Friday, June 11, 2021

Bite The Bullet (MY Eng #16)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill' and 'pot calling the kettle black'.

Why do I have to put up with this nonsense? Life just isn't fair! I need a way out!

It's fairly common to harbour such thoughts, day in day out. Annoyances build up to frustration. People around us can be such a pain, sometimes. A dream job can turn into a nightmare overnight.

But wait! Don't throw in the towel just yet (another idiom)! Weather the storm. Stay the course. Keep your cool.

* * *

At a former workplace, there used to be a word often thrown about. True, it's just one of many corporate jargons that we're constantly lectured on, but this one's quite meaningful and under-rated. It's a character trait called 'resilience'. Or in more colourful terms, this refers to our ability to 'bite the bullet'.

I'm not quite sure how the expression came about. I don't think it means literally clamping a bullet between our teeth. Rather, it invokes the even more frigthening prospect of being shot. How well can we ignore the pain and carry on with, well, whatever we were doing before we got shot.

Now, this will sound rather preachy, condescending, and mean-spirited. But hey, cold hard truths need to be said, even if they cuts deeply into our heart (like a silver bullet).

What youngsters lack - now, more than ever - is resilience. They're too brittle and fragile. They freak out at the first sign of trouble. They can't handle stress well. They can't accept when things don't go their way. They're not very good in biting the bullet.

Still, to be fair, they're going through a harder time than any other generation. Population is growing, and competition rises in tandem. The expectations of your parents and elders is out of touch with present-day reality. The world turns at a faster pace. It's harder to get noticed when you're faring well, but easier to be spotted when you stumble. Social media can be an unforgiving place.

You can rue the luck of being born in this day and age. But so what? Complaining and whining won't change the hand that you've been dealt with. Yes, the deck may be stacked against you. But you know what? That's all the more reason to grow a tougher shell, thicker skin, and above all, tenacious spirit.

* * *

As the popular saying goes: When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

The difference between people who are merely good and truly great is minute. At the highest level, it's no longer about skill nor intelligence. The tie-breaker is resilience. Grit. Patience. Determination. A never-give-up attitude. The greatest achievers are not those who never fail, but those who never cease to pick themselves up after they fall.

So grow a spine. Don't be a snowflake. Bite the bullet, and bite it hard!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Pot Calling The Kettle Black (MY Eng #15)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', and 'mountain out of a molehill'.

Despite their best efforts to fight for social causes and save the world, lawyers are looked upon by people with deep distrust. Yet, some lawyers act surprised. Or go on defensive: "Yeah, but that's because all the rotten lawyers give us a bad name".

What lawyers don't understand is that people can see through their bulls**t. Lawyers are just like any other professionals - bankers, consultants, and doctors. Yes, all professionals are bound by code of ethics. But that doesn't make them any more noble or special as they want people to believe.

Doesn't matter what type of lawyer one professes to be. Criminal, human rights, conveyancing, corporate, IP... All lawyers will still succumb to the same sin - fall short of the same standard of morality that they accuse their counterparts of breaching every day.

* * *

The accusations range from minor to major. Quoting things out of context. Glossing over material information. Misleading the Court. Hiding the truth. Every lawyer is guilty of such mischief, to a certain degree. To accuse other lawyers of doing so is nothing more than a pot calling the kettle black.

On a daily basis, lawyers constantly are at battle of wits with each other. It's part of their job. They're just representing their client. They're paid to be nasty and uncompromising. Law is war. Fighting and preparing for war is all part of their job description. Nothing wrong admitting that legal practice has a dark and ugly side.

Sure, some lawyers fight dirtier than others. Some lawyers go for the jugular without mercy. But it's a jungle out there. No lawyer can survive long out in the wild by playing the book. That's the cold hard truth.

Every successful lawyer has blood on his or her hands. It's a badge of honour, not a source of shame. And that's what clients want from their lawyers - a brave warrior who thrives in the battlefield, not some idealistic scholar who lives in the clouds.

That's not to say that lawyers should flagrantly flout the law, of course. There are certain red lines that cannot be crossed.

Still, lawyers shouldn't pretend to be saints either. Enough with the holier-than-thou attitude. You can't hold the moral high ground. You're no better than the average person. You're as human as the rest of us. You're not perfect.

* * *

"Lawyers are liars!" So goes the common complaint. That may sound unfair, as it implies that lawyers lie a lot more than normal people.

And that's somewhat true, because many lawyers are so convinced of their own over-inflated sense of integrity. People aren't put off because lawyers lie (which everyone does), but because lawyers keep insisting that they're honest and trustworthy (against all evidence).

After all, no one is going to buy any stained pot that pretends to be shiny. And the worst lie is the lie that we trick ourselves into believing but everyone else can see through.


Friday, May 21, 2021

Mountain Out Of A Molehill (MY Eng #14)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold' and 'putting the cart before the horse'.

Previously, I touched on work-life balance, by way of example. The larger point was about how people are prone to looking at problems the wrong way around. Problems that wouldn't arise - or at least, wouldn't spiral out of control - if only they had thought things through carefully.

Since we're on topic, and in keeping with theme, I'll expand further from a different angle.

Why do we get stressed out easily at work or school? What are we doing wrong? How can we make our lives easier?

Once again, the solution isn't so much a cure, but a painkiller.

* * *

Truth be told, most of the 'problems' we face aren't real problems to begin with. We're stressing over something that just isn't worth stressing about. Simply put, we're making a mountain out of a molehill.

Let's run through scome scenarios, shall we?

You just got into a relationship. The first few weeks have been absolutely magical. He calls you every night. You and him talk for hours. You just can't get enough of each other voices and faces. Suddenly, one night, you didn't get a call. Panicking, you keep calling him, but to no avail. You can only reach his voicemail. Did he forget all about you? Is he seeing someone else? Anger builds, and you spill a rage-filled rant on social media. Whoops. Next morning, you get a text from him, apologising profusely for having dozed off early after a long day at work...

You're late for work. All because you couldn't sleep last night overthinking about your boyfriend's absence and bitching about him with your besties. Eventually, you cry yourself to sleep, and missed your alarm clock. As you rushed into office slightly pass 11, you bumped into your big boss. He doesn't look happy. It's only your first month. As you meekly mumbled your apologies, he snarls and sets off on a long lecture about the fragility of millennials. He stalks off to a meeting, where he proceeds to yell at the unfortunate attendees...

Okay, the scenarios may seem rather silly. But we've been all there, haven't we? Both as the victim and perpetrator. And after all the drama has died down, we're left feeling remorseful and embarrassed.

* * *

Why make life more complicated than it really is? Why do we keep making mountains out of molehills?

Maybe deep inside, we secretly enjoy the drama, the heartache, the pain. Maybe life isn't fun if there are only molehills to tip-toe by everyday. Maybe we enjoy climbing mountains and jumping off the peak.

Which is fine, if mountains are what we want. There's always a choice. Life is what you make out of it.

And if so, then just bite the bullet (another idiom!). You can't have your cake and eat it too (got this idiom covered already). There's no sense complaining about problems of our own making.

But if life is really stressing you out, there's probably something fundamentally wrong about how you perceive things that happen to you, and how you react towards them. Chances are, the mountain that seems to be blocking your way is really a tiny, tiny molehill...