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Stand Up Straight, Not Straightened

I often get calls or texts from friends and family about a new situation or problem that they are encountering and they simply can’t figure out a way through, around, over, or under it. When I give advice to them, I think about the following quote.

“Stand up straight, not straightened.” - Marcus Aurelius

I’ve thought about this statement from Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius for some time now. The statements seemed redundant to me for a while. But then it clicked. My interpretation of it is to say that you are responsible for the way you think, feel, and allow external (and internal) events to affect the way you carry yourself. Whether things around you are good or bad or indifferent, it is up to you, as an individual, to carry yourself a certain way. You owe it to yourself, and often times, those around you, to sustain a reliable demeanor. This makes you rock that can be relied on by yourself and those around you. It allows you to “show up” for yourself and those around you!

There are many negative people around us each and every day. You do not have to feed into that with gossip and negative thoughts and actions. You can be the positive influence in your family and in your friend group. People often present me with the problems they are facing. As an observer, it’s very easy for me to give a logical response. Their problems are their problems. At the end of the day, their problems are not my problems. They have emotion tied to their problems and that can make it very difficult for them to look at their situation objectively. What I can do is give them the bird’s eye perspective I can because I don’t have the emotional drivers blocking me from doing so.

For example, my older brother was talking about a time where he was at work. He was told that after his team was done with a certain task that they would be done for the day. Once that task was complete, instead of cutting them loose, they gave them another task. My brother got upset and left. Later, he found out that his supervisor wanted to talk to him the next day and that possibly his buddy told her that he had left early. “Why would he tell on me? I thought we were friends,” he explained. I offered some perspective saying that if his buddy DID tell her that you were gone maybe he accidentally blurted it out. Maybe it was something like his supervisor asking a question, and my brother’s buddy maybe said something like, “this would have been easier if DJ was here,” quickly realizing his company. I told him that I’ve done that before. Not realizing my company, I released “good to know” information in front of the WRONG people. My brother appreciated my feedback and then followed up with me after he talked to his buddy with a level head.

When you aren’t forceful, people are appreciative of your feedback. You can even frame it with, “take it or leave it but…” You can be the rock in their life that helps them by providing a different perspective. You aren’t being forceful, and you definitely aren’t getting upset when they don’t follow your advice. You are just providing perspective and if they take the bait – good. If they don’t, at the very least, you’ve allowed them to vent to you and maybe they unlocked something else they hadn’t thought of before.

Shane Jenne


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