An idiot’s guide to keeping your foot out of your mouth.
Growing up about an hour southwest of Boston, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a wide variety of music at an early age. Galavanting through the New England foliage in our Chevy Suburban, I’d often be exposed to various forms: every decade receiving appropriate tribute.
My mom, a virtuoso in my eyes, is the only person I’ve ever known to fill a 168G iPod with only a fourth of her CD collection. I went to visit her this past weekend, fittingly attending a concert opened by a beloved American rock band from the 80’s known as 38 Special.
While by no means a heavy-hitter like a Foreigner or Guns ‘N Roses, they did recount one of their classic hits “Hold On Loosely”, whose chorus rings to the tune of,
Just hold on loosely
But don’t let go
If you cling to tightly
You’re gonna lose control
Rather than get hung up on the fact I didn’t particularly care to sit through five hours of Generation X reliving their glory days, I extracted an analogy from the lyrics to be applied to everyday life.
See, within a few minutes of being in attendance of the concert — no shortage of regrettable tattoos and sun-spotted skin amongst the crowd — I began drawing opinions about the experience, much like we do throughout our day. Every event that unfolds in life, an opinion is automatically produced about it. We cannot impede the production of said opinions, but we can certainly take greater responsibility for them.
Opinions, essentially views based on innate understanding rather than fact, can certainly be helpful at times: we’re typically asked a couple of times a day to share on a given topic, so we might as well produce a strong argument. The majority of the time however, our opinions are extremely limiting and play a role in digging ourselves into holes we struggle to climb out of.
Everything we ever put on the Internet — be it Facebook, Twitter or a platform like this — is there forever. Email conversation patterns can now be traced. Phone conversations, all recorded. Opinions are equally as dangerous as they are insightful. Not sold? Ask the President how well his past Tweets and comments are serving him now.
With this in mind, leveraging the song lyrics as a guide — not necessarily letting go of our opinions but keeping a loosened grip — can be in our best interest. If we clutch too tightly to our judgments, we’ll find ourselves susceptible to a focusing illusion that deletes important information on the entirety of the situation.
This sense of detachment shouldn’t be interpreted as carelessness — you won’t garner much respect going through life without an opinion, as on the fence is an uncomfortable place to sit. Just simply be mindful of how hellbent you are forcing your opinion unto others — most people forgive, but they rarely forget.
Speaking in absolutes or generalizations is often considered faux pas, not because it’s wrong to be so passionate about something, but because it’s impossible to know everything there is to know about a particular subject. We don’t even know ourselves to an apexing degree — how can we really be sure about broader landscapes?
At the end of the day, you’ve got to go with something. You need a moral or spiritual compass to spearhead an otherwise directionless life. However, when posed a question that cannot be answered with a statement of fact, tread lightly. Your insistence on projecting your opinion will not only impact how others view you but also how you communicate to yourself about the world — it can either tip in you favor by embracing reality or reinforce the glass ceiling by latching onto minutia and your personal set of rules.
We all want control. We all want certainty. Because of this, we expend copious amounts of energy drumming up and committing to our beliefs (ensuring others know them, as well). Sure, share what you feel — just keep a level head. For if you grip too tightly, that perceived control slips away via the law of diminishing returns.
Stay grounded. Stay balanced. Stay even keel. No one really knows what the hell is going on — it’s all a series of educated guesses. So if anyone’s going to undermine you based on what you convey, make sure that person is you. Objectivity and self-awareness is required to locate these blind spots within a reasonable amount of time.
You can do it too, if you hold on loosely.