In Coach Kaulia’s class, it was always cool to go “Hawaiian style.” That is, it was cool to go barefoot. I don’t know if the man was a total frugalista, attempting to save parents from spending all of their money on gym shoes, or if he was just a creature of comfort. A fateful car crash during my senior year of high school will forever keep that answer from me.
But there are lesson’s from Henry Kaulia’s physical education classes which are not so esoteric. His motto, his guiding principle, his seven words to live by: “Be honest. Be Respectful. Try your best.”
I can’t agree more with Coach Kaulia’s first rule for life. But as one commits to practicing honesty, one realizes a human inclination; not in the truth teller, but in the truth receiver. People don’t want to know the truth about things of consequence, even if they say otherwise. Not all people of course, and I hope you’re one of the exceptions, but most people do not want to hear the truth.
Have you ever done something wrong, and then gotten up the courage to admit to it? More often than not, when that person finds out what you’ve done, they get even angrier, or even more upset, than they were when they didn’t know who had done it.
If someone admits to doing something wrong, we punish them. We scream, we cry, we call them names, we throw things at them. But if that person can successfully obfuscate the truth, they escape all of that drama. Would you want to tell that truth if you were that person? At the risk of being punished?
We all need to decide to be an exception. Let’s not punish people for their honesty. Let’s make it a habit to thank people for their honesty, even if we don’t like what it is that we’re hearing. It’s more important to cultivate honesty than it is to punish a wrong-doer. A world where we can trust no one is far scarier than the one where we sometimes get hurt.
Being respectful should be a given. I am no superhero, however, and even I succumb to name-calling and egotism on a bad day.
There’s a difference though, isn’t there? Having enough respect to not shout obscenities at someone or TP their house is not the same as being “full of respect.” That, more than anything, is being respectable, not respectful.
Certainly, at a minimum we should respect another person’s body, emotions, and possessions, but what about being full of respect?
You probably find yourself in a position where people look up to you. They may be children, they may be coworkers or members of a group you belong to, or your friends and family. Whoever they are, they look up to you. If they look up to you, it’s fair to assume that they will do something for you at some point. Children may clean their rooms for you, coworkers may take on a large chunk of a business presentation, and friends may travel to see your dance recital.
If people do things for you, be respectful: take notice. No one is so altruistic that they don’t enjoy being recognized for the work they’ve done or the sacrifices they’ve made. Here are some examples:
- In my junior year of college, I poured everything I had into writing a philosophy paper offering a modification of Robert Merrihew Adam’s practical belief in God. I received a 98%. This respected professor, as a rule, did not give A’s.
- In the first year of my first job out of college, I volunteered to work the weekend shift. There was very limited staffing. One weekend we got a request from our client to tackle a huge project that nobody was qualified to handle. I jumped on it, hobbled together a plan based on the most similar work I’d done, and ended up getting an award for saving the day.
Respect is often an act of non-doing. You show respect by not spitting on a person, vandalizing their car, or telling all of their friends that they are a serial baby puncher. But how can we know whether a person respects us, fears us, or is indifferent toward us if we only see what they do not do?
Just as we should feel compelled to cultivate honesty by tempering our response to it, we should aim to cultivate respectable actions by way of being actively respectful. Be so full of respect for a person’s work, actions, or principles that you are overflowing with the need to tell or show them that respect. In a world where it’s so easy to not care, your kind words or actions will be appreciated, and may be just the inspiration they need to keep pressing forward.
Try Your Best
If you’re trying to lose weight, are you trying your best? If you are trying to learn a foreign language, are you trying your best? In anything you want to do, are you trying your best?Trying your best can be frightening. If you try you best and don’t succeed, it’s easy to feel like a complete failure. If you hardly try at all, you have a scapegoat for when you fail. “It’s not surprising I didn’t succeed. I didn’t try very hard, after all.”
That needs to stop.
Of course, there are things that don’t deserve your best (TPS reports?). They probably don’t deserve your time at all. But for the things you really want to do, you need to stop giving yourself an out. Stop putting in so little effort that you can blame your lack of effort for your failure.
The funny thing about trying our best and failing is that the next time we try, our “best” will be even better. We have potential for growth. Each failure is just a practice run for future success.
If I do mediocre Spanish study, do you think I’ll ever speak anything but mediocre Spanish? I won’t, I promise.
If I think about traveling to Thailand, but never take any action with regard to that thought, will it ever happen? No.
We’re all in this boat together. It’s safer and more comfortable to dream than it is to take action.
So let’s make a promise. I’ll push you to achieve your dreams, and you push me to stay on top of mine. If we push each other when we can no longer push ourselves, we’ll make it to where we want to be together.
Henry Kaulia was a wise man. His seven words will guide you through a fruitful life if you take heed as I am now learning to take heed. Be honest in a world where it is so much safer to be dishonest, and create a world where people feel safe being honest with you. Be respectful, not just respectable, by reminding others how much you appreciate their work, actions, principles, in a world where “good enough” is usually good enough. Try your best, and push others to try their best, and when you can no longer push yourself you will find that you are in a world full of people who will push for you. The world may not be perfect, but with seven words we can try to make it so.
What about you? Do you have any memories of when your hard work felt truly respected? Do you have someone you feel you can be 100% honest with? What’s something you want to do, but haven’t been trying your best to succeed at?
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