To live at all times in accordance with your core values should be as smooth and as natural as a fish swimming through the ocean.
What are your inflexible values? What are the things on which you won’t compromise? What are the principles that you follow and that guide you every day of your life?
Living up to and behaving in line with your values should in theory be the simplest thing in the world. First, it should be simple because it should be automatic. Second, it should be simple because you will not in all likelihood find yourself in moments of acute crisis so very often. Living your values on a particular day (indeed, on most days of your life) might require no action whatsoever. But when moments of crisis do arise, things can take on an altogether different complexion. It can all of a sudden feel so much more complex.
Living up to and behaving in line with your values can be the hardest thing in the world. Moments of change, of choice or of crisis will always barge their way into your life. The spotlight falls on you. Everything comes down to the choice you make in response to the pressures of the moment. In testing times, doing nothing seems a seductively easy response. But only rarely is it the correct choice in moments of truth. Doing what you know needs to be done might require you to dig deep to find a resolve and a willingness to act that will surprise you. These are the times when it is both the most difficult and the most essential to do something.
Knowing what your values are, knowing what you will or will not do, should in most cases be sufficient to guide that choice. Your values should (in theory) make it easy for you to make the decision that removes a thousand decisions.*
The expression of your most essential, inflexible values should be simple. It is the expression of your most fundamental self.
The way you hear the truth
This post takes its title from the Motörhead song Stay Clean (from the almighty Motörhead album Overkill). I have always loved the lyrics to this song. They speak about the central importance of “the way you hear the truth”. They are a perfect and succinct expression of Lemmy’s outlook on life and his core values. I have long argued that for all his reputation (perhaps not entirely undeserved) as a formidable, boil-faced, everything-louder-than-everything-else hedonist, he was at the same time a true gentleman. And a gent with impeccable values, at that. As I wrote back in 2015, in my post celebrating Lemmy’s 70th birthday (tragically he would die just a few days later)
“For someone who would seem to have spent so much of his life in a state of sleep-free derangement of the senses, he has the clearest sense of right and wrong of perhaps anybody in this world. He lives by an unflinching, unbending moral code of absolute love, devotion and generosity to those he holds dearest. He sounds like the best friend you could ever hope to have.”
Lemmy took great joy in expressing this moral code through his lyrics:
“Lemmy’s lyrics are a pure delight. Genius in simplicity. Genius (sometimes, quite deliberately) in stupidity.”
The song Stay Clean boils Lemmy’s moral code down to its absolute essentials. It is almost reductive to write too much about these lyrics. They are so clear and direct that little more need be said. Stay Clean expresses what was at the centre of that unflinching, unbending moral code in the simplest words.
The closing lines always come to mind for me in times of crisis, times when everything comes down to the choice I make in response to the pressures of the moment:
“So you see, the only proof
Of what you are, is in the way you hear the truth
Don’t be scared, live to win
Although they’re always gonna tell you it’s a sin
In the end, you’re on your own
And there is no-one that can stop you being alone
To live at all times in accordance with your core values should be as smooth, as natural and as automatic as a fish swimming through the ocean.
Stay clean. It’s your only hope.
May today be nothing but kind to you and yours.
UPDATE (Saturday 19 February 2022): It’s not hard to make decisions…
“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.”
I am indebted to my lovely friend Meg Peppin for sharing these words from Roy Disney, which perfectly summarise what I wanted to say in this blog post. Meg elaborated further on what these words mean to her:
“I remember discovering that and seeing the truth of it. Knowing what you stand for, and standing for it…does uncomplicate decision making I have found.”
My thanks to Meg for responding to my post with this wonderful quotation, and for taking the time to read my words in the first place.
May today be nothing but kind to you and yours, Meg.
* I came across the idea of the one decision that removes a thousand decisions on an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast. Which specific episode it was, I cannot recall. But a speedy google search takes me to a blog post in which Ferriss explains this idea, and how he first came across it:
“To paraphrase both Greg McKeown and Jim Collins, here it is: look for single decisions that remove hundreds or thousands of other decisions.
“This was one of the most important lessons Jim learned from legendary management theorist Peter Drucker. As Jim recounted on the podcast, ‘Don’t make a hundred decisions when one will do. . . . Peter believed that you tend to think that you’re making a lot of different decisions. But then, actually, if you kind of strip it away, you can begin to realize that a whole lot of decisions that look like different decisions are really part of the same category of a decision.'”