There is nothing more important in the world than this. When you’re done reading this post, I’m confident that you’ll agree with me.
Your happiness, success, your health, the job of your dreams, inner peace, true love, even your sanity depends solely on this one thing.
It’s called the slash, and you cannot live another moment without a full understanding of its power over your life.
Strangely enough, you’ve probably never heard of it until now. Stranger than that, is the fact that you use it multiple times a day without even being aware of it.
That is, until now.
In order to understand what I’m talking about, please allow me to illustrate the power of the slash in action.
A while ago, one of my students in a customer service training class told me that she’s often rude to her coworkers. Not in the ignore-you-when-you-say-hi-to-her type of rudeness, I’m talking about over-the-top, combative type of rudeness.
What’s worse is that she’s convinced that she can’t help it.
When she’s dealing with the stress of the day, sometimes she turns into a “horrendous bitch from hell” (her words, not mine) who yells and screams at everyone in sight.
According to her, she doesn’t want to act like this–it’s the stress of the job that makes her do it.
Unfortunately, she has resigned herself to the fact that her behavior is simply out of her control. In her own words, her behavior has now become a habit, and even though she’s fully aware of it, she can’t seem to make it stop.
Of course, I had to politely call her out on her ridiculousness. Tough love should be a weapon in the arsenal of all teachers, as far as I’m concerned.
What she described is not a habit.
That’s because once she became aware of her “habit,” it immediately ceased to be a habit, and it became something else.
Her choice to be the “horrendous bitch from hell” (as well as every other choice made by every other person in this world’s history) was born from the critical moment known as “the slash.” And it’s on the slash that we’ll begin the process of examining our lives much deeper than we ever have before.
Standing on the Slash
The slash represents the all-important decision points in our lives.
On one side of the slash lies a choice that will honor you by enhancing your life and the lives of others, while the other side of the slash lies a choice that will do the exact opposite.
Without exception, each one of us must stand on the slash numerous times a day and decide which side of the slash we’re going to live on.
It’s a pretty big deal, and I’d advise against taking the slash lightly. Since it is so important, there are some critical rules about the slash that you should be aware of–luckily there are only two of them:
1) You cannot avoid standing on the slash.
2) You cannot stand on the slash forever.
The slash will always force us to choose a side–there is no middle ground.
And yes, not choosing is a choice in itself (seriously, marinate in that fact for a minute.)
The good news is that the slash always gives hints if you look at it closely (The Slash: /). You can either slide down the slash’s slope toward the less desirable option, or notice that the slash always leans toward the better option.
The choice is yours.
It’s now time to raise the stakes considerably. Below are five critical decisions in determining the overall path of your life.
From this point forward, you are standing on the slash and you’ll get to decide if it’s more important for you to live your life before the slash or after the slash.
We all have dreams, that’s a large part of what makes us human.
Maybe it’s to lose 50 pounds before your 20-year high school reunion this summer, or to earn enough money so that you can start your own business and never have to work for anyone else for the rest of your life, or to make sure that every homeless person in your city gets a warm meal everyday.
You shouldn’t need me to tell you that all of those dreams are completely within your reach.
The problem is that many of these dreams require effort. Serious effort, in most cases. That’s why far more people are talking about doing these things instead of actually doing them.
The difference between living the dream and wishing for the dream is what happens at the first sign of adversity. Because it’s here, at the first sign of adversity, that you’ll be forced to stand on the slash.
As you stand on the slash, you’ve got a big choice to make.
Will you surrender and say that your dream isn’t for you? Will you hang your head and say that your dream is impossible? Or will you find a resolve that you didn’t know existed and become even more committed to your dream than ever before?
Surrender is easy. Commitment is no joke.
When you’re committed, you’ll find time to hit the gym even though you just put in a brutally long day at the office. When you’re committed, you’ll skip out on a few Happy Hours with your buddies in order to put your extra cash into your “freedom fund.” When you’re committed, you’ll keep showing up to the homeless shelter with warm food even though you were spit in the face by a homeless man as you served him his meal yesterday.
If you choose to live before the slash at the first sign of adversity, remember this:
If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.
Greatness lives on the other side of the slash, and it might not come easily.
2. Being a Jerk/Being the Change
I remember being in a meeting many years ago with upper management and a few physicians, and we were talking about the importance of providing excellent internal customer service (i.e., treating our coworkers and colleagues with kindness and respect while at work.)
One of the physicians in the meeting decided to smugly share an opinion that was so crazy that I was certain that he was kidding.
“Look, I’m a busy guy. I don’t have time to be all sweet and nice with the staff. I run a busy clinic, and I don’t have time for this internal customer service foolishness, sometimes I need to be abrupt. That’s just the reality.”
Little did this guy know that he said that to the wrong dude.
“I’m confused, are you saying that it takes less time to be a jerk than it does to be kind? We both know that’s not true. Since it takes equal effort to be kind as it does to be ‘abrupt,’ wouldn’t it make sense to choose the option that will make your employees happier and more engaged?”
Of course, he had no comeback and mumbled something about that not being what he meant.
This academically brilliant (but socially inept) physician slid down the slash to the wrong side, and from what I’ve heard from his staff, he spends quite a bit of his time living before the slash.
What’s worse is that he does it by choice. He’s not alone either. There are many people who choose to live before the slash when interacting with their fellow human beings.
Every time that we interact with another person, we stand on this slash.
