Sunday, January 4, 2009

Should we ever be cruel to be kind?

I was reading one of Lee’s posts the other day – you can read it HERE and it got me thinking. Lee always manages to get me thinking - at least once a week. That’s a lot for a little dog. Anyway, his post got me wondering - let’s say you know someone who’s really not very good at something, but they keep doing it thinking that they are. Like someone who’s disillusioned about their talent – i.e. they don’t have any, but they think that they do. There were lots of those types who auditioned for X-Factor last year - and it was quite sad to see. Or, let’s say someone’s given themselves a totally unrealistic goal based on them thinking that they have abilities that they truly don’t possess. Should you ever enlighten them? Isn’t it kinder to protect them from disappointment?

An example – Claude the fat yellow lab who’s teaching me French decided that his New Year’s resolution was to become a Guide Dog for the blind. It’s a Labrador thing; they feel as if they have to work for a living. It’s bred into them. They can’t help themselves. They feel as if they have to be doing something all the time. They can’t just sit around being petted and loved all day like us sensible, intelligent breeds. No, they always have to have a mission. Anyway, I said to him.

Listen Claude. Number one - you’ve got no road sense AT ALL, that’s why you’ve got a dickey leg - remember the accident? Number two - you’re too old. Now I know that the saying ‘can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is flawed, ‘cause you can, but these Guide Dog chappies start their training as soon as they’re born, almost. Number three – your own eyesight is crap. Number four – you’ve got major issues when it comes to housetraining – the fact that you refuse to be housetrained would not stand in your favour. Claude, you’d have more chance of becoming an Astronaut. Forget it. Don’t even go there.”

After my advice he was a bit down in the dumps for a while, ‘cause he’d gotten all excited about it, but he rallied and now he’s changed his New Year’s resolution and has resolved to learn German instead, which is a much more realistic goal ‘cause he lives next door to a Daschund. However, after reading Lee’s post I initially wondered if I should simply have kept my mouth shut.

I know Lee’s post isn’t about goals and New Year’s Resolutions or anything really to do with this post, it's about ‘Just doing it’ and not giving up merely because we aren’t the best at what we do. So, as I said, I initially thought I shouldn't have said anything to Claude. Then I started to wonder if, perhaps, we really should give something up when we’re not good at it or have no chance of achieving anything worthwhile with it, or if we’re 'inflicting' it on others.

My mum’s got a dear friend who writes in her spare time. Once upon a time, she wrote her first book and gave it to mum to read. Mum read it and loved it – so she told her friend she thought it was great. That made her friend get all excited because she’d not had much confidence in her writing before and she started believing that maybe it was her vocation, and that she might finally have a way out of the job she hates so much. Three years down the line, five more books and about 100 rejections later, she’s getting quite depressed. She’s just emailed mum another book to read and even though mum thinks her work is great, she’s wondering if it’s time she should tell her to stop thinking of it as a career option and perhaps tell her to knock this writing business on the head. Mum feels guilty that she might have given her false hope.
After all I’m no literary critique. I’ve no experience in the field of publishing. I’ve no idea what they’re looking for,” she said to Uncle Hugh. “I’ve got a bizarre sense of humour sometimes and a weird taste in everything. I don’t like normal stuff.”
Thanks,” said Uncle Hugh.
There might only be two of us on this planet who actually like what she writes – her and me, because all those rejections kind of point to that, don’t they?” she continued. “I feel responsible for making her so depressed. She truly thought that her writing would be a way out of her dead end job – because I’ve been so encouraging. It’s all my fault. I should talk her out of it and try and encourage her to use her time retraining instead.”

Should mum encourage her to do something else? Like I talked Claude out of wanting to be a guide dog? Should we ever be ‘cruel’ to be kind?
(After I posted this and after reading comments from Indi & Braja, mum's decided to keep her gob shut:) - thanks you two - you've helped her with her little dilemma - but I don't feel guilty for talking Claude out of his 'Guide Dog' idea - he would have been a liability;))

Lee, I wish you didn’t make me think so much. My little doggy brain simply can’t cope. I might take up Philosophy. Goodness no. What am I thinking of? (no pun intended) Learning French is quite enough for a little dog – more about that later.

