ROL(Return on Life) is the "help improve your life" counterpart of ROI (Return on Investment). Simply stated, ROL consists of thoughts about incremental changes or activities that can produce a major return towards a better life. This week's ROL is about tattoos, bumper stickers and post-it notes.
A couple of Sundays ago my friend Sima Dahl of Parlay Communications and MarketingJobWire (among some of the amazing things she does) Facebooked something about Star War Tattoos. Being a smartass from a long line of smartasses I was working on a witty retort with this angle: "Tattoos are a lot like bumper stickers. They both seem like a great idea at the time but tend to grow on you like mold. That's why there are post-it notes." Luckily, I had to get on with my day, because I'd rather post about the significance of all three.
Tattoos should take some consideration. After all, someone is sticking you with needles and injecting dye into to your skin to create a permanent work of body art. Personally, if my fear of needles didn't stop me, the whole permanent thing would. After all, what was once a fantastic idea often turns sour like old milk. Remember all the men with perms in the 80's? Yuck.
Bumper stickers share some similarities with tattoos. At the time, it seemed absolutely right to do, so right that a second thought wasn't necessary. As time passed, the association with the candidate, venue or concept fades, just like the colors of the bumper sticker. Usually you don't get stuck with bumper sticker forever. You either sell or junk the car.
Post-it notes have been around for 30 years. I have no idea how the world functioned prior to the introduction of post-its. They're so versatile and useful, at least until the adhesive dries out. Then you're stuck wondering what happened to that industry changing idea you wrote down and can no longer find. The one drawback of post-it notes (now that they're made in many different sizes) is that unlike tattoos and bumper stickers, post-its are meant to be temporary. When you write something on a post-it be prepared to transcribe it elsewhere if you're going to need that thought again. Too many a presentation or project has been shot to hell when the transcendent concept never made it off the post-it.
My point? Our words are tattoos. What you considered a witty rejoinder is often kept by the recipient as a burning dagger through the heart. Or the corollary, your off the cuff compliment has been filed for use as a pick me up on a bad day. Words hang on forever. Like tattoos, the explanation of a decade old "throw away" is not as fluid or righteous as you thought it would be when you spoke it. Words really do stick around forever, so before you say it, imagine how that sentence would look plastered on your behind.
Our actions are like bumper stickers. The hilarious practical joke so meticulously arranged is often not nearly so funny for all (especially the target) 5 years down the road. So too is the favor you offered a friend. You don't think it's right to trade on a good deed forever, do you? Helping a friend needs to be refreshing regularly lest the friendship take on the appearance of a bumper stick, faded and half-torn. Think before you act, look before you leap and when choosing between generous and stingy, be generous.
Post-it notes represent our intentions, both good and bad. For good intentions, get those intentions to the proper spot, lest they be lost forever. Turn those well intentioned post-its into tattoos and bumper stickers to prolong their existence. As for bad intentions, crumple them up immediately or let the glue dry out and let them fall away. Don't let those bad intentions become something permanent.
It's really not so complicated. Before speaking, remember that what you consider casual could become part of your permanent file. What you do may not last forever, but could be stuck to you longer than you like. And intentions unacted upon are in fact nothing at all.