A few months into COVID-world, I realized that even though I would be seeing people less – our more-stressed emphasis on digital communication meant that I would potentially be dealing with MORE, not less, bullsh*t (BS) than I prefer. I am not a people-pleaser by nature – I enjoy peace, so I had to lean into my 2-step system.
I can promise you that if you adhere to the techniques and philosophies of this age-old stoic procedure of getting through life, you will have happier days, better relationships, and probably solve far more problems than you ever could before. Yep, it’s that powerful if you can REALLY embed these two simple things into your lifestyle.
(This post isn’t an extended subtweet to anyone that I know — and, if you doubt me, hopefully once you see the techniques I promote you’ll understand that’s the truth.)
Context: What is Bullsh*t?
To clarify for the sake of understanding, this post is about bullsh*t – not problems. Seeing something that is broken temporarily or in a bad state and wanting to address it? That is correcting a problem. Solving something that is otherwise inconveniencing life (for you or others) or making things incredibly inefficient.
This post isn’t about problems. This post is about BS.
BS is continuously repeated behaviors – that YOU consider negative – that are engrained in the very fiber of how some people and organizations move through the world.
There is a difference between the two: Problems are “temporary” in nature and have reasonable solutions that can be solved in a time-bound manner (think a brief relationship communication issue), BS is more permanent and doesn’t really have any logical or emotional end in sight (think irreconcilable differences).
Got the subtle distinction between the two? Ok, let’s get into it.
Step #1: Don’t. Just… Don’t.
Some of us are natural-born “fixers”. There is something embedded in our DNA that sees a problem and immediately wants to try to find a solution for it. This is normally attributed to the male gender of us humans for sure, but women do this too. That is fine, but that’s (again) also not what we’re talking about.
Deal with problems. Solve them for you and others around you and organizations your work is tied to.
DO NOT deal with BS.
I am not saying this in an angry tone or anything like that, I’m just recommending that you not try to fix something that’s unfixable. We all have our own BS. EVERYONE. You. Me. Your Mom.
BS doesn’t leave you as you get older and wiser (it just takes on new shapes and habits). BS doesn’t go away as you get more money (even Bezos and Gates got divorced – wealthy people keep their BS on board, too). BS doesn’t fade as you get more talented or knowledgeable (Neil deGrasse Tyson is seemingly a pretty lovable guy, and Ellen DeGeneres was great in front of an audience — they both often get called for BS now).
Adhering to this step requires two things of you:
Understand the difference between Problems & BS (as pointed out in the context section).
Shift your perspective to one of “working on me” vs. “working on others”.
This first step can feel IMPOSSIBLE for some of us because we tend to think we’re right. Most people approach life through their filter being correct all of the time vs. seeking to learn from the filters around them. And, yeah, it’s a balancing act – because a lot of times you may be correct, but that doesn’t mean that your ways of what’s right, wrong, or fixable matter to everyone else around you.
Once you internalize that we all have our own special brands of BS and that you shouldn’t try to fix other people’s BS – you should just accept them for who/what they are and work on yourself instead – you can move on to the next step.
Pro Tip: It is healthy & recommended to keep friends in your circle(s) who will call you on your BS, because I can pretty much guarantee you that you aren’t aware of all of your own personal BS tendencies.
Step #2: Decide What BS You Will/Won’t Stand For
The last step in all of this to draw a line for what form and amounts of BS you’re willing to deal with, and setting some threshold of what’s acceptable. Remember – it is vital to understand that this stuff isn’t going away for people or organizations… Ever.
If I had to give this step a nickname, it would be “The Tit for Tat” step. We all give a little BS and take a little BS as things ebb and flow. Some people can deal with a little BS, some people won’t accept any BS at all (good luck).
For example, most of society understands that we all have different political views (a special brand of BS) and must learn to respect each other a bit beyond that for us to function. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to put up with any BS that includes Racism or anything else you just philosophically may not be down with. You might decide that you’re willing to deal with the BS of brutally long hours of hard work at your job if the pay is “good enough” (another special brand of BS), but that doesn’t mean you have to live with being disrespected by anyone.
If some form of BS (from friend or foe) crosses a line for you one too many times (because “everybody gets one”), eventually – you should step away from it.
This only comes after you acknowledge that BS is just out there in the universe and you won’t stress yourself trying to correct it (because you can’t), and accept that you’ll navigate your way through a long-running list of BS you will and won’t take as you move through existence.
You can apply this externally to family, friends, and significant others alike – sure – but I also encourage you to apply this step internally as well. Decide what BS you’ll allow to thrive and grow in yourself because this is the ONLY BS you can control.
If you exercise these two brief steps in their truest forms – you will find that you have more peace in your life, are better able to work with others, and likely have more fulfilling relationships. It will kind of become an unspoken understanding, between you and others around you, that you acknowledge that no one is perfect (including yourself) and that you’re willing to meet them in the middle on some things (and won’t stand for others).
Other people’s BS will either stop being such a big deal to you (because you know that they put up with yours, too) or it’ll stop being brought to your door entirely. And if that doesn’t happen, you then decide whether you deal with it out of love or necessity – or do you change course and distance yourself from that bullsh*t.