Standard Layers

I find that being flexible about some things and relatively uncompromising about others is a good thing. I’m often surprised about how people apply this, though.

Here’s how I apply it: I think of all things in terms of their proximity to my life. The closer things are to my actual life, the higher my standards – and vice versa. I have very strong standards about how I raise my children, how I conduct my work, how I treat my health. I have lower (but still pretty high!) standards for what I consider acceptable behavior from my close friends and family. I’ll speak up on a variety of topics if it affects a close professional colleague.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have absolutely zero opinion, total flexibility, on the food preparation standards of restaurants in another country. On which books a library in another state chooses to carry. On how much television other people’s children should consume.

Why the difference? It’s not because I don’t think there are better or worse behaviors – of course I do. It’s because I recognize that local knowledge is powerful, and I don’t have it when it comes to non-local things. All situations have different confounding details, and I don’t know them – my information about anything other than my local environment comes through many filters. Given that, it only makes sense to hold stronger opinions, leading to higher standards, where your own influence is deepest.

Other people seem to… not do that. People have iron-clad opinions about what a refugee from halfway around the world should do based on one headline that they half-read, but they don’t have a nutrition plan for their own kids. They judge the behavior of celebrities that might as well be from another planet, but they’re unsure what their own career ambitions are.

Living in a connected world is wonderful for many reasons. But don’t ever forget that you’re essentially a tourist in the rest of the world, and you’re the absolute monarch of one tiny corner. Conduct yourself appropriately.

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