Want to improve your career across the board but aren’t sure exactly where to start? I propose a simple answer: the beginning. I’ll walk you through the foundation of conducting great business, no matter what your business may be, and you may discover some new lifehacks along the way.
“Remember the Golden Rule. … Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.”
Oof, isn’t that just too often the case? This joke illustrated in the biting satirical comic strip The Wizard of Id (created by Brant Parker and Johnny Hart in 1964 to take playful, yet cutting, swipes at American culture and politics) seems as applicable today as it was thousands of years ago. It can even feel more applied these days than the actual Golden Rule, which is usually repeated as; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Basically; treat other people the way you want them to treat you—and the sentiment pops up all over the place in most philosophies and religions. It has predecessors, sometimes referred to as the “Silver Rule,” which are essentially the same concept but stated in the negative, like; “Be thou not a jerk-ish wad if thou wishest not that thou shalt be dealt the hand of a jerk-ish wad thine self.” I’m paraphrasing, of course. And, some have posited a “Platinum Rule,” which is more or less, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Fine. Cool. Good talk.
What if either person consciously or unconsciously believes that they don’t deserve to be treated very well? There’s a crude joke that helps illustrate this:
What did the sadist say to the masochist who demanded, “Beat me!”?
It may take an awkward second or two for the various layers of this joke to reveal themselves. But, it’s worth chewing on for the concept-cracking value.
Applying a bit of scientific thinking, what if the Golden Rule is less a rule to follow and more a principle already being practiced haphazardly? What if we are witnessing and experiencing the world right now as it is being affected by the clumsy enactment of the Golden Rule? What if this is what it looks like when a lot of people are already instinctively treating others the way they treat themselves?
I propose that all of these rules are merely mile-markers on the way to the actual core truth of the concept. A “Titanium Rule” or a “Diamond Rule”… Ooo!—the “Titanium Diamond Rule!” That’ll really stick it to those stodgy old philosophers!
So, what is the Titanium Diamond Rule, how does it apply to you, and what does any of this have to do with improving your career and business? And, maybe most importantly, how can you implement it?! I have some ideas that start at the beginning, let’s ride…
The Psychology of Success: Building Stronger Working and Business Relationships
First of all, let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate with a—
Spoiler Alert: The beginning is you. You are the alpha, and ultimate omega, of your career. “What about people who get opportunities handed to them?! What about people who are held back or blocked by others?!” Okay…
- The calculating minds at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards have said that a third of all lottery winners end up declaring bankruptcy within 3-5 years, while the brainiacs at the National Endowment for Financial Education have put that estimation of winners engineering their own bankruptcy within a few short years at a whopping 70%.
- Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because his editor said he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” J.K. Rowling submitted the Harry Potter… manuscript to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected it. Stephen King received 30 rejections for his first novel, Carrie. Oprah Winfrey, believe it or not, was told she was “unfit for TV.” Beyoncé lost on Star Search in 1993 (to a ballad by a folky rock band called Skeleton Crew?).
My friend, nothing is absolute with the right (or wrong) approach, and we’re gonna cover the foundational right approach, right here, right now. Our Titanium Diamond Rule. This will also be key in recognizing and avoiding wrong approaches. The best part is that you don’t necessarily have to scrap everything and start over from scratch. This is more like a personal time machine (a DeLorean, a TARDIS, a hot tub,… take your pick) that allows you to go back to do some retrofitting so you can start seeing more authentically. So, are you ready to rock?! Right on! Let’s begin with a simple question.
Am I a human?
Understanding Personal Psychology and Its Role in Relationships
There are some tell-tale signs you can use as a shortcut to discover your potential humanity; do you have skin, blood, bones, and organs arranged in roughly the same configuration as the other humans you notice mucking about? Then the likely answer is, probably. That is until the AIs start 3D printing organic androids to inhabit so that they can finally figure out what the deal is with waterparks firsthand—at which point, the likely answer will be, “Reply hazy, try again.”
However, if like me, you’d really like to make sure, there is another clue; if you are possessed. Not by some entity from the underworld, aliens from the 9th dimension, or an insidious fungus from that totally fine tuna on sourdough rye you found (it was supposed to taste like sourdough, right?)… No—if you’re possessed by your past. Dun dun duuuuun!
Everyone and everything who’s had an influence on any given human haunts them, helping and hindering, possessing their thoughts. Parents, teachers, classmates, books, movies,… opinionated cartoon ducks. In fact, most of “their” thoughts are owned by that human the way they own their jeans, their car, or that novelty mug that reads “World’s Best Mug Collector”. No matter how much you might wish it, you are not your car.
