When my sister was five years old, she used to sit at the old upright piano in our formal living room and belt out made-up songs for hours on end. The fact that she was not able to read a note of music or carry a tune did not dissuade her in the least. The songs ranged from the pragmatic “School Bus” (lyrics: “School bus, school bus, here comes the school bus!”) to the soulful “Rocking Chairs and Gold” (lyrics: “Rocking chairs and gold, rocking chairs and gold, rocking chairs and gold”). Her songs would reverberate throughout the whole house, and even though they barely made any sense, we all knew one thing: they came straight from her heart. Since the songs didn’t really make sense, we could assign our own meaning to them. I believe that the classic “Rocking Chairs and Gold” was about holding close to you the things you love the most.
I must say, that’s what I love about my sister: she does everything with heart. Not one to mislead you in any way, Jess calls it like she sees it. She gets away with it, because she does so with love. But one thing is certain, you can always count on her to be honest. She’ll tell you if you have something stuck in your teeth, if those pants do in fact make your butt look bigger, if you are being an unreasonable diva or if that man is all wrong for you (all things she has probably told me at one time or another in the 35 years she’s been part of my life). I find great comfort in being surrounded by such plain truth.
I find great comfort in it, because if I know one thing for sure it is this: I don’t know it all. Nope, that’s right – you heard it here first. I don’t have all the answers. And so, knowing that, I find it rather important to surround myself with people who will put me in check. Now I’ve worked with leaders – plenty of them, in fact – who really dig being surrounded by a chorus of “yes men.” They dig it so much that they seem to insist on it. I guess it somehow strokes their ego to have everyone one around them telling them how brilliant they are. But here’s my take on it: If you are agreeing with me all of the time, then you must be lying at least 50% of the time. And the problem with that is – I don’t know which 50% of the time you are lying. So then I don’t know what’s real and what’s not, and everything has very quickly become a jumbled up mess. Who needs it?
So I say, save it for someone else. You want to give me a compliment? OK, but please make sure it’s sincere. But in the next beat, don’t be afraid to tell me like it really is. It might hurt my feelings (I am a sensitive soul, don’t you know) but I promise you I’ll get over it. And right after I get over it, I’ll be grateful you had my back. Anybody can blow smoke up a skirt, but it takes real fortitude and character to dish out some tactful truth. But that, my friends, is what you do when you really care about somebody.
And to that, I say: Rocking chairs and gold, baby. Rocking chairs and gold.