Here’s a little video clip of one of mum’s very favourite cartoon movies ‘Happy Feet’ (mum’s a big kid really) about a little guy who did have a talent and didn't give up, despite being told to by his parents and despite it being very ‘un penguin’ like.


Indrayani aka, Indi! said...

Dear Henry,
I think telling someone that they just cant do anything is not only cruel, as you said,but also not right.
Because you know what, in the end, people are really capable of doing what they really think they can.Its all about how positive and confident they are.The inner strength...Too many bog words for you?
Tell your mum that I think she shouldnt say anything discouraging to her changing careers and all..thats too drastic.constructive criticisms as to what exactly she could improve on, maybe ok but I dun think we can ever decide what one can do or not.
sometimes success comes immediately.sometimes late in life my dear, but in the end, the one who chases the dream must decide if he waits for it or NOT :)
Hope I helped a bit..
I love how you write :)

Indrayani aka, Indi! said...

Oh and do check out the movie "Pursuit of Happyness" also.. :)
Inspiring story on the same lines as we just talked about.

And tell your mum's friend to keep trying. somewhere out there is an audience that will love her, even if your mum may never be able to!


Henry the Dog said...

No, you're wrong Indi - my mum DOES love her friend's books - she just worries that nobody else does or ever will and that she's given her a false hope and goal. Thanks for popping by. I guess you're right. I guess folk should be left to make their own mind up:)

Henry the Dog said...

PS: forgot to mention - mum loved that film you're talking about. Made her laugh and cry

Braja said...

Henry you tell your mum this: it's not her responsibility what happens if she is honest. It's simply not. Be honest, and then let it go. I mean, she can elaborate to her friend and say, "Look, I love it, but I'm not the one you need to impress obviously!" and that's it. Why worry about it? If that friend is basing all her life decisions on ONE COMMENT about a book, then....well, she only has herself to blame for any "wasted time" or whatever else. What's the loss? Your mum's friend has obviously found some fulfillment doing what she loves to do. 100 rejection notices is about 97 more than I've ever had, and it shows endeavor! Good for her....let her go....

Henry the Dog said...

Braja - I think you're right. I think perhaps my mum is too sensitive sometimes, and often feels responsible for people she shouldn't feel responsible for. She often stresses about doing the right or wrong thing by folk instead of chilling and following her heart. It rubs off on me, if truth be known;)

LadyFi said...

Firstly, I do love Lee's posts! Always trying to make us think...

Now to the point: I firmly believe in what Thomas Edison said when trying to invent the light bulb: "I have not failed. I've found 10,000 ways that won't work." History is littered with famous failures: Albert Einstein is just one example. Look at: Bill Gates, Disney, Abraham Lincoln, Newton, Beethoven, Marilyn Monroe, J.K. Rowling etc. etc. etc..

The main thing is that mum's friend does something she likes and feels inspired by. And if your mum likes it and can give constructive criticism - great! As Braja says, it's not your mum's responsibility if her friend's books are not accepted. They might be one day - who knows?

We cannot succeed with having a long line of failures behind us. Failure is there to spur us on to learn from our mistakes.

All too few people spend time doing stuff that they really love and are inspired by - and that's a pity.

It seems to me that mum's friend's writing is a source of happiness and inspiration - or at least it was. She seems to be confusing this with her desire to use writing as a way of getting out of a job she doesn't like.

This means that the job is the problem. It's time for her friend to start looking at what she doesn't like about the job and try to change things. Or to start looking around for a new job!

Life is too short for us to waste it on doing something we don't like, don't you think?

LadyFi said...

Sorry - my frozen fingers meant to write: We cannot succeed WITHOUT having a long line of failures behind us...

Indrayani aka, Indi! said...

I like Braja's and LadyFi's view point too..
really nice post Henry!
You made us think!
Kisses!! :)
I will surely be back to ready you more.
Keep ur paws busy and write!! :D

French Fancy said...

I've gotta say it, Henry - the comments left on this post have said it all for me already.

I think it is better to try and do something without necessarily being good at it than not trying at all. As for being rejected by publishers - I think JK Rowling got rejected by 18 publishing houses before the lucky 19th managed to spot her creative genius.