So, if you’re not your thoughts, who are you? Your emotions? Well, those are biochemical reactions to those thoughts, sensory stimuli, or one’s state (or perceived state) of physical well-being. Used properly, emotions are basically the most advanced system of traffic lights ever devised. Keep going, slow down, stop, change directions, make a U-turn, or ask them to marry you on that gorgeous beach at sunset. A GPS system for life; probably created around the same time as life itself.
Behind all that noise, the good, the bad, and the stupid, you’re still that little kid you once were—your inner child—now, shouldering a backpack carrying a 120-piece symphony orchestra that always seems to be tuning their instruments. Professionals write volumes about the confusion of being out in the world while carrying such a volume of volume. (Uh… Hi!)
At every decision point that a human encounters, a cacophony of haunting voices spring to life between their ears with judgment; praise and ridicule.
“You’re a winner!”
“You’re a loser!”
“You need a sandwich!”
“Oh, can I get fries with that?”
“Hold the pickle, loser!”
This is the rigamarole that they wake up to and fall asleep to, the treatment they experience all day, every day. Like a classic sitcom, the script pretty much always stays the same; same plot, it’s just the details that may vary. People even find comfort in procedural shows about crime and murder because they know what kind of story to expect from each episode. In their lives, the expected and unexpected are either folded into the parameters of The Voices’ recycled script for the day or rejected as too bad or too good to fit the looping narrative.
Because humans have the propensity to navigate the world via blood-squirting organic machines that have the remarkable capability of translating thoughts and emotions into actions and interactions, this syndicated show playing out in their heads is typically being simulcast to anyone else paying attention IRL (in real life [natch]). Recognized or not, this results in one simple truth.
People tend to treat others the way they treat themselves.
Like a sabertooth tiger in a tar pit, let that sink in. Why is this the case? Because, this is the way they were taught (or understood) that they deserved to be treated and, from their perspective, naturally, this same treatment must apply to everyone else as well. Whether you’re practicing the “Silver Rule,” “Golden Rule,” or “Screw You Rule,” this is the foundational psychology at play.
Once you realize all this about yourself, you can start recognizing behaviors and patterns in the humans around you; tendencies, preferences, inklings, reactions,… by how they interact with the world and treat the people around them. In a way, you’ll “see the matrix,” a sort of artificial intelligence, the AI programming layered on top of their inner child. They will tell you all about themselves and the noise in their head without saying anything directly. Anyone in business will tell you that the more you know about a client, coworker, boss, or employee, the better you can work with them. And, this is the freakin’ jackpot.
Mind you, this isn’t mind-reading or anything nefarious. Quite the contrary, although, it does start to feel like a superpower. It’s actually the art of quieting down your own noise enough so that you can really listen and see the scripts others are acting out. Everyone appreciates being heard and understood, probably even more than they despise waiting. So, paying authentic attention is about as wicked as holding the elevator for someone, you naughty scoundrel.
Truth is, good business is a complex stack of relationships working in concert. That’s right, business is relationships, like, family, friends, or peanut butter and chocolate. All relationships are about the exchange of value, and the best, most functional, longest-lasting relationships have the most even exchanges. It’s all circumstantial, it doesn’t always mean an apple for an apple, it could be an apple for an orange, a juice box, or a wink and smile. Peanut butter brings the salt, chocolate brings the sweet, and they’re both a little bitter about it for flare.
Value is often subjective. A rural farmer probably has no use for your SaaS digital video distribution system, the same way you probably have no use for his truckful of manure—even though both hold immense subjective value. The best intimate relationships are based on mutual love, understanding, and support; a team. Everyone feels and expresses these values differently, so it’s about finding someone who wants what you provide naturally and instinctively provides what you want in return to get the most harmonious results.
Sounds a lot like good business, doesn’t it? When all sides feel they’ve gotten a good value in exchange for the value they’ve provided. If you’ve been paying attention, you may have also noticed that money itself is a relationship. Gold star! We’ll get to that in another article. And, an instant passing grade to anyone who has already realized that the most important foundational business relationship to work on first is—drumroll!—the one with your own inner child! Surprise! Confetti! Noisemakers! Did something just jump out of that cake?!
Now, let’s get Titanium Diamond up in this piece!
Practicing Self-Empathy Unlocks the Power of Empathy in Business Communication
If you are part of the 99.9% of card-carrying humans on, or relatively near, the Earth, your inner child has been knocked around a bit.
