It’s December… Time for a Little Philosophy

Updated December 15, 2011

Doc Sheldon

Every now and then, I like to post something that has nothing to do with SEO, IM or content strategy. Seems like December always turns out being when such whims strike me.

I sat down to write such a post this morning, when it suddenly dawned on me that I had already posted what I was typing once before. A little searching unearthed a post I did in December a few years ago, on another site.

So in the spirit of recycling, I decided it would be easier to run that post again here, rather than to write new one, rehashing the same stuff.

Santa Socrates - the Jolly Philosopher

Santa Socrates – the Jolly Philosopher

I recently updated my Last Will & Testament. As is typical, in the first paragraph, I stated that I was of sound mind and body. At least half of that was inaccurate, while the other half would probably be contested by a number of those that know me.

First of all, if my body was really all that sound, nobody would be reading my will. But, then, I’m the one that made it unsound, and as near as I can remember, I enjoyed every damned minute of it. ‘Nuff said.

Second, I’m sure there are a number of people that would question the soundness of my mental capacity, if not at the end, then at least earlier in my life. In retrospect, I admit I’ve even questioned my own sanity at times.

Not all of my decisions have been good, informed, or even unselfish ones. They’ve all had something in common, though. They all taught me something… sometimes about myself, sometimes about others, often about life in general or how it ought to be lived. So I figure even the bad decisions weren’t a total loss.

As I made my way through life, like a bull in a china shop, I learned to keep a few things in the fore – responsibility probably being the most important. Act responsibly, speak responsibly, and above all, take responsibility for my actions or inactions.

With a philosophy like that, considering the way I’ve lived, it’s to be expected that I’ve had to take responsibility for quite a bit. I think the inactions bothered me the most. Someone once said that the worst decision you can make is to decide to make no decision at all. I think that has a lot of merit. I am no longer young, immature, afraid to fail, or particularly concerned about being liked by others. That removes a lot of the hesitation to take action. Of course, it still leaves the doubt as to whether the action contemplated is the correct one. I’ve rarely let myself be bothered by that concern… just do something, even if it’s wrong.

I realize now that few people are really unable to tell right from wrong. We agonize over decisions, wondering what we should do, when actually, we know all along what we should do. We just want to find a way to avoid having to do it. It shouldn’t be that big a deal, really, because I believe that as a man, I have only four responsibilities:

1.  Have a family and take care of them.

A man needs to leave some tracks behind him.  By that, I mean several things. Offspring, bridges built, ideas adopted, even wars fought, if fought for the right reasons. Any fool can impregnate a woman. It takes a man to be a father and a husband, shouldering all the responsibilities that entails. Most fools can even find a way to put food on the table and clothes on their children’s backs, if they set their mind to it. The hard, but rewarding part, is to put your ideas and values into the minds of those children.

Teach your sons how to use the ideals you have given them, to make better decisions than you did, and be better husbands and fathers than you were. Teach your daughters what a man should be like, so they’ll marry a decent guy, and help him to become an even better man.

2.  Take pride and take part in my community (the entire universe, not just my cul-de-sac).

In today’s world, it isn’t realistic to expect the police to be able to protect you and yours at every turn. They have their hands full just staying alive while trying to fulfill their own responsibilities. We each have to take some responsibility for the way the world is, and take action to better it, rather than wait for the police, the government or the United Nations to do it for us. Gangs, drugs, violence and a never-ending list of other dangers seem to want to rob our families of their health and happiness, everywhere we turn.

It isn’t enough to simply say “it’s none of my business” when it isn’t affecting you or your family directly. It’ll affect you soon enough. I can’t count the number of times my wife and I argued because I would stick my nose in when I saw someone else’s car being stolen, or another family’s house being broken into. No, it didn’t affect us directly, but I’d like to think that if it were my car or house, a neighbor would be willing to show the same interest, for the same reasons. Besides, I believe that passivity is the same as acceptance, and that is NOT a behavior I’m prepared to accept, either on my own property or on someone else’s.

I’m not prepared to let children be prostituted, abused, starved or neglected. I’m not prepared to stand by and watch people be treated as less than equal because their skin color, religion or sexual preferences don’t happen to coincide with those of the ignorant that would persecute them for their differences. I’m not prepared to give up my freedoms as the price of security.

Most of all, I’m not prepared to have MY decisions made by anyone else! When all is said and done, I, and only I, have to stand before my Maker, and justify my actions and inactions. That means that I have to make those decisions, and I have to live (or die) with the consequences.

3.  Leave every place I go, better than I found it.

By this I mean many things. More than I will even attempt to list. Just to get the juices flowing, however, how about these?

