How Could You Not Take Anything Seriously?
I’ve been popular and unpopular successful and unsuccessful loved and loathed and I know how meaningless it all is. Therefore I feel free to take whatever risks I want.
YESTERDAY, I was meeting with a very talented client who is launching a writing career. I was telling him how important it was to write everyday and if he wanted to reach people to continually publish his work.
I also told him about a practice that would allow him to do this and to be happy:
Take nothing personally.
I said, “It is a practice. It doesn’t work to simply make a decision to not take anything personally. We have to re-choose that response over and over.”
In The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Miguel Ruiz tells us,
Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally…Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.
I told him that when I began connecting with this truth, I could have a hundred positive reviews but I would obsess about that one awful communication, afraid it was true.
But it is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said. You are hurting yourself. There is no way I can take this personally.
After an absence of many years, one of my greatest mentors came to Los Angeles and we had lunch. Instantly, I was struck that she looked more youthful and beautiful today than she did in 1990. She is into her second wildly successful career. I asked her about a mutual friend that had been a longtime business partner.
“I haven’t talked to her in 25 years.”
“Why?” I was a bit thunderstruck.
“One of my basic guidelines in life is to take nothing personally. Unfortunately, she takes everything personally.”
About an hour after meeting with my writing client, I got hit by a ###storm note. I had worked on an urgent project for several days, given up half my sleep and poured all that I had into writing. The note was from someone in the publishing industry and it was simply the most emotionally violent communication I have heard for many years and the worst I had ever witnessed from the publishing world.
My agent, God love her, was as shocked as me and so sad that I had been hit with this communication. We were speechless.
About ½ an hour later, I was at the grocery store, ending my fast from sugar and flour. I had visions of the scene in Death Becomes Her where Goldie Hawn has grown into a 300-pound character surrounded by cats as she eats frosting out of a can.
I thought of Triumph the Insult Dog and sending an e-mail to this guy:
“Words matter. Seriously, how do you sleep in your car at night?”
Actually, words do matter. Being cavalier with our words can destroy people. I will not work with someone who uses words as a weapon and now I know this is not an individual who fits into my tribe.
But, for those of us who hear them, we do indeed have a choice.
This morning, the ice cream is gone. I’m back at the computer screen and today, I recommit to not taking anything personally.
I return to other messages I received yesterday,
“You are a sweetheart, always caring. We had a great time at your beautiful condo.”
I had two others from clients whose lives had changed in spectacular ways.
Developing a practice of not taking anything personally is a key to our happiness. It is a central towards living a good and kind life.
Don’t take anything personally is a practice and a choice.
Maya Angelou once said,
We die. Perhaps that is the meaning of life. But we have words. And, the quality of the words that we use is perhaps the measure of that life.
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