Oh, and welcome to Earth v37.45!—approximately, depending on whom you ask and your thoughts regarding the measurement of epochs. If it’s been a while since your last visit, we’ve made some upgrades; like, the oceans aren’t always boiling as they were in a lot of the earlier versions! However, we’ve also neglected some major bug fixes; like, the oceans are starting to boil again, storms are getting crazy belligerent (and even showing up at parties they weren’t invited to), and a lot of things are either on fire or flooded… or both. Meantime, feel free to grab a drink at the bar, we’ve got some teams working on a few hotfix patch updates. The emergency exits are located… well, we haven’t installed those just yet.
In the beginning—yours, not Earth’s—your inner child relied on social and environmental cues filtered through the guidance and influence of the nearest authority figures to help make sense of the unfolding realities around you. For some, this was a good thing; for others, this was just the start of ongoing confusion and trouble; for most, it’s somewhere in between.
Whether we embraced or rejected this guidance, the influence of it is still coloring our perception of reality to this day. Is there anything that you love or hate just because that’s the way it’s always been but you’ve never really stopped to consider why? Coconut? Pineapple pizza? Florida? Any inexplicably extravagant phobias? Spiders? Needles? Two guys, both named Gary, shaking hands? Do your romances always seem to go the same way, time after time? These are only a few of the clues that you are in fact possessed, and therefore, likely human.
What I’m now going to advocate for you, and your inner child, is that you possess yourself. Muahahaha! Ahem, sorry… had an evil laugh tickling the back of my throat. What I’m saying is that we’ve all got some degree of arrested development that has taken some of our pieces off the board. We’re not able to fully play the game because a certain measure of our potential has been buried under unexamined shoulds, shouldn’ts, goods, bads, and hots or nots. We’re “swiping” on life but are not always sure why we’re swiping the way we are. That’s that possessive noise of The Voices guiding our hands instead of us.
Whether you were last influenced decades ago or 5 minutes ago, you have the opportunity now to take the wheel back from The Voices and be your own influence, to guide yourself. Your inner child has never stopped needing guidance, needing to feel secure, loved, and appreciated. Additionally, if you’ve ever spent time around children and were paying attention, there’s a lot that we can relearn from these pint-sized whippersnappers. The same goes for your inner child and the keys they hold for accessing different parts of your life.
So, is it time to find a hero, a role model, a leader to follow? Yes! Yes, it is, and it’s you. You are your knight in shining armor. There is no one better qualified to parent you than you. Even if someone else came along who was super understanding, caring, and strong; you’d quickly become dependent on them for validation and guidance, and you still wouldn’t be thinking for yourself. So, this is the way.
It may feel a bit awkward the first few times, but you need to start parenting your inner child yourself. Start retraining The Voices or putting them into retirement. Clear away all the unnecessary noise by sitting down with your inner child from time to time to touch base and clarify things. If it helps, come up with some sort of sci-fi or fantasy construct to frame your sessions, like;
- Time Machine! A device allows you to reach back through time to talk with your younger self, or they’re reaching into the future to learn about you.
- Interdimensional Fairy Portal! Be the envy of all the other inner children in your neighborhood with Zognuck’s Interdimensional Fairy Portal! By combining lost magicks with the latest AI general physics models, Zognuck’s IFP allows you to commune with other realities! Recommended by 4 out of 5 garden gnomes.
- Spooky Ghosts! It’s the ghost of your inner child trying to connect with you. Ooo, or what if you’re the ghost reaching back to guide your younger self? Ooo!
- Bonus Tip (if necessary): If you had a childhood nickname or something you remember fondly, feel free to refer to your inner child with that.
However you choose to approach it, the goal is the same. Your inner child is doing their best to navigate life with all The Voices demanding you move in multiple directions, with the loudest voices often prevailing. It’s an existence that’s confusing and full of anxiety. Here’s the step-by-step.
- Sit down and take a deep breath.
- Thank all The Voices for their perspectives and input. Really. Do it. They get louder if they feel they’re being ignored or, worse yet, told to shut up.
- Believe it or not, even when their advice is the worst, their whole purpose for existing is the belief that they are helping you. Helping you what? Helping you avoid destruction. Thing is, The Voices are just echoes with extremely limited perspectives. They’ll be right sometimes, which strengthens them, but many times their counsel is based on outdated and/or biased information—which may, ironically, lead to destruction.
