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Freedom Requires Responsibility

“Don’t engage in behavior that, if everyone else was to do it, would destroy the world”

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When I was growing up, my mother gave me advice about proceeding in this life. She said, “Don’t engage in behavior that, if everyone else was to do it, would destroy the world.” I knew then what it meant on one level; today, the advice seems profound.

Junk Adds Up

If you allow junk cars and other debris to haphazardly accumulate on your front lawn, and everyone else follows, how long will it be before your town, and everyone’s town in the entire world, becomes one big junkyard?

If you smoke while you drive and then throw the butts onto the street, and all other drivers do the same, how long will it be before the streets are dingy and dirty, or so littered that they disgust motorists?

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My mother’s advice, applied today, tells us that while individual freedoms are worth cherishing and enjoying, they also require our responsibility. We can’t all be free to do exactly what we want all the time, even if the law allows it. We certainly can’t all engage in behavior that damages the environment or diminishes other people’s rights.

Individual vs Societal Benefit

Misguided groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union seemingly were founded on a noble purpose – to preserve the rights of the individual. What happens when granting rights to individual contributes to the erosion of society? It is a tough question for anyone to answer. The ACLU certainly has no answer.

In the name of 1st Amendment free speech and individual rights, the ACLU and leftists defend individuals and groups who care little about the 1st Amendment, the Constitution, or other citizens. Such groups keep pushing the envelope of crassness and vulgarity for publicity and profit.

What if everyone started to sport tattoos on their arms, backs, and shoulders, or wears nose rings, eyebrow rings, and nipple rings? Such behavior doesn’t clog our roadways, and such actions are a matter of individual choice, so what harm does it cause to society?

Does Safety Matter?

Aside from the health aspects of body piercings (and the data indicates a large percentage of participants experience serious infection and hepatitis) they pose safety problems to both the individual indulging in the behavior and to others around them.

As a society, do we accept visitors to hospital emergency rooms on Saturday nights whose body piercings have resulted in serious health conditions? Do body piercers have any idea about the longitudinal effects of such behavior on their health, not to mention longevity?

My mother’s simple admonition – what if everybody did it? – needs to be passed on to far more people so that those who might otherwise engage in questionable behavior become more aware of their impact on those around them and society overall.

Expanding the Notion

The legions of child-like adults who keep burdening and straining our law enforcement system and appearing before judges don’t understand (and apparently don’t care) how they thwart the overall progress of society. They levy a continual tax on our public institutions and impede the rest of society from moving forward.

If you vegetate each evening watching television instead of being out in your community cleaning it up, and everyone does the same, how will your community change?

If you spend hours each week focusing on the lives of people you don’t know and aren’t likely to meet, i.e. celebrities, and end up relegating their lives to a higher status than that of family, relatives, neighbors, and friends, why expect your own life and relationships to be vibrant and rewarding?

Your Choices Impact Everyone

If you eat whatever you want, avoid exercising, and do not manage your own weight,  you’re gambling on genetics. Maybe you will live a long, disease-free life. What are the ramifications, however, if everyone in society decides to emulate you?

What you do in your own life is largely your business and should be. If most people in society copied you though, how would they fare? If the answer is “not well,” maybe assess what you do and why.

Our behavior impacts those around us, particularly children. If we want the world to be a better place, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Family

Spend Less, Owe Less, Live More

If you spend less than you take in, inexorably your debt will decrease

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Society conditions us to consume more than we need and to spend more than we make. However, this kind of lifestyle is a recipe for disaster. Taking back control of your finances can help you free up time and make you feel more in control of your life more of the time.

Think back to your high school and college history classes: can you recall a nation in the history of the earth that accumulated huge deficits over a prolonged period of time, lacked a concerted effort towards reducing these deficits, yet was able to sustain economic prosperity for its citizens?

Can a nation, in debt for trillions annually, or a person – namely you – consistently run up huge deficits and expect no consequences?  For decades, tens of millions of Americans have accumulated personal debt via credit cards, loans, and other forms of financing. It’s likely that you have some financial debts.

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Subtle Servitude

Sustained deficit spending eventually erodes your ability to prepare for the future, and worse, to capitalize on current opportunities. The more you owe, the more enslaved you are! In Consumerism, Dr. Judith Schor notes that you’ve likely been taught to consume more than you need.

