually gets one chance at credibility. Your reputation precedes you. True honesty becomes a habit, but it takes practice. Consider your words before answering someone—especially someone who trusts you.
Remember when you were little and someone gave you something, your mom said, “What do you say?” And you said, “Thank you.” Then, after several years of being reminded, you are given something and without the prompt, you say, “Thank you.” Your mom has a beaming smile, and it’s simply because she wanted you to be a mannered, courteous person someday. So, hold a door, give up your seat, say “God bless you,” let elders go first, and make your mom proud. Courteousness is the WD-40 of life; it makes things run better, smoother.
Know the story of your family, where they came from, the funny things they did, the actions that helped make you who you are. Those stories are carried on by your children and identify the family name and history. Further, make a good name for your family. Respect the law and the land. Don’t litter and pollute the country you live in. Maintain your home, your yard, and other objects you own. Dress nicely, keep your hair cut, and be neat about yourself. A sloppy way of life usually leads to other sloppy habits. Make your bed in the morning, and try to maintain a healthy outlook as the day begins. Take pride in yourself, and that will develop other healthy habits as well.
Be generous with your time, your talents, and your advice; spread good cheer and be that guy who always gives people a lift. I worked with an older gentleman named Jerry on a road crew one summer, and every day he walked through the garage doors with a hearty, “GOOD MORNING!” Everyone immediately smiled when he walked in. Be like that. It’s contagious. Put some spare change in the Salvation Army bucket. Grab a bag of groceries and walk it to the car of a mom you can see is struggling with her toddler, or an elderly person unable to handle too many parcels. Wave to the mailman. Talk to people in an elevator instead of staring at the numbers. You have abundant blessings. Share an enthusiastic approach.
Be Gentle On Yourself
Folks, if you’re keeping a good job, providing your family with a solid home, keeping everyone fed, clothed, and happy, taking care of your parents and others who have needs, you are doing an outstanding job. You are head-and-shoulders above many of your peers. So what if you don’t have an investment portfolio? Are you making house payments? That’s a huge investment, and you’re doing the best you can. Pat yourself on the back now and then and stop worrying about the future. Almost every radio and TV commercial you hear anymore mires you in guilt about financial planning. Life is tough enough without having to navigate through all of the expectations the world throws in your face.
Take a breath before you lay on the horn; that car in front of you may contain someone’s mixed-up mother who is doing the best she can. She doesn’t need the added pressure of you breathing down her neck. Slow down and give her a minute to figure it out. And stop yelling at the bank teller. She didn’t unbalance your checkbook; you did! The umpire at the Little League game, the city worker fixing a broken water main, the elderly, confused lady who is in the 10-items-or-less line with 25 items—none of them mean to ruin your day, so take a moment. Do you operate error-free? I doubt it. Remember how grateful you are when somebody gives you a break after you absentmindedly cut them off in traffic. Be the better person. It comes back to you double, usually.
One of my previous side interests was doing community theater. I was once nominated for a supporting actor award, and I admittedly let it go to my head, so when I was cast in the next play, I found myself disagreeing with the director during rehearsals, as if I knew better than he. The actor playing my father pulled me aside and kindly showed me how I sounded, and I was really embarrassed. His gentle approach made it easy for me to make adjustments and even to apologize to the director later. One of the things that actor said has stayed with me to this day: “Ron, you need to realize that everyone in this world is doing the best they can. We all have different tools. Be kind in your approach, and you’ll find that most differences are understandable.” He was so right.
Summing It Up
Life is as tough or as easy as you choose to make it. Life is simply an accumulation of moments, snapshots, and glimpses of pleasure. Why not experience those moments in a patient, kind, and considerate manner? Leave a quality path of love and understanding behind. Sometimes you will experience sad moments that will scar you—and they should. The loss of a family member or friend will change you, probably harden you in some way, but good times will come again. Sure, you have some control over the feelings, but that is like riding a horse. You can guide and influence the horse’s path to a certain degree, but if it decides to bolt, all you can do is hold on for the ride. Sadness and happiness will deliver a “new normal” to your world, and you’ll need to adjust as you go. See the situation for what it is and don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the short time on this earth, and encourage those who are simply enduring it to take their light out from under the basket and let it shine.
So—that’s it, my friends—my “Condensed Self-Help Primer.” Now, I ask, should it really be any more complicated than that?
Ron Ciancutti 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 is now retired. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A. from Baldwin Wallace University. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.