In the grocery store, at work, at the gym, at home with your spouse and kids, at church, literally everywhere we are presented with the inevitable choice that comes as a part of standing on the slash.
While on the slash, you can choose rudeness, condescension, passive-aggressiveness, bigotry, arrogance, emotional abuse, gossip, bullying, and violence as natural options when dealing with people, but if you do this consistently, then let me be clear about this: That would make you a bonafide jerk. You would have slid so far down the wrong side of the slash that you would actively be making the world a worse place instead of a better one. There’s really no other way to say it.
The other option?
Be the change that you want to see in the world.
Do you want to see more kindness in the world? Then choose to make kindness the new normal, instead of just talking about it.
Do you want to see more love in the world? Hug a stranger.
Do you want to see more generosity in the world? Be generous in any way that you can.
Do you want to see more acceptance in the world? Accept others as they are, without exception.
The next person who you see after reading this blog post will present your first test, because he/she will force you to stand on the slash.
Remember, you can’t stand on the slash forever. You know your two choices, which option will you choose?
If you need a hint, kindness lives after the slash.
3. It’s Up to _____/It’s Up to You
The late, and incredibly successful speaker and author, Stephen Covey once said:
Our lives are a result of our choices, to blame other people, the environment, or other extrinsic factors, is to choose to empower those things to control us.
Think about that for a minute.
The next time that you fail at something (and you will), you will be placed squarely on the slash. At this moment, you get to make an enormously important decision. You get to decide who and/or what will be in control of your life.
Everything Else or You.
Did you fail because of your race? Did you fail because you are overweight? Did you fail because you don’t have a college degree? Did you fail because your significant other doesn’t support you? Did you fail because you’re too old? Did you fail because you’re too short? Did you fail because of your parents? Did you fail because you have too many tattoos? Did you fail because you didn’t have the right connections? Did you fail because you’re gay? Did you fail because you’re shy? Did you fail because of the government, the economy, or because the wrong politician got voted into office? Did you fail because you grew up in a crappy neighborhood? Did you fail because you kept it too real? Did you fail because they just didn’t get you?
If so, then stop here and please fill in the blank before the slash (see above) with what you believe was the determining factor in your failure. Once you’re done, study it intently because you have just determined the one thing that is now in control of your life.
Do you really want something or someone to be in control of your life, besides you?
I’ll answer this one for you: No.
As always, you could always make another decision as you stand on the slash.
You can choose the empowering option of placing the responsibility for all failures and successes in your life from this point forward, squarely on your shoulders. It’s the only option that makes any sense. Blaming everyone and everything else for your problems and failures will get you nothing but pain, regret, an inescapable sense of powerlessness, and an unfortunate seat at the kiddie table of life.
Personal responsibility and being an adult both only exist after the slash.
4. Maybe Again/Never Again
Out of all of the slashes in this post, this one is probably the most overlooked.
Please don’t be one of the people who make that critical mistake.
Without question, everyone reading these words must be intimately aware of the boundary that exists in your mind that can never be crossed by anyone, ever.
If you’re not aware of what that boundary is, then you need to read this before continuing on to the final point: The Pain That You Should Be Thankful For.
Seriously, go. I’ll wait. It’s pretty important–trust me on this one.
Your self-respect, self-love, dignity, and your true power all reside after the slash.
5. Live a Comfortable Life/Live an Epic Life
Everyone loves comfort.
Air conditioning on a blazing hot day. A warm robe and fuzzy slippers on a cold day. A beer and a pizza on the couch before the big game. Comfort is awesome.
Except that it’s not.
I’m talking about something entirely different from physical comfort. I’m talking about the comfort that convinces us to live a life of “good enough,” when it is nowhere close to really being good enough.
That’s why I’m closing with the most difficult slash of all.
In fact, most people don’t know that they’re even standing on this slash, and if they do realize it, most will slide down the slash towards a life of comfort because they think that it’s easier.
Little do they know that living a comfortable life may be the hardest thing that they ever do.
If you make the choice to live a comfortable life, here’s what could be waiting for you at the bottom of the slash:
- A “good enough” life that will keep you in a relationship with someone who you don’t love, who you have terrible sex with, and who you don’t even share a bed with, all because you’re comfortable with that person.
- A “good enough” life that will keep you in the same job for 15 years even though it doesn’t come close to maximizing your skills, or maximizing your impact to society, all because you’re comfortable working there.
- A “good enough” life that will keep you overweight and unhealthy, even though your body used to be slammin’, because you’ve learned to be comfortable living with your extra pounds.
If nothing else, please believe this:
Comfort is the mortal enemy of epicness.
If comfort and epicness were tools in a toolkit, comfort would be the hammer and epicness would be the nail. Comfort has kicked epicness’s ass for years and years.
Is there an area of your life (physically, emotionally, socially, professionally, spiritually, mentally or romantically) that you know that you should be experiencing a much more epic version of than the one that you are currently experiencing?
If you’ve been paying attention, you probably noticed what I just did to you.
I put you on the slash.
On one side is a life that is “good enough,” and on the other side is a life that could exceed your wildest dreams–your epic life. But unlike the previous four choices, no one will know what you decide this time. Besides you.
That’s why this is the most important decision of all. You have to be real with yourself.
As always, the choice is yours.
Be real with me, are you living before the slash or after the slash? Did any of the above points particularly resonate with you? Jump into the comments and make your voice heard!
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