Reflecting on other peoples' priorities
and their most significant life lessons
Jack Runniger, O.D.
What's the most important thing you've learned in
life?" was a survey question a few years ago. As we say in the South, there
are some "right good" lessons to be learned from many of the
Some were serious:
► "The importance of love and
► The Golden Rule"
► "Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is
doing it." I once heard a good example of this in a sermon.
A boy brought his pet rabbit to "show and
tell" for his first grade class. "Is that a boy rabbit or a girl
rabbit?" one of the other kids asked the teacher. Before she had a chance
to reply, another one said, "I know how we can tell." The teacher
became a little nervous, not knowing whether a birds-and-bees discussion was
something she wanted to handle. But she was taken off the hook when the boy
continued, "We can vote on it."
"The rightness of some things cannot be
altered by voting, by saying it's okay because everyone is doing it,"
analyzed the preacher.
Looking on the light side
Some of the survey responses were more
► "Eat your veggies" -- Which
reminded me of something comedian Alan King once related from his childhood.
"Eat your vegetables," said his father
at the dinner table.
"Why?" asked King.
"Because they're good for you."
"Why are they good for me?"
"Because if you don't eat them, I'm gonna
whop you over the head -- that's why they're good for you."
► "Make your own lunch." This
brought back the memory of another supposedly true story.
Jim Bagby was a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians
years ago. He spent the off season working at Lockheed. A fellow worker told of
Bagby opening his lunchbox at noon one day.
"Another peanut butter sandwich!"
complained Bagby with disgust. "I hate peanut butter and all I get is
peanut butter sandwiches."
"Why don't you tell your wife so she'll fix
something else?" the co-worker asked.
"Wouldn't do any good," replied Bagby.
"I make my own lunch."
ILLUSTRATION BY AMY
Grant me the serenity . . .
"You don't have to try to be number one in
everything you do," would have been my survey answer, said Dr. Neal Bailey,
former editor of Contact Lens Forum, who told me about the survey. "I've
found that life is easier if you're satisfied with second place."
I liked this answer. And recently I found this
from a book by psychology professor Barry Schwartz:
"Maximizers are people who will accept only
the best possible result and never want to settle for second best. While this
may sound like a good way to make choices, maximizers actually tend to be
unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives."
Besides, everything is relative. If you lose a
two-person race, you can always tell folks, "I almost won, and the other
guy finished next to last."
Although I haven't completely mastered any of
these, the three main lessons my 80 years on this planet have taught me would
1. Cooperate with the inevitable. Adapt to things
as they are rather than as you wish they were.
2. Don't sweat the small stuff.
3. Don't take yourself too seriously.
But perhaps the best answer about what's most
important in life was given by the respondent whose answer read,
Jack Runniger, our consulting editor, lives in
Rome, GA. He's also a past editor of OM. Contact him at Runnigerj@aol.com.
Optometric Management, Issue: May 2004