I want to share with you three simple rules that can have a dramatically positive impact on the life of anyone who will truly model his or her life after these principles.
1. BE NICE
The way you treat other people is important. We all know that this is true when we turn it around: The way YOU treat ME is really important! I mean, you had better treat me right; because if you don’t, you’re just a jerk!
So, what does that make me when I don’t treat other people right? Oh, I guess that makes me a jerk!
Other people have just as much right to be treated right as I do. That’s what the Golden Rule is all about: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When you put that in plain, everyday English, it sounds something like this: “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.”
If you want to be treated with respect, then treat other people with respect.
If you want people to be understanding and cut you some slack when you’re having a bad day and nothing is going right, then you be understanding and cut other people some slack when they are having a bad day and nothing is going right for them.
If you want your friends to get all excited for you when something good happens to you, then you get all excited when something good happens to them.
If you want people to be nice to you, then you be nice to other people.
One of my favorite books gives lots of good advice on how to live a happy life. Here’s what it says about getting along with other people (paraphrased):
— Don’t be selfish.
— Don’t be conceited.
— Think of other people as being better than you.
— Show a genuine interest in other people.
I’m a people-watcher. I like to see what I can learn from studying other people’s lives. There are some people in this world who are just plain mean. They seem to take great pleasure in hurting other people or disrupting their lives. We all know someone like that. Do you know what I have discovered about mean people? They are usually miserable. They don’t seem to enjoy life very much.
There are other people who just seem to have a knack for being nice. Kindness and gentleness and genuine concern for other people seem to drip from their pores. Do you know what I have discovered about nice people? They tend to enjoy life a whole lot more than mean people. Being nice to other people is a good habit to develop, and will make your life more enjoyable.
But I believe it actually goes much deeper than that. Not only will being nice to other people make your own life more enjoyable. I am convinced that the way you treat other people will have a lot to do with how far you go in life, with how successful you are in your chosen career, with how happy you are in your family. Why?
All throughout your life, and in every area of your life, you are going to be surrounded by people. The way you treat other people will have a great influence on how other people treat you. If you are generally mean and ugly to other people, most people will be mean and ugly to you, and will not want to be in your presence. But if you generally treat other people with kindness, then other people are going to be nice to you, and will enjoy “having you around”. The result? You will be happier, life will be a lot more fun, and more doors of opportunity will open up for you. All because you developed the habit of being nice.
Dr. Seuss said it like this in his story entitled “The Lorax”:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
So, Rule #1 is “Be nice”. Care a whole awful lot about other people. And life will be better. It will.
2. PLAY FAIR
How many times have you been to a football game and someone on the other team cheated, but the referee didn’t see it?
“Come on, Ref! Didn’t you see that? That guy cheated! My grandma could have seen that, and she’s blind!”
We don’t like it when other people cheat.
But what is it that makes cheating wrong? Wikipedia (an online encyclopedia) defines cheating like this:
“Cheating is defined as an act of lying, deception, fraud, trickery, imposture, or imposition. Cheating characteristically is employed to create an unfair advantage, usually in one’s own interest, and often at the expense of others. Cheating implies the breaking of rules.”
Cheating is wrong because it isn’t fair. If someone else wins because they cheated, it isn’t fair. “I should have won that game. The only reason you won is because you cheated. That’s not fair!” If someone else gets a better grade on a test because they cheated, it isn’t fair. “I studied hard for that test. You didn’t study at all. You just came in here and cheated, and you got a better grade than I did. That’s not fair!”
Wikipedia said that cheating creates “an unfair advantage, usually in one’s own interest, and often at the expense of others”. Cheating is wrong because it hurts other people. There are people who will cheat at anything, any time, and never think twice about it. Those kind of people typically don’t care a whole awful lot about other people. They only care about themselves.
To be the best person you can be, you have to care about other people. To be the best person you can be, you have to play by the rules.
There’s an old saying that says, “Cheaters never win”. That’s not always true in the short term. Sometimes a team will win a game because they cheated. Sometimes a student will pass a test because he cheated. It certainly appears that, in those situations, cheating paid off. It looks like the cheaters won. But be assured that, in the long run, in the grand scheme of things, cheaters are always losers. Why?
Life is full of rules. Everywhere you go, there are rules. There will always be rules you will have to follow. When you go to school, there are rules. When you get a job, there are rules you have to follow. In sports, there are rules you have to follow. At church, there are rules you have to follow. In society, there are rules you have to follow. When you get in a car and drive, there are rules you have to follow. Everywhere you go, there are rules. You cannot escape from rules.
One of the most important lessons that anyone can learn in life — and the sooner a person learns this, the better — is: Choices have consequences. When you choose to break the rules, you have chosen to face the consequences of breaking the rules. When you develop a habit of cheating, you might get away with it at first. But at some point, it is going to catch up with you. At some point, you are going to get caught. And the more you cheat, the harder you will fall when you do get caught. In the long-run, cheaters always lose.
If you will develop the habit of playing by the rules, of playing fair, then life will be much better, and you will be a winner.
3. KEEP SWINGING
If you know anything about baseball, you will probably recognize at least one of the following nicknames:
- “The Great Bambino”
- “The Sultan of Swat”
- “The Colossus of Clout”
Babe Ruth was arguably one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He played for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees in the early 1900’s. That was a long time ago! Lots of baseball players have come and gone since Babe Ruth, and yet he is still considered one of the best of the best.
In his career, Babe Ruth hit a total of 714 home runs. The last of those home runs was hit on May 25, 1935. It would take 39 years for another baseball player, Hank Aaron, to break that record. Not many other athletes, in any sport, have set a record that stood untouched for 39 years.
But there is another number that stands out in Babe Ruth’s career statistics. During his career, The Great Bambino struck out over 1,300 times! He struck out almost twice as many times as he hit a home run. You would think that all those strike-outs would get to be depressing after awhile. In fact, a reporter once asked the Home Run King how he managed to keep going when he got into a batting slump. Ruth’s answer: “I just keep goin’ up there and swingin’ at ’em.”
Life is going to be filled with disappointments. People are going to let you down. Things aren’t always going to go the way you want them to. Life isn’t always going to turn out the way you planned. So, how do you keep going when life stinks? You just keep goin’ up there and swingin’ at ’em! You just don’t ever give up! Babe Ruth himself said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”
When life knocks you down … you just pick yourself back up, brush yourself off, stare your obstacles in the face, and proclaim, “You will not defeat me!”
When life knocks you down again, and kicks you in the side, and laughingly spits in your face and says “Take that!” … you just pick yourself up again, brush yourself off again, stare your obstacles in the face again, and proclaim even louder, “YOU WILL NOT DEFEAT ME!”
The winner is the person who gets up one more time than he got knocked down. The loser is the person who gives up that last time he gets knocked down, and doesn’t get back up. The difference between the winner and the loser: getting back up one more time!
Edwin Louis Cole said, “Champions aren’t men who never fail…” Babe Ruth failed almost twice as many times as he succeeded. “Champions aren’t men who never fail. Champions are men who never quit.”
How can you become a Champion? How can you be a Winner? Just get back up one more time. Just never quit. Just keep goin’ back up there and swingin’ at ’em.
- Be nice.
- Play fair.
- Keep swinging.
The preceding post was adapted from a speech I gave for Waxahachie Junior High School’s National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony on Tuesday, May 8, 2007. It was inspiring to see so many junior high teens who met the qualifications for membership in this prestigious organization.