Blu said...

What a totally brilliant post. I keep trying at stuff I am not good at but I enjoy. I do stuff that other people tell me is good and I just dont get it.

Would your friend consider blogging some bits of her books on the Internet to see if she gets a following. I am eager to read what she writes. I followed a story on the Internet and was gutted when it finished. What do you think??

Blu said...

PS...I think sometimes we just need to tackle problems or hurdles with a different approach. Sod the poxy publishers it is what people think that matters. Just think how stars are slagged off by critiques. What do they know!

PS I am not a lesbian...the word veri is dykes

Lee said...

Nice post, Henry! It certainly got a lot of thinking happening; and good thinking too. All the comments are excellent. I might have thrown the stone in the pond but the lovely ripples area yours!

Lee said...

(groan) For "area" read "are".

Stinking Billy said...

Henry, I, too, like your writing style but, as everybody knows, any half-trained animal will immediately grab the limelight. Man, that penguins clip has got me still laughing. How do they (ze French) make fims like that?

Henry the Dog said...

Lady Fi - what can I say to that? You're so clever. Mum & me love that bit about Edison - mum had never heard that before. What I love about blogging is that it can get folk all over the world, from all walks of life, discussing a topic within minutes in some instances. It's really great reading all these points of view. PS: I knew you meant to type 'without' - I'm a clever dog;)

French Fancy - I agree, what else can one say? And you're right. It's got to be better to try than die without having a go.

Blu - I like what Lady Fi said about doing things you enjoy - "All too few people spend time doing stuff that they really love and are inspired by - and that's a pity" and she's absolutely right. So you keep doing what you enjoy. Like your photography, which is wonderful by the way. And your idea about blogging bits of her book is brilliant - inspired:) I think mum might suggest it to her.

Lee - you get me thinking more than you know - sometimes I reckon it's much easier not to, but then life wouldn't be as much fun would it?

Stinking B - are you suggesting I'm HALF trained? Re-phrase that my man. I'm a FULLY trained animal. Have been since I was eight weeks old. Haven't peed in the house since. If you've not seen Happy Feet, you should watch it, and I think you may be confusing it with that other Penguin film about real penguins called March of the Penguins. But you knew that didn't you;)

LadyFi said...

I agree with Blu - your mum's friend should start a blog site and post bits of her books.. Why not serialize one of them? Or even upload it as an e-book? Or publish the book herself?

There are lots of ways of getting published out there!

And that Edison quote is one of my absolute favourites! After all, I learn many many new ways of how things don't work - every day! ;-)

Kat said...

I would just tell your Mum to be honest with her friend. On the other hand it only takes one "yes" to make your mum's friend's dreams come true.

Dog_geek said...

I am always highly reluctant to quash anyone's dreams, even when they seem unlikely to come true. And I hate to see people give up on their dreams and goals. From what I have heard, it is very difficult to get a first book published - you need to be prepared to take a lot of rejections and keep on trying. In that industry, it doesn't mean that the writing isn't good or that the books are not worthwhile - it is just very hard to get a publisher to take a chance on a new writer. As I recall, even JK Rowling had trouble finding someone to publish the first Harry Potter book!

KAREN said...

I think it's all been said, but I'm glad your mum's going to keep her gob shut! If you are going to to be told you should give up it should come from someone professional, not a friend. In my 'umble opinion :o) Anyway, perseverance is way more than half the battle...she might well do it one day!

detroit dog said...

Oh, Henry. You and I both know that the best thing in life is hope. Hoping for treats, hoping for fingers-of-fun, hoping for a warm bed, hoping for a good playdate, hoping that you're good at something. Don't say a word.

Now, you dogs are much more stoic than people, so I think Claude will recover nicely from being told he can't be a guide dog. My sister has a lab guide dog, and they start soooo early in training. But I bet Claude might like being a therapy dog -- making people feel better and more hopeful about the situation they are in.

You are such a good dog.

Stubby said...

Henry - my mom is always brutally honest with her friends, which is probably why she has so few. I guess I am that way too, but because I am cute, people still love me.
Don't wrack your little doggy brain too much with philosophical thinking - us furry guys weren't bred to think, but to simply act.

