You Don’t Know Me

Image by SuperMeww at Deviant Art.

Image by SuperMeww at Deviant Art.

At work I write subject lines and email copy designed to get people to open my company’s emails and buy something.

Sometimes, there is internal debate at the office about the words I choose.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea because…”

And then I’ll respond with why I chose to write something as I did.

Recently, during a debate about a particular subject line that said simply: “You’re Invited,” a co-worker took exception to its lack of clarity. Considered it to be a little too “tricky.” That a customer who opened it would be opening it to learn to what event they were “invited” and be disappointed and close the email upon realizing it was not an invitation to an actual event, but merely an informal invitation to save money on our company’s sales.

I was more than willing to change the subject line to what the other guy wanted because I thought he made a decent-enough point.

But our boss, upon hearing the discussion and both sides of the debate, wanted to test it.

We’d send a small batch (but a significant data sample) with one subject line, and another small batch with the other.

In internet marketing (and probably several other industries), we call this A-B testing.

We sent the test batches. My subject line got the most opens and made the most money. So we sent the remainder of our list with my version.

My co-worker came over to shake hands and eat crow. And it made me feel bad. Literally. Because he’s a good guy and was just trying to do what he thought was best for our business.

“Don’t apologize, man. I agreed with you and thought you’d end up being right. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

I DO NOT take pleasure from being “right” so long as something mean-spirited wasn’t involved.

I DO NOT feel gratification when one of my work ideas performs better than someone else’s work idea, especially when the other person is a teammate—someone I’m only interested in lifting up.

I often feel bad when I take someone’s money in a poker game.

When my favorite team beats its archrival, I actually feel sympathy for my friends who root for the other team.

I feel lousy when I get to do something awesome or meaningful with my son that his mother wasn’t able to take part in. Like when he lost his first two teeth with me. Like when we visit my family for the Fourth of July.

As much as I love spending time with my little son, I do not enjoy it at the expense of others not being able to spend time with him.

It adds an element of bittersweetness to most of the wonderful things we do.

Perhaps those feelings will go away in time. But given my propensity for not always enjoying victory and fun and good things at the perceived expense of others, I’m not sure it ever will.

I Am Whatever You Think I Am?

No.

I’m not.

There are people in this world (my sweet and innocent grandmother, for example, who thinks I’m an angel even though I almost never call her to say hi) who probably think I’m a way better person than I am.

I’m not afraid to admit I make mistakes all the time.

But I also have no reservations about telling you how hard I try to be better. How much I think about, pray about, and work toward being the best person I possibly can.

A daily grind during the most-challenging few years of my life that has amounted to me aspiring to improve 1% each day, but knowing full well I spent much of that time lazy and lethargic and depressed and alone and feeling sorry for myself.

I don’t always succeed at improving 1% a day.

Maybe I can improve 1% at improving 1% and then win the Extra-Meta Guy Award.

Everyone who creates art of any kind needs to learn and accept The Rule of Thirds.

One third will love you.

One third will hate you.

One third won’t care.

So only make your art for the one third that loves you because you can’t reach the haters. The problem is, if you’re wired like me, you’re going to WANT to. You’re going to want to so bad.

To change their hearts.

To change their minds.

To make them believe that everything you write or draw or sing or sculpt or think or feel lives in your soul at the keyboard or the canvas or the microphone, and away from it.

You don’t know me.

Talk to any divorced person and they’re likely to tell you the same story: If I can’t even trust myself to know and choose the person I planned to spend the rest of my life with, how can I ever trust myself to marry again?

It’s scary when you realize you can fudge the biggest decision of your life.

But there’s another part of that.

You don’t know me.

You don’t really know anyone.

Every time a beloved celebrity commits suicide, we all go: “Oh my God!!! How could that person do that!?!? EVERYONE loved them!!!”

Every time you hear about a school shooting or serial killer, there’s always the people interviewed that knew them from way back when and thought they were just a nice, normal person like everyone else.