* Build something up, rather than tearing something down.

* If you have to cut down a tree, plant three or four others nearby.

* Leave everyone you meet with a pleasant thought. One from you will usually prompt one of you. And they’re contagious…most people you treat courteously will treat at least two others the same, before they backslide. On the other hand, everyone you piss off will in turn, piss off five others.

* If you have a confrontation, make it as positive as you can. If the other party is receptive, try to disagree in such a fashion as to allow him to salvage his self-respect. He is more apt to respond well that way.

If he isn’t receptive, consider showing him your displeasure in such a way as to ensure that you can be positive he will never repeat the offense. After all, that was the whole point of the confrontation, wasn’t it?

4.    Treat everyone with respect, at least until they have given good reason not to deserve it.

This really doesn’t need any explanation. Think of the Golden Rule. It works. If they break the rule, punish them!

There’s certainly no great wisdom in this philosophy of mine… just plain common sense. I don’t claim it’s right, better or more infallible than any other. I just know it’s worked for me. In a universe of black and white, I’ve found a hell of a lot of gray areas. But when it comes to right and wrong, I see no grays. Something is either right, or it isn’t. And win, lose or draw, I find that I can look at myself in the mirror pretty easily, when I know that I did the right thing. Those times that I didn’t made it really tough to shave in the morning.

This philosophy of mine has its roots in the lessons taught me by my parents, and I believe them to be deep, sound roots. The branches come from lessons learned, sometimes the hard way, over the years. The leaves come from those instances where I practiced what I preach.

I just hope there are enough leaves there to offer me some shade from the burning sun, which, with my luck, is fueled by my sins.


  1. Thank you for sharing these four responsibilities. These are the kind of stuff that I want my kids to learn. Merry Christmas.

  2. Robin Jennings @creative web design says:

    Every time I swing past this blog I’m punched between the eyeballs; with either sage business advice or sage life advice- oh and SEO updates.

    Great piece of writing Doc have a great Christmas.

  3. Thanks, Jim. I suppose life is more than just those four, but I think most others fall into them.

  4. Thanks for the kind words, Robin. Not sure if “sage” is accurate. I think I just managed to hit a lot of the branches, as I fell out of the tree. 😉
    Thanks for commenting… hope to see you around more often.

  5. Theresa Torres says:

    Hi Doc,
    My eyes got misty and a few tears trickled down. I like your philosophy and the way you presented it has moved me. And I think your mind is very sound.
    I also hope that when it’s time for me to leave this world, I will leave a good mark that will outshine the bad ones I’ve made in my wild and uncertain youth.
    I am hopeful that I can still make amends, right the wrongs, be a better mother, friend, daughter, neighbor and citizen.
    Thanks for sharing, Doc. Wish you a great holiday!

  6. Aw, you weren’t supposed to get all teary-eyed, Theresa! 🙂

    By the way, you DO realize, I hope… by saying that you think MY mind is sound, you’ve called into serious question your OWN sanity? 😉

  7. Theresa Torres says:

    LOL, no illusions about my sanity, Doc. Just ask my mom:)

    Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  8. Frank Bowes says:

    Hey Doc, those are some wise words. I used to punish myself a lot for the mistakes I made. As I got older, however, I noticed that I didn’t make the same mistakes over and over. I realised that I am one of those people who is not afraid to learn. I’m still a terrible procrastinator though; just can’t seem to shake that one… maybe I’ll get round to it tomorrow. I came here to read SEO stuff, but I seen the opening lines of this post and thought, “Hey, I could use a break right now too.” I promise I’ll get to the rest of your content momentarily.

  9. Thanks, Frank. Yeah, self-recrimination is part of the process, I guess. Like you, with age, my outlook changed. Thanks for commenting… hope to see you back soon.

  10. Daniel @ Boise Real Estate says:

    The last three of your four responsibilities are how I have attempted to live my life so far, and how I plan to live for the rest of it – probably even adding on the first of those. Happy Holidays, and take care everyone!

  11. Three out of four isn’t bad, Daniel. Odds are, you’ll end up adding the first when you least expect it! 😉
    Merry Christmas!

  12. Hi, Julie. Thanks for commenting. Yep! We all need to take a break once in a while… it recharges the batteries.

  13. Your Philosophy is brilliant! also a great reminder to all that not treat everyone with respect.
    The rule of life is “show respect if you wants other respect you”

    merry christmas!!

  14. I’ve had my ideas called lots of things, David… “brilliant” isn’t normally one of ’em, though. 😉 Thanks for the Merry Christmas wish, and the same back to you and yours!