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Honey And Vinegar

6 December 2010 15 Comments

(aka Why People Get Pissed At You When You Are A Jerk)

I had a beautiful post half written while basking in the glow of co-working with herbal tea and holiday tree cupcakes at The House Of Urban Angst.  It was about the holidays and spreading love and handwritten cards.  It also involved sugar cookies and twinkle lights.  Two of my favorite things about the season.

But all weekend long I’ve been talking to people about a different issue.  I figure if I’ve hit my sixth conversation in 48 hours, it’s probably a topic that’s pretty relevant right now.

There’s the saying “You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.”  Or maybe it is an old wives tale.

Regardless, the lesson remains the same.  Furthermore is has been proven and confirmed on multiple occasions that positive reinforcement elicits better results from subjects than punishment.

But writing nice things doesn’t get us blog traffic, does it?

No.  Catching flies with honey and vinegar

Instead we write absolute statements.  Rooted in punishment.

What you think makes you happy is wrong.

Your job is a nightmare. I would hate it. You should too.

The way you support your cause is stupid.

The fact that you fell in love and got married means you settled.

Where you live makes you simple and unworldly.

The items you own tie you to a miserable existence.

The life that you are living is slowly killing you inside.

The justification for all these beliefs is simple.

I know better.

I don’t think many people do this because they have malicious intent.  I don’t even think that some realize what they sound like when they get fired up about their passions.  Which is both inspiring and irritating.

It reminds me of when you find a new restaurant in town.  And you LOVE the food at this restaurant.  And you eat it nightly.  You tell everyone about it.  You bring out-of-town friends there.

If the strange vegan Ethiopian-Creole noodle bar had a religion you’d be the head monk.

But not everyone likes vegan Ethiopian-Creole noodles.

This blows your mind.  Cause YOU obviously know that this is the best thing since sliced white bread (which they serve as a side at the noodle bar.)  So you start promoting it even more.  You want people to taste the tangy wonderfulness of your vegan Ethiopian-Creole noodle bar.  You know it will give them an entirely new perspective on food.

Yet people still hold true to their own tastes.  Delivery pizza and fine Italian cuisine win out in foodie conversations.  The Foursquare check-ins begin to drop.  The owners are worried because you are the only one and since you eat there every night money is tight and you don’t really tip the staff well.

So you lash out.  You start pointing out how delivery pizza is greasy and arrives cold half the time.  And that Italian cuisine is a glutenous simple carbohydrate calorie fest that is surely clogging their arteries and causing them a slow and painful death.   You want people to see the light.  You want them to experience the euphoria that you experience.

You forgot one thing.

We are all different people, motivated by different things.  Free to live our own lives and find our own happiness.

And that might involve lukewarm delivery pizza.


I am psyched that you figured out how to earn $1000+ in one day from your affiliate marketing.  And I want to pick you up and spin hug the bejeezus out of you that you love living overseas in a hut on the ocean.  The fact that you believe so strongly in your non-profit foundation inspires me to be an activist for my own causes.  I think it is pretty cool that you own 37 items and are reducing your carbon footprint.

In fact, I probably subscribe to your blog.  Read your thoughts.  Interact in comments.  Respect your opinions.  Buy your (e)Books. Want to learn some of your secrets.  And that is why I ask you:

Stop telling people that they aren’t good enough because they don’t live your life.

Or if you do, stop wondering why they call you on your bullshit.  And when they call you on it, own up to it.

And stop acting like your life is perfect and theirs could be too if they only duplicate yours.

Wanting people to be the best versions of themselves.  I can get on board with that. 

But let them decide what that means.

Otherwise, you are just a newer version of the status quo.  Telling them how to live their lives.

And isn’t that kind of what you advocate against?

Photo Credit: Kent Wang (Flickr)

*I’d also like to note, this isn’t a commentary on activists or lifestyle designers or location independents.  There are many in those niches that inspire, create and give light.  But there are unfortunately a good number of people in those niches giving them a VERY bad name lately…if this post gets you antagonized and fired up, maybe there’s a reason.

