You’ve heard of The Chicken Soup for the Soul book and series. I had to start this conversation by apologizing that I did the opposite of the advice everyone knows: “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Something about the title and cover didn’t resonate with me. They seemed syrupy and palliative. To my credit, 144 publishers also passed on the book before one published it. The book evolved into a series of hundreds of titles selling hundreds of millions of copies. Still, I only read the book after a mutual friend introduced us.
I can’t describe how valuable I found the book. The stories resonated with me, coming at the right time for me, though I wish I’d read it earlier. The stories tell of people facing obstacles and keeping true to themselves, learning about themselves and their values, succeeding by those values. Well, it shares other stories with other themes, but those resonated with me.
Leading on sustainability, I face resistance from every person I work with on something they know is for their own benefit. They push back on living more healthy. They push back on me helping them live by the Golden Rule—a principle of reciprocity at the foundation of, I believe, every culture ever, or, if not, certainly ours. Critics discount my individuality, suggesting that because I am straight, white, male, accomplished, financially stable, and many things that I’m not but that they project onto me based on their preconceived notions, that these things were easy, handed to me, and mean I don’t understand challenges of life others do. They treat me as stupid, ignorant, devoid of character, incapable of empathy, condescending, insensitive, devoid of individuality, lacking appreciation, and that all these things result from accidents of my birth.
Chicken Soup for the Soul helped me see not to fight them or waste my time trying to address their prejudices. If they can’t see me for who I am, responding to them puts me in their world. I’m working on bigger problems. The ones that will see me for me will come around. The ones that never will, better not to waste my time with them.
I don’t know how my explanation of this realization sounds since it hit me in the gut more than intellectually, so it’s hard to put into words, but it felt liberating and relieving. Whether my explanation resonates with you or you’re curious about similar epiphanies you might experience, I recommend the book and meeting Mark directly through our conversation.