Four Mantras

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AUTHOR: Jonathan Clements on 7/01/2024

I’m not big on aphorisms—at least when talking to others. But there are certain things I say to myself all the time. Like what? Here are four mantras that I repeat to myself on an almost daily basis:

“First, do what you have to do, then do what you want to do.” This is my vegetables-first approach to the day. I have an ongoing to-do list that I typically revise each evening. When I look at that list in the morning, I focus on the stuff I have to do—and, if I can get it done, I reward myself with the things I want to do.

“Never let ’em know they got to you.” I suspect readers would be appalled by some of the crude, vicious letters and emails I’ve received over the years, especially when I was at The Wall Street Journal and more in the public eye. But I quickly learned to trash these messages before I was tempted to respond. If folks are so deranged that they’re sending you hate mail, you’ll never change their mind. Much better to follow the rules of the playground, never giving them the satisfaction of showing you were bothered.

“The routine is liberating.” I want every day to be productive, and I find that’s far easier when I’m at home and pretty much following the same schedule. Meanwhile, disruptions—running errands, unexpected phone calls, folks dropping by—can derail my productivity. That’s why I love days that feel ordinary.

“Everybody shoulders just as much as they can handle.” My inclination is to assume that most folks have good intentions and they do their best to cope with whatever gets thrown at them. But clearly, faced with the turmoil of everyday life, some people simply don’t cope so well. Still, I never assume they don’t care or they’re slacking. Rather, I assume they don’t have the emotional fortitude to deal with whatever they’re facing—and that likely means their life is much harder than mine.

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