15 Responses to “Honey And Vinegar”

  1. Karina says:

    Oh yes, I love this post and it’s come right in time. As I feel like I’m finally falling into a bit of a rhythm with my blogging, I’m noticing a certain pressure – from advice others have given me personally or just through strangers’ ‘expert’ posts on the meta-physics of blogging – to adopt their models of shock and awe, and the *5 Simple Steps To (insert idea/personality trait/activity ,here through which the offering of five simple steps used to carry out said activity, will lead to a greater feeling of inadequacy, leading then to an incessant interest in reading more “5 Simple Steps” in a vicious cycle of always just being 5 simple steps away from the thing you always wanted to be/do). No thanks. There’s a reason I stopped subscribing to women’s magazines.
    I agree with you, that I follow these bloggers, and usually enjoy hearing about their adventurous lives that allow them to blog (and make money) from Tahiti or wherever, but that’s just not me to talk about the same. You are so on point with this. The Status Quo is what they’re trying to dissemble, but they’re ending up creating a whole new – somewhat unattainable – standard for living. Kudos for sticking to your guns – even though it may not yield as many hits as a post on “You suck, and here’s why”.

    • Karina – Ah, yes, that is the blessing and the curse of the blogosphere. So many wonderful suggestions and articles intended to help. But at the same time so many also tell you “how you should” or “ways to make” or many other mandates. Preaching individuality and freedom and breaking the status quo while they are just creating armies on minions devoted to their ideas and willing to shell out hard earned cash to read regurgitated ideas in a 3-short volumes of eBooks.

      I know this, cause I’m usually the schmuck buying the eBook!

      And you are right. I just need to start writing more sensationally if I want the traffic. Ugh! 😛

  2. Grace Boyle says:

    I know you have written about this a few other times…each time, I agree. Because there is a lot of “telling” out there.

    Curious though, why does it ignite your fire? If someone tells or says something that ISN’T your truth? I suppose I don’t feel as fired up (even though, I would largely be on your side of this conversation) because I read, then move on. I never feel the need to live their life, I never have. But also – since you say don’t say that the vegan food is the best, if we didn’t have an opinion what should we say? This is the best food (in my opinion)? What if these bloggers have a disclaimer (this works for me, but may not for you). Would we feel better?

    Just genuinely curious…

    Without someone telling, preaching, sharing, etc. we would have nothing. Have no opinions. No debates. No cross-connecting.

    On the other side of the fence, I still have a “real” job and like I have written or even Jenny loving her cubicle, I don’t even know if I want location independence…right now at least. I’m cool with what I’ve got, so it doesn’t even affect me when people write about the opposite and how it’s so much better.

    Finally, I can’t stand when people say my way or the highway. It is why I have a problem with many zealots and evangelists for religions believing their way is the only way. They can’t see the world, our many colors, our beliefs, our surroundings, etc. We are all so different.

    It takes me to my favorite quote:

    You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. -Friedrich Nietzsche

    • Grace – Yes, I do write a lot about this topic. This particular post comes after my 6th conversation with someone in one weekend defending the idea that no one is “better” than anyone else just because of the way they approach an idea/career/life. And frankly, when you have to constantly preach that you are, then it pretty much erodes and eventually nullifies your credibility.

      Which I find sad. As one friend said to me this weekend “I don’t mean to go on and on to you, I know a lot of these guys are your peeps.” And he was 100% right. I see such brilliant ideas and passionate souls in so many of these evangelists, yet I find my respect waning. I want so much to like them and get behind their platforms, but when directing readers/friends/peers to a website will inevitably end with something that tells them “you and/or your life sucks” then I’m not going to do it.

      I’m not sure how I feel about disclaimers. I feel like there is probably a way of writing passionately about things you believe without having to use a disclaimer. But those sites generally don’t garner as much traffic as the “You Suck, Here’s Why, Take The Pill/Drink The Kool-Aid And I’ll Fix It.”

      As you mention at the end. There IS a way to share your beliefs without telling people there is no other way. Which is the final thing that exasperates me.

      Do not preach freedom to me when you are living in a prison of a different design on the same island.

      (And in reality, I’m totally one of those location indies myself…so that probably gets under my skin too! 🙂 )

  3. I have a theory that those people that you talk about are actually headed to their doom, because of how strongly they have connected to an idea. What happens when that idea goes out of style? You start yelling because you don’t wanna face the fact that the idea market has changed.