Irish Gumbo said...

As often happens, others have said it quicker and better than I could have, some very good advice in those responses!

I suppose I would add that it also depends on one's motivations for doing what one does. Is it for self-aggrandizement/insecurity, based on a delusional perception of one's own abilities (one only has to watch the tryout portions of 'American Idol' to see what I mean), or is based on the pursuit of those intangibles which give us inner satisfaction and 'ground' us in the world?

One of the things I have discovered in recent days is that I would write whether or not I get paid for it. A career in it would be GREAT, as I do feel it is what I was meant to do (after years of false starts); the feedback I receive matters in that, if it is honest, it can only serve to make me a much better writer, and ultimately, a much better person.

Mum has let her friend know what she thinks. 100 rejections is 99 more than I have, and Mum cannot be her friend's sole editor. Talent will out, and it depends heavily on how badly her friend wants it. Personally, I am rooting for her friend; I know what it is like to want something that bad, and to struggle with the uneasy knowledge that I may not be as good as I hope I am. Fingers crossed!

meryl's musings said...

Hi Henry - My landlord is cursing because she posted a comment and it never showed up.

This is a great post and one pondered on occasion.

lady jicky said...

To tell or not to tell, that is the question! Oh boyfriend, don't go there. For the barer of bad news gets it in the neck!
I believe everyone should do what they like and get pleasure from and who bloody cares if its crap!
I want to draw in pastel like my Mum but then I start to eat them and I have big blue, orange ,green whatever lips and I get nothing done ! Looking in the mirror I decided that maybe I would really be good as a makeup artist but Oscar won't let me experiment on him. Just because my eyesight isn't hot and I have small paws that scratch will not stop me! I will be the new "Kevynette Aucion"! Bless his soul, he was the best makeup artist and I shall follow his footsteps, I want to be in Vogue . Maybe your Mum's friend could write an article about me?
I think a nice berry blush around your bushes would accent your eyes boyfriend,
Lipstick Kisses,

Fida said...

Hi Henry,

I enjoy your blog thoroughly!
Tell your mom there are no failures – we just gain more experience. I am glad she got all that good advice here, because I really worried when I started reading. I am a lousy writer; heck, I am not even good in English. I almost wanted to give up my blog. But my friend encouraged me and told me that only if I continue I will get better (now, she’s really a dear, dear friend – so I hope for her sake she’s right). Anyway, some very good writers had to wait 30 years or more to get published, and if your mom says her friend is good, there’s still a chance. And thank you for that ‘happy feet’ film – so cute!

Henry the Dog said...

Kat - thanks for dropping by. My mum has been honest with her up to now by telling her she likes what she reads. After all the advice, that's what she's going to continue doing. But she thinks Blu's idea is a good one.

Dog Geek - thanks for visiting. The more I blog, the more I learn and I agree that it's lovely to have dreams. I have my own dreams too. I wouldn't want them to be totally trounced even though I know it's unlikely that I'll ever be able to have my own flying car;)

Karen - you've hit it on the head. Perserverence - somethiing mum doesn't have masses of. She says her resumé is littered with things she's started then finished - maybe she's not as tenacious as her friend x

Detroit - I'm with you on that. Never thought about it like that. Hope - without it life would be glum. Claude is fine. He's working anyway - by teaching me french:)

Stubby - I laughed when I read about your mum. I didn't used to think too much, then I started blogging and now I can't help it. Ignorance is bliss, eh?

Irish - what can I say to that? As usual your eloquence and wisdom shines through. Keep writing!

KC - I hate it when that happens! Yes, I think this post has caused a bit more ponder than normal.

Rosie - you're so right about the bearer of bad news. You made me laugh SOOO much about your attempts to be a make-up artist. I think your mum could do an article about you herself. I reckon she can write fairly well;) You can practice on me anyday - lipstick kisses to you too xxxxx

Fida - thanks for the compliment (Henry blushes)and everything you say is right. Mum has had some fab advice on here. I'm starting to like the blogging world more than the real one. Oh dear! That sounds scary! Hope you come back soon. xx