The Good Shoulds from Mark Sanborn

Mark Sanborn, CPAE is one of the most in demand keynote speakers and popular authors. His latest book Up, Down, Or Sideways and he has given me permission to share Chapter One with my readers.  Enjoy the first segment!

The Canadian punk band Simple Plan released a song a few years back titled “Shut Up!”. The lyrics include, “Don’t tell me what I should do/I don’t wanna waste my time,” and the chorus begins with, “So shut up, shut up, shut up/Don’t wanna hear it.”
Not exactly a feel-good song for the ages, is it?

Unfortunately, it’s easy to take that attitude when other people give us advice, even if most mature adults would never express the sentiment so bluntly. There are times when we all resist the advice that others offer us because it can feel controlling, and after all, we want to make our own decisions. We don’t like other people telling us what we should do.

In resisting the “shoulds” in life, however, we often throw the baby out with the bathwater. While some advice can be critical or controlling, other advice is helpful and needed. I call the latter the “good shoulds.”

My mother, and I suspect yours as well, would say things to me like, “You should brush your teeth.” “You should look both ways before you cross the street.” “You should be kind to others.” As we grow older, our parents, teachers, coaches, employers, pastors, friends, and mentors bring increasingly complex and specific advice to our burning ears.

Fortunately, informed and concerned people in our lives still give us things we shoulddo—things that have stood the test of time and have proven true and valuable. Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we learn only from our experiences and not the mistakes and successes of others. Why learn only from your own blunders if you can take a cue from someone else’s and avoid a few missteps? Why not learn from the lessons and experiences of others?

This book is unapologetically a discussion about things you should do; indeed, things all of us should do. I read books for insights, and I write books to share good ideas that I believe will help others. But these “shoulds” are born of concern and my own life lessons and missteps, not out of a desire to control or manipulate. It’s up to you to decide what to do with them. Our doctors, accountants, attorneys, spouses, friends, coworkers, pastors, investment counselors—they all weigh in on what we should do. And when we have good advice available to us, we should take it. Wise people seek out and act on “good shoulds.”

The mind-sets and methods in this book are based on principles, and principles don’t change. They are true across time, culture, and context. What changes is the application. The principles of communication, for instance, haven’t changed throughout history. Communication happens when you express a message in a way that people know and understand what you mean and can act on it. The applications—from longhand letters to faxes to e-mail to Facebook—have changed dramatically as cultures and technologies have advanced. But the core principles of communication haven’t changed.

The core principles that drive success haven’t changed either. Some of the applications have shifted, but the principles remain the same. They are good advice. You should use them, and so should I. And we should all share them with others. (With all due respect to the band Simple Plan.)
—Mark Sanborn and
Section I: See
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? From infancy we are able to see the world around us. But seeing isn’t just about looking at the world around you; it’s about attaching meaning to what you see. One person might see a daunting wave; a surfer sees an opportunity. One person might see an obstacle; a successful person sees a starting block. Are you willing to open your eyes?
“The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.”
—William Osler, Canadian scientist and

Thanks Mark!