    • Carlos – I was *just* talking to my roommate about this. Online entrepreneurship is the dot.com/real estate investment/Amway of the 20-teens. It’s bright and shining now but eventually like any super nova it will burn out. Those in from the beginning might be able to survive in an altered state through the blast, but those getting in at the end will inevitably lose a lot of money and end up embittered.

      Rarely is ANY lifestyle as easy as this one is often professed to be. And if it is, there has got to be a shoe looming somewhere, ready to drop.

  4. Becca Wikler says:

    This seriously brought a tear to my eyes. Thank you for writing this.

    This can also serve as a message that YOU CAN live your best life, be your best you, on your own terms. Doing what is right for you. That’s how this post struck me. So, thank you. <3

    • Becca – Precisely! Dear God THANK YOU FOR READING THAT FROM THIS! I was beginning to wonder if I was becoming a completely useless writer.

      Each of us has a potential to be amazing. But much like the different sequences that make up our DNA, our paths will also be different. Live your life on your own terms. And then you will always be in love with it.

      Seriously…THANK YOU!

  5. […] to Elisa Doucette, Ryan Knapp, and Scott Hale for inspiring this […]

  6. […] Ophelia’s Webb: Honey and Vinegar […]

  7. Clare says:

    Three cheers for this post.

  8. So, I’m a preacher. (You know that Elisa). For some people, that means that it’s my right to tell people what to do — at least according to the Bible.

    Over a beer with a church member this week, I got to thinking about this sweetness factor. She’s a young woman like me and doesn’t want the syrupy sweetness that lacks honesty. This is a problem in the church. People think they have to be nice all of the time. Gag. She doesn’t want that. She wants space for all of her cynicism and snark. She wants to be whole. Now, I’ve been blogging about this very question myself so I guess I’m wondering if we’re (culturally) afraid of bringing it all and being whole.

    Whatcha think?

    • Elsa – Oh, believe me, I think cynicism and snark have their right place. In fact my former co-worker used to get very frustrated with me cause “There I’d go with that sarcasm again.”

      I think that a realistic viewpoint is very healthy. Because so much of life is not all nice and happy. And to refuse to acknowledge those very real not-so-good things is not only detrimental in general, but it stunts us from growing and learning.

      The point you touch on that is most important, to me, is the syrupy sweetness that lacks honesty. That’s just horrible. In fact, I find that syrupy sweetness and no honesty is probably the MOST hurtful thing you can do to another human. You don’t care about them enough to at least be honest? Then shame on you. Yep, I said it. SHAME on you. (Well not YOU you but a more universal YOU)

      And while I know you’ve got some strong opinions Rev. Peters, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you “tell someone what to do.” You are far too intelligent for that…better to let them come to the realizations on their own, sometimes with a little help. 🙂

  9. Eric says:

    Holy Shit Elisa, I can’t believe I missed this post and your Status Quo post where you state “Trying to buck the Status Quo is becoming SOOO Status Quo.”

    I have been thinking the exact same thing, I actually mentioned it on Twitter “Is fighting against the status quo, ironically becoming the status quo?” (wasn’t trying to copy you, but good point you made)!

    It seems like there are several thousand people out there, retweeting and sharing the same recycled opinions.

    I’ve written this in a post, I don’t believe someone who lives with 37 things, climbed Mt. Everest and eats only pine nuts is anymore enlightened than a single mother, who works and still manages to raise healthy balanced children.

    I think it’s great to share you lifestyle to introduce something new to someone, but one way of doing something is no better than another.

    You rock like Stevie Nicks with this post girl!

    Much respect


    • Eric – One of the greatest accomplishments, in my opinion, is raising healthy balanced children. I could give a flying fig about all that other stuff, helping to shape someone’s life is friggin hard work that is HORRIFICALLY under-rated and trivialized. I could (maybe one day will) write a whole post about that, but it’s neither here nor there.

      I agree ten-thousand fold, it is great to share the lifestyle. It’s great to be excited about it and want to tell everyone that they should try it because it changed you for the better so much!

      But the moment you start diminshing and trashing other lifestyles to promote your own? Well then I’ve got a problem. I have the same frustration with sales people. If you have to trash a competitor’s product to make your own seem better…I’m not sure you have all that great a product to start with.

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