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Lesson from “Take The Stairs”

Something my dad always said that I never understood was that he’d prefer to make a donation and remain anonymous. I couldn’t fathom not wanting the recognition! Why? I’m not an attention, whore. No, I’m an attention Madame. It’s my brothel, damnit!

But I just read something that might clarify it for me. I don’t mean that I suddenly converted to altruism. I don’t buy that in the slightest. From what I can tell, people who do good works are still operating a brain machine that rewards their behavior–they do what they do because it makes them feel how they want to feel because they are being who they want to be. I think that’s still selfish internally, even through the result seems selfless.

Here is the concept I encountered in “Take The Stairs”: Private victories fuel the tank. They reinforce the image of yourself that feels right. External approbation is nice, but it’s just not the same as the genuine feeling of well-being that accompanies doing what you feel is right, making you feel proud of yourself, rather than enticing others to express pride in you. And by not making the effort to win the private victories, you condemn yourself to private failures.

“When you do right, you feel right. When you feel right, you think clearly. When you do wrong, you feel wrong. When you feel wrong, you think cloudy. And once you have clouds of shame, anxiety, and/or fear, your environment becomes fertile ground for an unethical lifestyle, which will produce more of the same. It is the small private failures during seemingly insignificant opportunities that lead to the surprising destruction of most people. Likewise, it is the small private victories that ultimately add up to their greatness.”

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