Maybe we only see what we want to see.

If anyone comes to my funeral, I hope each of them can walk up to my son and tell him: “Your dad was a really good guy,” then tell him a little story illustrating why they thought that.

That’s what I want from life.

When the final ledger is tallied, I hope analysis of that ledger draws the conclusion I’m working toward: Matt was a man who loved people, who tried hard to be non-judgmental, who loved friends and family and laughter, and who had a big heart that he tried to share with others.

Maybe that’s selfish. Because that’s a lot of things.

I don’t know what you think of me.

And it doesn’t really matter because I can’t prove you right or wrong.

But I want to type it anyway. Because it really matters to me. Maybe today more than ever.

I want to be a good man who helps people.

I want to teach my son to be the same.

I want my son to know in the deepest recesses of himself how much his parents love him.

I want to be a person who gives more than he takes in all things.

I want to write stories that help someone. Not everyone. Just someone.

I want to die as the best-possible version of myself.

And on that final day I die, I want to hold my head up high.

I want to tell you that I tried, to live it like a song.

Everyone is not only allowed to believe whatever they want—they’re going to anyway.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking you know who I am.

This is my truth.

And today I’m 1% closer to living it.

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34 thoughts on “You Don’t Know Me

  1. Jack Chaser says:

    It’s very easy to pigeon hole someone based on the one aspect of their life that you see. Be it here or anywhere else.

    Like

  2. Great and insightful post. Remember to contact your granny, one day it might be too late.

    Like

  3. I think you’re funny.
    I think you’re talented.
    I think you’re generous.
    I think you swear too much;
    But of course, this post has no bad words at all so,
    I guess you’re right. We don’t know you.
    ;-)

    Like

  4. You make people think with your posts… deep thinking..
    Well at least that’s what I do! Haha! ;)

    Like

  5. mjmsprt40 says:

    Welcome to the club. I’m nearing 60 years old, and I suspect in all that time the number of people who actually know me is abysmally small.

    The pastor of the church I attend is pushing for small groups because of that very thing. Small groups form “community” and in those groups, he hopes people will begin to know— really know– each other. He may be right. As it is, many people live out their entire lives with no clue what’s happening in anybody else’s life, and in the midst of crowds every day we live and die alone. It was never meant to be that way.

    Like

    • Church Small groups. Yes on every level. I couldn’t even exist without mine! :-)

      Like

    • Matt says:

      Seems like we should be spending more time trying to remedy this.

      Perhaps I will.

      This is an important observation about community. As much as I like and appreciate technology, it has allowed us to more easily disconnect from human groups.

      The net result is probably not a great thing for humankind, from an interpersonal relationship standpoint.

      Like

  6. I don’t know you, Matt.

    But I know a few things about being human. And I believe, once we have chosen the path that leads us to our own truth, we constantly improve. Even when we feel that we don’t. Even when we feel that we move backwards.

    In sharing your path you give courage and inspiration to so many people, including myself. I admire your honesty. The mis-takes you share inspire me to be less judgemental with myself. The personal successes you share make me happy because I am happy for you and, because happiness is contagious. And when you – always authentically – share your walk along the path it gives me courage on so many levels.

    Thank you!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      We do a pretty good job beating ourselves up.

      I’m really happy to read you say that you’re taking it easy on yourself. I’ve done a really good job of evolving into a person who just doesn’t get to surprised or judgmental about human beings acting like human beings.

      It’s a certainty it will happen. It would be shocking if people didn’t make mistakes.

      I got good at being kind to others before I started working on being more kind to myself. I’m not all the way there. Still pretty hard on myself. But it’s getting much better.

      1% at a time.

      Like

      • You wrote:
        “I got good at being kind to others before I started working on being more kind to myself.”

