(Photo: American Eagle Overlook, Victor CO)
Let’s see a show of hands — how many of us have ever tried to make everyone happy? Sometimes we’re called “people pleasers.” Often we lead a committee, a workplace team or plan a family reunion. We bend over backwards to consider all opinions and preferences, don’t we? We work hard to make sure everyone is heard while trying to keep the mission in mind. But some lose sight of the goal and shift their focus to try and keep everyone happy versus getting the best result.
It’ll drive you crazy. And if you keep it up, you’ll burn yourself out and dig yourself into a bottomless pit. You can’t get much accomplished spinning in circles.
Today’s overly connected culture makes it worse. We’re encouraged to “join the conversation” but this can be challenging if you’re affiliated with different groups, organizations or positions. Some have competing interests and are at cross-purposes with each other. And for some, it’s not good enough to be a supporter, you must be “all in” to the exclusion of everything else. You must be an advocate for “the cause” and a very public one at that.
Say something, do something or (even worse) tweet something that offends the opposing group and you’re a goner — blocked, muted, unfriended, unfollowed, uninvited to the next big shindig, fired from a job, removed from the board or asked to return a recently granted award.
It’s the upstairs vs downstairs issue. I once worked in an organization where it was warehouse folks vs the carpet dwellers. (I’m not kidding.)
Cat Lovers vs Dog Lovers
I’ll give you another example. Let’s say you’re an animal lover. We all know the world is split between dog-lovers and cat-lovers, right? (We’ll leave out boa constrictor and spider lovers for now. They’re hard to figure out.) You happen to love dogs and cats both, but you own a few cats because you grew up with them and they shed less. There are cat pics on your desk, your phone, a cat bumper sticker on your car and you give money to the American Cat-Lovers Society.
But recently, you’ve noticed your animal loving friends, family, clients, co-workers and neighbors have splintered into groups (let’s call them silos, shall we?) It’s like the parting of the Red Sea. Now it’s no longer good enough to be a plain old animal lover, noooooo. Now you must choose. You must support Every. Single. Crazy. Idea they come up with or risk being labeled as not-a-team-player. Thinking for yourself is out of the question.
They look deeply into your background: Ever worn a t-shirt with a dog on it? Were you recently seen eating a pancake in the shape of a cat? Did you read more books on Lassie than Cat-in-the-Hat in grade school? Either way, your lack of enlightenment will soon be known to all, broadcast from one end of the planet to another and held against you until the day you die. Cat-lover? Or dog-lover? (We even have sub-groups: beagle, scottie, setter and golden lab lovers too!)
And if you happen to have a wide range of friends, fields of interest, commitment to lifelong learning and a track record of success…well, it may never be good enough for some.
You Can Never Make Everyone Happy
If you try, you’ll second-guess what you write, the words you speak and who you hang out with. You’ll move the goal-post anytime someone questions your loyalty, decisions, opinions or voting record. And the more you allow yourself to be bullied into conflicted territory, you’ll lose a bit of your soul.
What to do? What to do?
Do not grovel and apologize for eating the pancake shaped like a cat. State your case. If you’ve changed your mind, give us the reasons why. But never apologize for a sincerely held belief unless you were disingenuous way back when.
Don’t stick your finger into the wind. You’ve done your homework. You know where you stand. The majority are not always right and far too many are uninformed.
There are more people rooting for you than you might imagine. These are folks who silently watch from the sidelines. They share your opinions with friends, read the books you suggest and support organizations you endorse. They learn from the battles you fight, losses you suffer and sacrifices you’ve made.
It’s your lifetime of service we care about, the way you treat others, your ability to solve problems and make things better. This world needs wisdom more than ever before. We need leaders who stand on their own two feet and don’t waste time worrying about opinions from those with too much time on their hands. Because…
Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
(This quote, often misattributed to Dr. Seuss, actually came from FDR’s presidential advisor Bernard Baruch — about his dinner party seating arrangements.)
Just as we can’t sit next to everyone at the dinner party and we all can’t have the window seat, you will never be able to make everyone happy. So focus your time and attention on people who matter, the values you firmly believe in and the mission ahead of you.
Do your job. Love God, Country, friends and family. In the end (or “at the end of the day” as every person on earth is fond of saying), it’s all that really matters.