- Think of them as security software on your computer that hasn’t been updated in a long time—yeah, they’re gonna catch some nasty threats but they’re also gonna flag some things that are fine, and they’re gonna miss some actual new threats. So, it’s up to you to update the software now, and it starts by letting them know that they’ve been heard and that you appreciate their efforts (even when the effort was not helpful; they’re just doing their job). From their perspective, they’re never against you, always for you… even when they’re against you.
- If you really mean the gratitude that you give to The Voices for their efforts, that should quiet them down.
- Now, you’re sitting with your inner child (and probably still a mind full of observational echoes). Get to know your inner child the way you would any kid. Allow them to climb out of their shell and connect with you. Keep thanking The Voices for contributing whenever they start their commentary. Whatever comes up with your inner child, remember to respond and guide with understanding, assurance, and love. You’re not here to scold or punish, you’re here to guide and encourage. Treat your inner child the way you truly wish to be treated. You have to practice the Golden Rule on yourself before you can successfully use it when interacting with anyone else. There may be tears if this is the first time you’ve been treated this way or there may be elation connecting with that level of encouragement you once knew—often, it will probably be a combination. You have become your own parent now; maybe the one you never had, but definitely the one that will allow you full independence and autonomy.
Organically, you’ll start to look at your own behaviors with fresh objective eyes. For example; I’ve always had this pile in the corner—you know, the pile of what-have-you nonsense that you’ll get to when you have the time… but, you don’t ever seem to have that time? Mine was a collection of boxes, packing supplies, and items that were a bit broken but could probably be fixed… “when I had the time.” Also, take note that I rarely ship, mail, or send any packages from home. Suddenly, while looking at the pile with fresh eyes, I realized that I could hear my grandmother’s voice.
She had come of age during the Great Depression; she’d learned to make the most of every resource available—used and even broken things could be given new life. She would turn scraps of fabric, sacks, curtains, and whatever else she could get her hands on into stylish clothing. It blossomed into her lifelong career as a seamstress, tailor, and clothier. She could make a meal out of anything around that was edible. She loved penguins!—doesn’t totally relate, but she did have a lot of penguin figurines.
Point being; I’d taken a lot of comments that she’d made over the years about not wasting things to heart but a bit out of context and without the underlying meaning. Away goes the pile that I had no use for, and I’m still looking for the right penguin tchotchke to take its place. (Taking recommendations in the comments!)
Leveraging Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
This simple exercise in learning to truly listen to yourself will open the doors to your untapped superpower of being able to truly listen to others. This is a goldmine in life, let alone business. Think about the last person who really made you feel heard and understood. It was a remarkable feeling, wasn’t it? It endeared you to them, didn’t it? You may have even wanted to follow them around like an eager puppy, hungry for more. You can have this effect on everyone around you and, most importantly, on yourself. Being heard and understood inspires trust and appreciation. Treat yourself authentically, with trust and appreciation, and others will feel inclined to treat you the same way.
Caveat: Some people are so incredibly lost in their own cacophony of noise that you are akin to a shadow passing through their reality. Your genuine interaction will come off as fake and weak to them because they don’t feel that same trust and appreciation for themselves. There isn’t much that can be done for such an individual; it’s the phase they’re at in their own personal growth and development and they’ll graduate to their next phase if they’re ever able to learn and understand their current circumstances. If they’re problematic, do your best to be cordial when an encounter is unavoidable, but keeping a safe distance may be the best policy. If they’re lucky, their brief encounters with you may be enough to inspire them to take another look at themselves. Take heart in knowing that there aren’t too many of these people out there.
Building Trust and Rapport with Authenticity
When I’m engaging in any sort of exchange, in business or life, I’m always looking for the best way for everyone to get a cherry on top. This is especially true in my personal relationships. At a certain point, I started to interact with my clients more like old friends that I was reconnecting with. This was a watershed moment for me, authentically treating clients as I would my own friends actually led to enjoying my work more while making a lot of genuine friendships and also loyal clients.
You wouldn’t bamboozle your friend to buy thingamajigs that they didn’t need or want. You wouldn’t even hoodwink your friend to buy doohickeys they think they might want but you know aren’t right for them, even if you’d profit from such hoodwinkery. You look out for your friend the way you do for yourself. You treat them the way you treat yourself, “Golden Rule” style.
Think of that one place you go to obtain that certain stuff, where they always remember your name, remember your usual order, or always greet you with a warm smile. You’d rather do business with them even if another place might be a bit more convenient or inexpensive. Why?—because you appreciate them and know they have your best interest in mind. This, my friend, is a business friendship. Like any friendship, the more you nurture this, the stronger the relationship grows.