        I hear you. I’ve always been better in being kind and understanding to others than in giving these qualities to myself, as well. Then, not too long ago, somebody asked a question. It was something like this:
        “If you would see yourself not from the perspective of being you but rather from the perspective of a good friend seeing you, what would you tell yourself?”
        That woke me up. 1% at a time ever since…

        And you know what? Every time I am getting kinder to myself, I notice how I gain even more understanding for others – and therefore being even kinder to them. It’s like a reverse vicious circle. An “Angel’s circle” maybe?
        (In German we call a vicious circle “Teufelskreis” = “Devil’s circle”…)

        I agree, judging human beings for acting like human beings doesn’t lead anywhere. It pretty much misses the point of having a human experience in the first place. ;)

        Much love!

        Like

  7. martha0stout says:

    It’s not the parts of people that we know that makes us want to be around them sometimes. Sometimes it’s the parts we don’t know because we still want to learn.

    Like

  8. mewhoami says:

    “Maybe we only see what we want to see.” This is so true! At the same time, we often only see what people allow us to see. It’s wonderful that you want to pass down all the good traits and lessons to your son. With your help and by the qualities that you instill in him, he will no doubt grow into a successful and wonderful man.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Confirmation bias. We do it all the time.

      We only look for the stuff that supports the opinions we already have. That will come into play for approximately 100 percent of voters at the ballot box today.

      It would be fascinating to see what would happen if every single person just quit saying and believing they knew everything, and started asking questions and looking for answers like children.

      I think a lot of bad things would stop happening.

      When we think and speak in absolutes, we stop growing.

      Truth will always hold up to scrutiny and criticism.

      Great to hear from you. :)

      Like

      • mewhoami says:

        Yes! I agree. Children have it right. They look and investigate. So often, adults just take someone’s word for it. We must open our eyes and be curious to the world and the people around us.

        As for voting, it is frightening that the majority of people even go to the ballot box, because many of their decisions are based off what they hear through the media….and we know how accurate and honest the media is. Not! :)

        Liked by 1 person

  9. PrairieChat says:

    One of the main reasons I blog is to leave a written legacy for my children, showing me a my best and my worst. I’ve spent a lot of time working on Genealogy and I can tell you just how precious any written communication is and how helpful those little tidbits are in filling out someones life story.

    Like

  10. garden2day says:

    I have read lots of your posts over time but this one is really great…as the tears roll down my cheeks :) . You are so far ahead of the game and I wish we all had the foresight to strive to live the best we can. Well done–very inspirational! At the end of my life, I just hope someone says that I did everything I could do. I know it won’t be enough in my eyes but I would really like to make a very small difference–maybe :D . People will probably show up at my funeral just to make sure I am REALLY dead. :D Take care.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Just a small difference would be enough. To be a part of something good and meaningful happening.

      I’m not going use words like fate and destiny.

      But maybe our job is to just take care of ourselves and stay alive so that we can take care of our children. And then they grow up and have kids. And then our grandchildren have kids.

      And then our great grandchild saves someone’s life in some super-heroic act that would make us really proud if we were still alive.

      And then the person they save cures cancer AND saves the Earth from an oncoming asteroid like Bruce Willis in Armageddon.

      Or.

      Maybe we’re just supposed to be nice to others and smile at them. But the asteroid bit sounded fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Janelle says:

    When reading your posts I frequently think it is not your successes or your setbacks that are endearing but the way you try your best. You have had some missteps and learned from those, you try hard to do better, be better. It is encouraging and it is hopeful.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      It’s sort of a bumbling, messy existence full of missteps and embarrassment and whatnot, but those little moments really do help me be better.

      I’m glad you don’t think it’s a terrible waste of time. Thank you very much.

      Like

  12. jgroeber says:

    Beautiful post. You captured the daily grind of being -an artist, a parent, a spouse, a person- with such beauty. I’m so glad I read it. Here’s to 1%. (Or 1 1/2%…)

    Like

  13. I think the best any of us can ever do is try. This was a great one.

    Like

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