Being Offended is Optional

So I’m at my fancy athletic club this morning, where motivational speakers like myself pursue a quest for health, peace and in my case, the ability to button up my trousers without sucking in my breath. But quite the opposite happened. . .  I found myself becoming enraged at the piles of other people’s stuff all over the place. So much for experiencing inner peace.

Brief sidebar: My 4-year old son Jack takes taekwondo lessons and at the beginning of each lesson, the students and instructors explicitly show each other respect by bowing to each other… then before the class begins they recite their pledge:

“I intend to develop myself in a positive manner and to avoid anything that would reduce my mental growth or physical health. I intend to develop self-discipline in order to bring out the best in myself and others. I intend to use what I learn in class constructively and defensively, to help myself and my fellow man, and never to be abusive or offensive.”

Now I’m not sayin’ that the captains of industry, the pillars of the community, or the movers-and-shakers who frequent my club need to go through quite so formal a process when they come to work out. I’m just sayin’ that I shouldn’t have to navigate through their debris, and it occurred to me in one instant that it would be prudent to place a sign in the locker room that says:

“Respect others. Clean up after yourself.”

Then, as I caught myself righteously judging others by my own standards – standards that, unless they can mind-read, they don’t know I hold and that they certainly haven’t signed up to – I started feeling a little silly. I reminded myself what I remind my coaching clients – choosing to be offended and enraged is optional. Once I entered that space, it became clear to me that if I care enough about this issue then I need to bring my concern to their attention and get a new standard agreed to.

More later… I’ll let you know how it goes.


Success simplified; lessons learned down a hippo's throat. Speaker, Author, Coach who will parachute in when traditional solutions won’t get it done.

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  1. Excellent observation, Paul, and a great reminder to everyone (motivational speakers included) to let it go, let it go, let it go! Thanks for the post!

  2. I go through that process too, Paul. I’m a motivational speaker after all. And it works – until I step on a little plastic dinosaur in my bare feet on the way to restroom at 2am. And then this calm mantra chanting motivational speaker steps into the dark side. And it ain’t pretty.

  3. Paul, I’m a neat-nik. Was raised by two neat-niks and then I went and married a slob. This motivational speaker spent 18 years learning how to let him be who he is. And then I divorced him! Now I’m three years in with another neat-nik and it’s a well, neat!

  4. Paul,
    The way you depict getting angry or not (as a choice) sounds a lot like self-control. Although I’m not a motivational speaker, I am a parent and this is something that I feel is critical to pass along to my son. From a recent New York Times article, teaching early is imperative to long-term success in life:

  5. As a motivational speaker and a mom of two grown boys, I’ve faced those clutter piles of others many times. I came to the decision years ago that unless it directly effects my performance, space, or future relationships, I let it be. When it comes to the boys’ bathroom, however, “CHANGE IT NOW!” Keep us posted.

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