If You Want Something Done Right…

…You have to do it yourself. Pretty banal little sentiment, right? But how many times have you waited on someone else to do the right thing before being disappointed when they finally, inevitably don’t? Oh, I’m not talking about fixing the rotten old Sudan or peace in the Middle East or anything so grand (though it certainly applies on a macro level). I’m talking about the small interpersonal and professional discourtesies that lead one to question whether stuffing a dead fish in the air vent is really out of bounds.

If you say you are going to do something, do it. We call people who fail to follow through on commitments “flakes,” if we’re feeling charitable, or “dishonorable” if we’re feeling especially aggrieved. This has applications in every aspect of life; examples include giving someone a ride, borrowing money, working hard, returning phone calls, rewarding those who have helped you succeed. When you tell someone that you will do something, whatever that might be, your word is being traded as collateral until the good, service or other compensation is rendered. I don’t think people understand this – say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t allow trifling circumstances to make you a liar.

Sure, every once in a while your promises will be overtaken by events. An honorable person will in that circumstance attempt to reschedule or reevaluate the commitment with the input of the owed party. You don’t simply assume the duty has been abrogated. You attempt to fulfill your obligation until you are released from it by the one to whom you are indebted.

See the Fly? That's the Trust...I think?

This is a basic concept! Why do I have to explain it? Perhaps it’s the millions upon millions of children growing up with absent fathers – men who also grew up without fathers. Perhaps it’s the entitlement culture fostered by our government and its profligate spending. Try not paying the feds, though. We call people like that “inmates.” But it’s beyond easy to understand – even a public schooler could handle this. You pay what you owe. You don’t get into debt unless you can pay it back. These are things men should know. Money, personal honor, simple dependability, it’s all the same.

Back to your word as collateral: it’s a great concept and I’m sure it’s not a thought that’s original to me, but insofar as I agree with it it’s the most amazing analogy ever. If you aren’t careful with your money, you’ll go broke. If you aren’t careful with your word and give it too freely, you destroy your reserves of trust. If you’re not dependable, you’re bankrupt.

So the word to the wise is this: if you say you’re going to do something, just do it. Don’t make promises unless you know you can keep them. If you can’t settle the debts you have, make damn sure you don’t get any new ones.

Now with all that said…do I owe any of you money?

1 comment

  1. Rachel says:

    It is what I love most about you: If you say you’ll do something, you won’t make a liar out of yourself. Which is why when I want you to pick up your socks I always try to get you to verbalize the words “I’ll pick them up [insert specific time frame here] and also why, I assume, you resist saying those words — because you’re locked in, and we both know you don’t want to pick up the socks…or the shoes…or your coat…I could go on forever here.

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