Here’s why a “threshold” can’t define you.

What defines you?
A threshold defines you.
Or does it?
I’ve stumbled across this phrase a few times.
“Your threshold defines you!”

My grandma was a pragmatist.
“Sweep the floor, and get that dirt over the threshold. then it’s not an ‘inside problem’ anymore!”
A threshold is a boundary.
But it’s a boundary that, by design, is meant to be crossed.

In some scenarios, the words “limit,” “threshold,” and even “barrier” seem to have become siblings.
That’s fine because I believe we become so enamored with using some words in some scenarios that we can forget the richness of synonyms and potential synonyms.
And that’s what this is all about: To challenge linguistic assumptions that can become gospel so readily.

Military life was often about thresholds, or testing limits, if you would.
Before I got onto that dreaded train that transported new conscripts to their postings, I attempted to get information from those who had already been through military service.
And, to my dismay, there was this one common denominator, phrased in more or less the same way: “They will push you to your limits, and then tell you that’s only the start.”

There might be some wisdom in the adage that “Ignorance is bliss.”
“They will push you to your limits, and then tell you that’s only the start.”
I experienced the same thing when my boots hit the ground.
And they did hit the ground running.
You get pushed to the limits… Or not, because those limits are redefined or tweaked all the time.
But, if those thresholds were “limits,” then they were still intended to be crossed.
There was one pervasive thing with our instructor: The sergeant often asked, “who is going to quit, who thinks they are not good enough to be officer-material?”
And each time we crossed that proverbial threshold, we were taunted by the recurring question.
I reckon pride kept many of us running beyond the limits we believed we had.
But it was so much more than that: It was a choice.
Once you reach a threshold, it invites you to step over it, should you choose to do so.
Of course you can be kicked from behind, and you’ll stumble across, if you’re fortunate, but that still won’t prompt you to make even more “self-defining” choices once you’ve reached the other side.
I believe that choice is “deliberate, and intentional motion.”

And what about the times when you didn’t manage to cross the threshold?
Did that define you as being “inadequate” on any level?
Or did the choice you make after that, define, or reveal something more profound about who you are?

Sarge had his own answer for that, and again, it hinged on choice.
“You will fail, quite often, and some of you will come back and try again because you feel you have no choice. But some of you will choose HOW you come back!”

I fail quite often, and at times I felt “defined” by not having managed to operate beyond a threshold.
During the times when I choose to crawl back in style, I’m not so sure it necessarily “defines” everything about me, but damn, it still tells me, “you’re ok.”

Matt

“What’s wrong with you if you don’t like coffee?” The answer is more complex than you might think!

Everybody loves a cuppa coffee, don’t they?
Well, as it turns out, apparently not.
Although, I haven’t seen an “Anti-Coffee-Coalition” in my neighborhood yet.
One day when I see posters going up that says, “Vote NO against coffee!” That’s when I’ll know it has escalated.
Of course, I’m exaggerating here.
And that’s what this post addresses.
It’s about exaggeration and misinterpretation. Coffee doesn’t really feature here.
What happens when we communicate?
We experience a preference, and then, occasionally, we harbor the impression that people will feel what we feel.
But to top it all, we also communicate in such a manner that we believe the recipients of our intended message will understand, unequivocally, what we meant.

Misunderstanding isn’t something new.
When Joe started working for the world-famous accountant, he debuted in reception.
Every day, he eagerly completed his duties.
One day, the message came, “Send the books.”
Joe was flustered.
Phone lines were down, he was alone at the office, but he knew he had to act.
So Joe carefully packed all the books he could see in the office and shipped them to where his boss was working on site.
You can see my exaggeration here, but little did Joe know, the boss meant, send the latest statements, invoices, general ledgers, and other accounting whatnots located on the server.
The problem arose because nobody bothered to translate the boss’ lingo to Joe.
On the other hand, the boss didn’t bother to ask Joe whether or not he understood.
But when the new guy just received that urgent message labeled, “ASAP, URGENT, TO BE EXPEDITED,” he panicked and did what he thought he had to do.
The truth is, he had no idea what to do, but he just did something.
All of the above was a fabricated little tale, but I do believe many people can identify with it.

The online world facilitates instant communication methods, albeit communication doesn’t always take place.
So recently, I read that initial statement on a blog: “What’s wrong with you if you don’t like coffee?”
Coffee lovers were quick to jump onto the discussion thread and defend themselves.
“There is nothing wrong with anyone who likes coffee!”
And this ranks among one of the mild replies.
Initially, the author removed the initial phrase and said that he meant, “He couldn’t understand why some don’t like coffee?”
And right there, the whole tone and meaning of the message changed.

While we might smile and shake our heads at keyboard warriors who fight major word wars, we all know it does get ugly in the offline world as well.
I’ll never stop preaching the power of mindfully selected words.
Communication hinges on selecting the correct tools.
Words are your tools.
If it means simplifying a message or maybe adding more words, do it, but especially when typing something, look at your selected words critically before punching “send.”

Well, that’s it for now.
I’m going to enjoy a coffee now.
If you’re a coffee fan, join me now by enjoying a virtual cuppa coffee.
Feet up!

Cheers!
Matt

PS: The answer to the original question is actually quite simple: “Nothing.”
It’s the response to how a question is phrased, that creates potential complexity.
Now I run the risk of repeating myself if I don’t stop right here and focus on my coffee!

Up in the morning before the sun, we’re all going for the worst day’s run!

More thoughts about the power of words

“Get up and run, scabs!”
His jaw was so square it almost verged on being cartoonish.
“This is going to be the day you regret ever being born!”
That jawline was forged in the legendary place from whence the gods of mythology hailed.
And he appeared to have muscles stacked on top of one another.
That was the image I constructed of our PTI.
PTI: “Physical Training Instructor.”
To achieve that designation, a soldier had to undergo excruciatingly rigorous training.
They were a proud, tough bunch, but their demeanors were justified.
In the base, those juggernauts commanded respect, inasmuch they seemed oblivious about caring for “likes.”

The PTI Sergeant utilized three stock phrases quite well.
And in the process, he also exhausted their effectiveness.
1. “Get up and run, scabs!”
2. “This is going to be the day you regret ever being born!”
3. “Enjoy the worst day of your life!”

During the first days of training, phrase number three wreaked havoc on how I approached the training.
A word, such as “worst,” creates an image, an expectation.
That word frames how you will engage the event that lies ahead.
Even before the event starts, your subconscious conjures up dramatic moments and outcomes only eclipsed by near-apocalyptic tropes.
If you allow your mind to wander, be sure it will find ways to get lost within words that invite dread!

After a while, though, we got used to “the worst.”
If every single day is the “worst,” then no day is.
Even nowadays, I smile whenever people flippantly state, “This is the worst thing ever!”
Unsurprisingly, the “worst” seems to get recycled infinitely and exists within a different context every time it gets laundered.

Somewhere near the end of the year, our PTI transferred to greener pastures.
The replacement looked less intimidating at face value, but he was still as tough as they came.
All seemed well until that one guy surfaced.
And of course, there always has to be “that one guy!”
Just before the morning “jog,” that guy raised his hand, “Sarge, Sarge, will this be the worst day of our lives?”
Half the platoon couldn’t decide whether to laugh(albeit very silently) or cringe.
The Sarge, a seasoned veteran, barely lost a stride, “You’ll have to decide that for yourself, afterward!”
I do reckon “That One Guy’s” words influenced the Sarge to give us a thorough workout.
The workout could even have verged on being one of the toughest we ever experienced.
But it wasn’t “the worst ever.”
I consciously decided that it wouldn’t be.