Do you care what other people think?
As I learned self reliance throughout life’s trajectory, one moment from my youth resonates vividly.
At the green age of 22 and at my first corporate job, I was advised that the president of the company wanted to see me. I was summarily ushered into his office and led to a seat opposite his desk. The fact I did not work directly for him in my mind raised a huge red flag. While waiting I shifted in my chair, attempting to strike the right balance of a professional, dutiful, and relaxed posture for when he finally entered. (Turns out this is quite difficult). It felt certain I was to be axed in short order, although for what I had no clue.
Thirty-five years later, I am still deciphering what that meeting was all about.
Saying little yet meaning much
The Big Boss was a heavy-hitting corporate attorney, short in stature but with a very intimidating personality. He said little and meant much, a lot of which were one-liners you had to pay close attention not to miss. After about ten minutes, he entered and issued a vague nod in my direction while taking a seat behind his desk. It seemed intentional when he proceeded to not face me at all but instead gaze out towards his expansive window view. This made my perspective of his profile feel all the more awkward yet oddly appropriate, given his rank and my deferential role.
I was caught completely off guard
I recall only one significant exchange from this encounter. After a nebulous remark or two about my work and a long pause, he caught me completely off guard. “Laura, do you care what people think of you?” he asked. Stunned, my brain tried to shift gears and predict where he was going with this line of questioning. I muttered “Yes of course I do,” expressing confidence in my position as a thoughtful, contemporary young woman. He turned and looked me straight in the eye. “Why?” he asked, his tone bordering on sarcastic with both a smirk and all but imperceptible shake of his head.
In all likelihood only figuratively, my jaw dropped. The last question truly shocked me, so much that it still resonates some 35 years later. I mumbled something about others’ opinions and my reputation being important, blah blah, but unmistakably thought he felt my entire perspective was hogwash. Actually, I distinctly recall it feeling like hogwash while explaining myself.
He wrapped the meeting quickly. The truth was I had lost him at “Yes of course I do.”
Pondering the meaning of the not-innocuous question
I slinked back to my cubicle, spending the rest of my day pondering the meaning of this not-innocuous question, and by proxy the meeting in general.
For years to come I would perseverate on what the ‘right’ answer should have been.
Albeit obtuse in delivery, I now realize that perhaps he was ahead of his time. By conveying I should be less dependent on others’ perceptions, he wanted me to function as my own guide. Truly, why should we care what other people think? Relying on your intuition for direction (thus following a path inherently set out for you), ostensibly abrogates the opinion of others. By definition, then, it would validate the path you are already on.
We can all define success uniquely – except in this one way
Turns out we can all define success uniquely as it relates to income, material belongings and relationships. The path to true peace and personal freedom, however, comes through self-reliance. Axiomatically, determining who you are and why you are here cannot come from someone else. What other people think is truly none of your business.
If you ignore your intuition and depend on others to define you, relevance will be elusive – as will your direction in life. After all, what is more important than relevance?
We seek relevance without even realizing it: when we argue a point, state our opinion, draw a boundary or even keep up with ever-changing technology. One could argue that the most horrifying thing that could happen to a person is to cease being relevant. That is when we, as human beings, truly perish.
What is one of the ways we are most truly relevant? Of course, it is in the work that we choose. In my opinion, Warren Buffet said it best in this key piece of career advice – “Look for a job you would choose if you had no need for money. When you find that, you will no longer be ‘working’.”
In the end, my relevance in the world must come from the guideposts of intuition as I continually seek out meaningful personal and business relationships.
Laura Milo DeAngelis | Owner and Founder | Bergen Concierge Service LLC
www.bergen-concierge.com • 201-303-7301 • firstname.lastname@example.org