Fifty Things That Make You a Better Person

A short time ago The Blog That Nobody Reads put up a list of one hundred things that do not make you a better person. We perceived then, and still maintain today, that the need for the list was present, intense and palpable. People nowadays seem to be grasping at straws, trying to find ways to show their wonderfulness; and the things they do to show off their wonderfulness, overall, do not seem to have beneficial effect.

Frankly, over the years we have come to see this as something of a crisis. We’d even go so far as to say society would be better off if everyone just chucked the whole effort, and contented themselves with regarding all others as a bunch of stinkers, and being seen that way.

We had many thoughts about the ensuing reactions to this list, which we jotted down during vacation. We were most impressed by this: If you measure the response by nose, it seems close to ninety percent of the readers agreed with us. If you measured it by perceived volume, the ratio became reversed. To put it more simply, those who objected to our list objected loudly and forcefully, toward the end of projecting greater numbers in their camp than it seems actually exist. And they seem to be doing this deliberately. It seems they’ve picked out their chosen techniques for demonstrating some cosmetic personal wonderfulness they don’t really have; showing it over and over again, manic-compulsively, takes enough of their energy and they aren’t terribly receptive to having to contend with debates about whether the wonderfulness is genuine or not. Wasn’t part of their plan.

It occurs to me that perhaps there’d be less consternation and contention if alternatives were provided. How can people show off their wonderfulness? My short answer would be: Just stop showing off. After all, if you look to others to confirm that you’re wonderful, and what you’re really after is self-confidence, obviously you’re never going to get there — you have to develop your own internal barometer for your wonderfulness. You need to be sure. You have to get hard-nosed enough that a whole room full of people can tell you you’re wrong about something, and deep down you’ll still know you’re right. You have to measure this independently.

I was not able to come up with a list of a hundred things that really do show you’re a better person. But I did come up with fifty.

1. Run.
2. Walk.
3. Ride a bicycle.
4. Run, walk or ride, just a little bit further than you ever have before. Make records. Break them with new records. Then break those.
5. Read until you find a word you’ve never seen before. Find out what it means. Use it…just once. Then do it all over again.
6. Notice some things about what people do that you’ve not heard of anyone else noticing. Point it out.
7. Donate — anonymously.
8. Open a door for a pretty girl.
9. Open a door for an ugly girl.
10. Teach a child a new skill.
11. Make a list of things to do for your entire day. Cut it off at five. Make a list for the entire week. Cut it off at seven. Make sure each one is all-the-way-done.
12. Make a pot of coffee while your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife is still sleeping. Prepare a cup exactly the way they like it, and bring it to them.
13. Stop an echo.
14. If someone’s working hard to sell you something, and the product makes sense to you, buy it. If it doesn’t, tell them why you aren’t buying. Tell them exactly why. The whole story. Whether you think they can do something about it, or not. Put them in charge of figuring out the next move.
15. Find someone you know who is doing more than their share of the work. Figure out if there’s anything you can do to help. If you can do this, then get it done. If you can’t, ask.
16. If you can see the bartender is one of these workhorses that keeps the whole place from collapsing, and she’s keeping track of what’s going on, taking initiative, but doesn’t enjoy any advancement or seniority from any of this, tip her something crazy. I mean, like 150% percent. Tell her why.
17. If you see a soldier out celebrating his safe return with his girl, motion your waiter over and tell him you’d like to settle the soldier’s bill.
18. If you can do #17 anonymously, do so.
19. If you cannot, give the soldier a great big thank you.
20. Find some arcane political issue you’ve never understood. Read up on it until you do understand it.
21. Always vote down whatever creates a new “civil right” that didn’t exist before, since this would deprive someone of freedom.
22. Also, anything that would nationalize an industry or function that is currently within the private sector. We’ve moved far enough in that direction already.
23. Whatever would make litigation more plentiful or likely, because hey, who really wants to live in a world like that.
24. Everything that would make it more difficult or impractical to start, buy or manage a business; if the thing we want is a stronger economy, then let’s start working toward that.
25. Find out who is responsible for the proposed laws that fit #21, #22, #23 and #24, and vote them out of office. Something tells me they don’t really want to be working at anything anyway.
26. Always give kids the bigger picture. If you’re watching a thirty year old television show with a twelve-year-old, explain Watergate and Nadia Comaneci, so he knows why bad guys had to wear business suits and good guys had to rescue Russian gymnasts who were trying to escape bad guys in nice business suits.
27. Completely sidestep it when a liberal veers off the subject of the argument, and starts evaluating your worthiness as a person. Just come out and tell him: Yes, maybe I’m a creep, but back to the subject at hand…your idea won’t work. Keep doing it.
28. Grab the grocery cart that jerk has let loose in in the middle of the parking lot; use it as yours if you’re looking for one, otherwise put it where it belongs.
29. Pick up litter.
30. On a rainy day, hold your umbrella over the head of a woman who forgot to bring hers.
31. If you know an old person who is living independently, see what you can do about delivering their groceries.
32. Take lots of pictures.
33. Show them to people.
34. Put them on the Internet, if that’s appropriate…
35. Having your life at the mercy of a complex piece of machinery is a privilege and an opportunity, not a problem or a burden. If your home computer does things you don’t understand, find out what those things are and figure out how they work.
36. If you’re told the rules say you can’t do it, take the time to find out what rule that is. Make them tell you.
37. Better yet: Call back, get a different person on the line, find out if they’ve ever heard of this rule, and if that really makes it impossible.
38. Even better still: Find out what it takes to change the rule. People who lack this vision, shouldn’t have control over the people who have it.
39. If you gave someone some money because they needed it, and a very short time later they need more, find out why.
40. If someone is angry and you have the opportunity to mollify them by doing something, remember Thing I Know #52. Put some real thought into maybe letting them stay as angry as they want to be.
41. Usually when people are unwilling to consider clearly superior alternatives, it’s because they don’t have a full reckoning of the consequences of what they want to do. This is especially true if they refuse to allow anyone else to get a word in edgewise. See what you can do about letting them feel the full weight of the consequences, you might be doing them a favor.
42. Combine your bill-paying into your exercise routine.
43. Project what day your bills are due, with what day-of-week that is. Plan it out three months in advance, and see if you can pay every single bill a little bit early.
44. Browse a store that sells fine, reliable tools. Then browse your home looking for something that doesn’t work quite right. Repeat, and repeat again, until you can define an inexpensive project that will improve things. Then do it. Keep doing this. Think creatively. Build things that work for you, regardless of whether they’d be right for anybody else.
45. Follow objectives, not procedures. If there is a list of steps in your life that you have to follow, take the time to learn about each step until the list itself comes to mean nothing. See if you can learn enough to improve the list.
46. If the teevee show is put on the teevee to indoctrinate, rather than to entertain, change the channel.
47. If the school’s special activity is there to indoctrinate rather than to educate, pull your child out of it.
48. This one is for my blogger friend Daphne, who is currently stressing (although I’m sure she doesn’t really need to be told): Don’t keep your kids away from dangerous things. Put together a list of safety rules; make sure it is right. Triple check it. Make sure they understand all of the rules and competently practice them. Then let ’em go do it.
49. Find something people had to know how to do, back in your grandparents’ time, that they don’t have to know how to do today. Figure out how to do it. Even better, figure this out with your kids.
50. Find someone who wants, desperately, to be wonderful; point out to them the things they have already done that are genuinely wonderful, and make sure they know they are admired for this. Maybe you can stop them from supporting liberals.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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