Words To Live By

Posted 2009.05.10 18.16 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

Whether it’s the “golden rule”, the “ten commandments”, the “witches’ rede”, et cetera, there are lots of various words that people live by. 

I like to think of myself as fairly uncomplicated, and 10 rules is a lot to remember, so the commandments thing isn’t my style.  The golden rule thingy, I’m not really sure what the ‘official’ one is, the only one I know is that whoever has the gold makes the rules… and while that seems unfair if you don’t have any gold, it might work out ok if you do have gold. So I won’t discount it, but as I’m currently low on gold, I won’t subscribe to it just yet.

Interestingly, the philosophy that I learned from my dad is pretty much the same as the witches’ rede, although he has a less-poetic way of explaining it.

  • The rede: An ye harm none, do as ye will.
  • My dad: Everyone has the right to go to hell any way they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.

For me, ultimately the words to live by boil down to four simple rules:

  1. I do Not reward bad behavior
  2. An ye harm none, do as ye will.
  3. How hard can it be?
  4. What’s the worst that can happen?

The second one of course is the Rede. The other three, may require some explanation…

I do Not reward bad behavior: Some people seem to think that anything is ok as long as you don’t get caught. That cheating, or taking advantage, or downright theft is acceptable, because ‘all is fair in love and war’ (and business, and commerce, etc.) I’m not one of these people. I feel very strongly about fairness, about what’s ‘right’ and just. And if someone is an asshole, then I will treat them as such. Dave Barry once wrote, “At a restaurant, if the person you are with is nice to you but rude to the waiter, then they are not a nice person.” How true that is. How people act to others, when they think it doesn’t matter, when they think they have nothing to gain, is their true self. Act like a jerk, and you can expect no favours from me. I will not give the benefit of the doubt, and I will not turn the other cheek. Be nice, play fair, and everyone wins. There is enough to go around. Everyone will get their turn. Cut ahead, take advantage, be an ass, and suffer the consequences.

How hard can it be?  This is actually kind of straightforward.  Doesn’t matter what you want to do, or try, or are curious about. If you decide something is ‘too hard’ then you’ve already taken the first step towards failure. I firmly believe people can do anything they set their minds to. No, I haven’t succeeded at everything I’ve ever tried. But at least I tried – after all, how hard can it be? Easy? Hard? Very hard? Really really incredibly hard? Doesn’t matter! At the end of the day, you only truly fail if you don’t try. If you try and fail, at least you learn something along the way. And anyways, if you do fail, what’s the worst that can happen? Of course, some things are impossible. You probably can’t fly without mechanical help, that sort of thing. Maybe. Knowing your limitations is important (according to Clint Eastwood) while asking yourself, how hard it can be.

What’s the worst that can happen? My final ‘motto’ as it were. At the end of the day, if every last thing goes completely wrong, then what’s the worst that can happen? The unspoken implication of course is, assuming the worst does happen, is that acceptable / can you take it? Regardless of the scenario, you ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen, and if the worst is acceptable, then go for it! Maybe the worst is that you could waste some money, or maybe you end up looking silly. Those are fairly low-risks. Maybe the worst is that you could get dead or maimed. Those are somewhat more serious risks. Weigh it against the benefits though. Risk vs reward. Opportunity. Potential. Whatever. No matter what you are contemplating, just ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen, and use that as your guidance.

So there it is.  Those are the guidelines that I follow.

If someone behaves badly, they can expect no favours from me. Folks can do whatever the hell they want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. Doesn’t matter if something looks difficult, try it anyways if you want to, it probably isn’t as hard as it looks. And even if it is that hard, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you fail?


Well the first one is fairly straightforward, but the wording is critical. It is not my place to punish bad behavior, let me make that clear. I just don’t reward it.

The second one is also very straightforward. One of my high-school teachers once said, “If you’re rich and don’t hurt anyone, you can act as crazy as you want.” and that’s really the crux of it. If you don’t hurt anyone, then you can do almost anything and if you’re rich and don’t hurt anyone, then you really can do whatever you want. 

The last two are, really, the most fun. For example, imagine you’re in an airplane and the stewardess is quietly asking people, if they have any flying experience. Like, the flight crew is incapacitated and they need someone to land the plane. I’d be volunteering so fast your head would spin. No, I’ve never flown a plane before, but I’d lie. I want to fly a plane. Seriously, how hard can it be? I understand the theory. Just tell me the stall speed, safe landing speed, and point me to the right controls and I’d be happy to give it my best. And what’s the worst that can happen? Oh, we crash and everyone dies? Well that’s bound to happen anyways if the flight crew are incapacitated, so it’s really no loss. Better to have someone at the controls with a positive mental attitude who’s eager to try it out, than someone who’s scared out of their mind with a defeatist attitude. So, crashing and dying would be sucky, but if you survive (crash or not) then you can say you did it. Or at least, that you tried.

Or like this TV show, “Ice Road Truckers”.  I’ve never driven a truck before, but given the opportunity, I’d drive one trip for free, from Yellowknife to Diavic or Ekati or wherever. Seriously, how hard can it be? Yeah trucks have way more gears and you have to have a feel for the load you’re hauling, but take it easy and get the hang of it as you go. As for the ice, meh. It’s not like you’re alone, you’re part of a convoy of 3 or 4 other trucks. What’s the worst that can happen? You roll it, go through the ice, and drown in sub-zero water. Pretty shitty, but if you don’t do that, then you can say that you drove the ice road. Like I said, I’d do one trip for free, just for the opportunity.

So there you go – yeah there’s lots of other little phrases / sayings that you can apply to live, but for me, those are the big four. 


One Comment

  1. Lezley says:

    Wow – your my hero. Seriously. I wish you were a man… I’d marry you.

    My creed is this:

    #1 Is it loving?
    #2 Is it inclusive?

    That’s it – everything else is just details.

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