I’ve experienced locally grown organically inspired loyalty time and again from both sides of the coin.
- I had a literary agent at one of the biggest, buzziest, and most successful agencies in Hollywood. She gave me special attention and consideration for my work, made sure I was up to date on the latest events and developments, and she would always find a way to make time for me. So, when she told me that she was leaving the agency to start her own, she offered me the choice of getting handed off to another agent there at the big agency or staying with her while she started her own business. You bet your sweet bippy I went with her as she was working towards her dreams.
- I was working with a large corporation when a prospective client requested the “dog and pony show” regarding what we had on offer. They were a big entertainment company, just my wheelhouse, and no one else at our corporation seemed to care or have the time. So, I stepped up to the plate and gave the entertainment reps the honest download on everything we had that could assist the initiative they were working to develop. I steered them true to maximize the value of their available budget. As I was sealing the deal, suddenly, others at our corporation took an interest and tried to get me to sell the client on a bunch of stuff they didn’t need. It would be a short-term monetary gain at the cost of a profitable long-term business relationship. I stood strong and looked out for my client’s best interests throughout the engagement. Years later, when I was working to help start a new company myself, they remembered me and signed on with us, sight unseen. They knew that I’d taken care of them before and would continue to do so.
The point here is, not only does it give you the warm and fuzzies to do right by somebody but being on the receiving end is refreshing and endearing as well. Win-win! It’s the foundation of a lasting relationship and, in business, a loyal client or customer.
If you start by guiding your inner child with care and compassion, you’ll automatically and authentically do this for others as well without even having to think about it. Strengthening the underlying psychology behind any “Rule” you happen to be practicing. You’ll be treating others the way you treat yourself.
The Psychology of Conflict Resolution and Win-Win Solutions
This entire mindset is invaluable for conflict resolution and finding solutions where everybody wins. When you’re able to truly put yourself in your own shoes—honestly, weird as it sounds, all this means that many people aren’t actually walking in their own shoes!—you can also put yourself in someone else’s. Authentically understanding and empathizing with another perspective is the key to conflict resolution. Ask any hostage negotiator; the perpetrator isn’t going to budge until they feel heard and understood. Then, maybe you can start swapping some pizzas for a hostage or two and the conflict resolution is underway.
Hearing, understanding, and empathizing doesn’t necessarily mean huddling together to sing Kumbaya, it means that you’re able to step outside of yourself to see the situation from another perspective. At that point, you may realize that you are in the wrong and need to adjust, or you may understand better where the other side has concerns and be able to address or clarify things for them. Often, I’ll find it’s the case that I’m saying, “Vampires bite,” and they’re insisting that, “Vampires suck,” while the actual issue at hand is that vampires have very little use for a term life insurance policy. Semantics.
Again, the key here is that you have to do this for yourself first. All of us are filled with conflict every day over things big and small, The Voices in our heads pointing in all directions. When we can negotiate ourselves out of being a hostage to our own noise, we can instinctively resolve conflicts with others as well.
So, there you have it, the skeleton key to the top-floor corner office of business success.
The Titanium Diamond Rule!
others yourself as you would have others do unto you, and you will then do the same unto others.”
—by Yours Truly
- We’re already treating others the way we’re treating ourselves. So, treat yourself authentically with kindness, understanding, and respect before you can authentically treat others the same way.
- You are your own best friend, worst enemy, parent, child, partner, provider, client,…
- Before you can authentically be the best of these things to anyone else, you have to truly be all the best of these to yourself.
- Express gratitude to your, often misguided, “The Voices security software” to quiet them down enough to start installing upgrades.
- Get in touch with your inner child; listen, understand, empathize, guide, encourage,… while learning and being inspired by them.
And, really, that’s about all the effort you need to make. From there, you’ll instinctively leverage your new skills and perspectives with everyone you encounter. No additional effort is required!
When you actively take over guiding and encouraging your inner child and updating The Voices software, you build an authentic relationship with yourself, and you naturally extend a deep authenticity to those around you. This is a state of mind that can be contagious. People will be more drawn to you and want to do business with you organically, and the more time they spend interacting with you the more your mindset will rub off on them. So, go forth and spread some inner peace with your business, you humanitarian business human.
To paraphrase another old saying—
You have to love yourself before anyone else will buy widgets from you.
I plan to continue writing about what more you can do once you have this foundational principle in place, so check back again soon. Did you find this helpful? Do you have experience with any of this? Do you have a story that relates? Do you have questions? Leave a comment with your thoughts and we’ll make some magic together.