How do you know if you are achieving greatly or falling flat on your face without some point of reference? When do you cut yourself some slack and when do you pour gas on the fire? What is good or bad?

My son has been doing a podcast with his friend for quite some time now. They are getting better with each new episode. His latest podcast is How to Handle Criticism. One of his favorite quotes comes from Theodore Roosevelt who delivered a speech in Paris in 1910 at the Sorbonne.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Then there is the whole “comparison is the thief of joy” thing.

We worry a lot about what other people think or do or have or say. We worry that we will be mocked or criticized. Everyone, it seems, is now bullied if they aren’t eternally praised or if their bizarre behavior is in any way questioned.

But there are standards of behavior we all have to agree upon in order to live in society. We all have to at least believe that stopping at red lights is a must. There are a number of people who aren’t paying good enough attention to their driving and run either a stoplight or a stop sign. They know immediately they were in the wrong. This is a communally accepted necessity.

But what about wearing your pajamas to shop at Walmart? Does it matter if it is just Walmart? Can you wear your jammies to the opera?

Daring to step outside the boxes society has built for us means we can achieve more (or sometimes far less) than those who stay inside the proscribed area. It is the people who challenge convention who create the new and different.

But new and different is not necessarily new and improved. I’m reminded of this every time Facebook tries some new crap that makes my experience less. I’m still trying to figure out how to make that box stop appearing when someone replies to a post. I’m scrolling and I will get to that in my own good time. And when I do read and even respond to the damn thing, it’s still active in my notification area. Just stop. Make sure the new is an improvement and not just some flash crap you want to try.

[sorry, rant over]

Living outside the norm is sometimes the best place to live. However, if you start running all the red lights, you not only will get hurt, but you will take some other poor sod with you.

Listening to the critics, real or imagined, external or internal, can rob you of the joy of your pursuits. Looking around and comparing yourself to the masses of other people out there is enough to make us all weep. We simply aren’t able to be all the things all the other people are, that’s why there are so many of us.

Being true to your own goals, being a genuinely nice person, being kind … these are things that matter. Others will always have an opinion about everything.

You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time. Stop trying. Concentrate on being the best version of yourself with all your qualities and limitations and hopes and fears and idiosyncrasies and foibles. But stop at all the red lights.