Some homespun philosophy
Posted by Mike Kaaks23 October 2013
It occurred to me today at the kitchen table that homespun philosophies are an element of myth. Myth can be defined as a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events. In simple language, it is a teacher, it brings the lessons of life to us through narrative. Homespun philosophy is much the same but on a far less grand scale. So far less in fact that the word homespun is often used in a pejorative sense. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because these simple truths aren't supported by research papers and peer review, perhaps because the elder who espoused them is seen as a bit past it; I'm not sure. What I know is that beliefs that I see as qualifying for the homespun tag are worthy of a place in our lives because they are so informative about what others have learned about living a life.
Take Tom Peters' words in the prologue to John Bogle's book "Enough". (I'm not sure Peters will appreciate his words being associated with homespun but here goes:
"I have devoted my adult life to trying to help people manage organisations as effectively as possible and have discovered, as Jack Bogle has, that being straightforward is best and that character and integrity and common sense and decency are the keys to running enterprises of all sorts - not to mention the life well lived in service to others."
These sorts of wisdoms pop up everywhere. I've just watched a TED presentation by a US teacher and coach John Wooden. It was recorded in 2001 when he was 90. His presentation was littered with things his father had tried to teach him. The fact that they were still important to him at that age suggests his dad did a pretty good job, and that they worked pretty well for him. Here are some:
Never try to be better than someone else
Always learn from others
Never cease trying to be the best you can be - that's under your control. If you're engrossed in what is not in your control that will adversely affect what is in your control.
In John's life these things came in threes. Here's another set:
Don't make excuses, just get out there and do it to the best of your ability. Nobody can do more than that.
Never be late
Always be neat and clean
Always be on time - start and finish when you said you will.
I think they are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.
Give me the simple truths any time.