Right now, how would it feel if all your credit cards were paid off? How would it feel if you paid your monthly rent or mortgage several months in advance? How would it feel if your car loan was paid off? How would it feel if you were actually able to pay some of your utility bills for months in advance? For most people it would feel great. You’d feel in control of your time.

We all know the arguments about losing the (minuscule) amount of interest you could have earned if you let your money sit in the bank instead of paying the electric bill three months in advance. Ah, but wait. A month after you’ve paid your electric bill three months in advance, you receive the next month’s bill. Guess what? It shows that you have a huge credit and that nothing is due – you’ll smile when you see these kinds of bills!

A Moratorium on Spending

To reduce your personal debts, place a moratorium on optional spending, regardless of what items entice you, until your credit cards have zero balances.

Paying for material things which you don’t need, and certainly don’t save your time, might be satisfying, but ultimately can be draining.

Here are some strategies and tactics for controlling your checkbook, and hence reclaiming your life:

1. Write out checks to pay bills in advance of their due dates. Then, keep an advance file with a folder for each day of the month. Place the check in a sealed, addressed, and stamped envelope. Then put the envelope in the folder of the day it’s to be mailed. This way the money is allocated in advance in your checkbook, and your bills are paid on time. If your checking account pays interest, you don’t lose interest.

2. Occasionally, overpay the balance on your continuing accounts, or pay early. This gives you the aforementioned psychological boost when you see a credit on your next statement, and gives you a good reputation with your creditors, which is handy!

3. Keep a stick-on note in your checkbook for an immediate reference that lists what’s coming in this month and what needs to be paid. This provides you with a running mini-cash flow list to which you can refer at will. Update it weekly, or daily, if needed.

4. Review old checkbooks and see what you paid to whom for what. Do the same thing with your monthly credit card statements. Put a red mark next to all those expenditures that you didn’t need to make, or that you could have done without after further consideration.

5. Now, considering expenditures on the horizon, which ones can you do without?

Spend Less, Save More

As author Roger Dawson says, “It doesn’t matter how much money you’re making; if you’re spending more than you take in each month, you’re headed for trouble.” If you spend less than you take in, your debt will decrease, even if only a little at a time, and one day perhaps  disappear.

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Life

Ignore Much of What Pundits Have to Say

Can we be confident in advice we receive from people who have not mastered what they teach?

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When the opportunity arose, I attended a lecture by one of the most well-known authors and speakers in America. I had previewed his CD and read two of his books prior to his lecture; in person, he lived up to my expectations. So, I was intrigued when a friend, involved with bringing this speaker to our area relayed a personal incident to me. 

Directly following the speaker’s presentation, my friend was responsible for driving him to the airport, and accompanying him until his flight departed. That summer afternoon, it was rainy and the skies were dark.

As it turned out, the author was a nervous flyer and took several drinks in the airport lounge prior to boarding the plane.  I found this incident to be amazing because I had so often heard him say things such as, “Everything in this universe is perfect.” It struck me that, in many ways, the speaker wasn’t practicing his philosophy. Nevertheless, all human beings have their faults and foibles and, as time passed, I forgot about the incident.

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High-Priced Gurus

One morning, I had the occasion to pick up USA Today. In the lifestyle section, there was a feature on a relationship guru and author of international best-sellers on relationships. She had won the “Oscar” of infomercials, earning $24 million in a single year.  

In this published interview, the reporter asked her why we should listen to a relationship guru who had been married five times. Five times? I couldn’t believe it! She had wedded her fifth husband, some 11 years her junior, only a short time before producing her award-winning infomercial on having a successful relationship. 

In the infomercial, she is featured as having a loving relationship with her husband. Okay, but in no way does the infomercial tell us that he is her fifth husband and that she had married him three weeks ago.

Not Walking their Talk

I had a flash from the past: I recalled the story about the nervous flyer author. Yet, nothing prepared me for the revelations about the relationship guru, a self-proclaimed expert, using the slickest 21st-century marketing available to sell her information and products.  

She was well-versed in her subject matter. Upon hearing her advice, I recognized that it did seem sound. However, the larger issue is, “Can we be confident in the advice we receive from those who have not mastered what they teach, or who do not even remotely walk their talk?”

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