Does the spotlight shine on you? Should it?

We all want to be noticed and appreciated.  Doing good work isn’t always enough, so how can you get the spotlight to shine on you? It turns out the better question to ask is – should the spotlight shine on you?

For women in particular this can be a very vexing problem in the workplace.  HR Florida review posted a really great article on 3 reasons the spotlight doesn’t shine on you.

The authors, 2 men, have the following advice:

1st  - Did you make a difference that other people love? It’s apparently not enough to do good work. That is expected. You need to do work that helps other people.  I agree with this in principle, but as any woman can tell you – this can work great for men, but women, don’t always get credit for the things we do, probably because - it’s expected.

2nd You need to shine the spotlight on other people.  This one I do agree with. When you shine your light on other people, you not only spread the love around, you also become indispensable as an opinion maker. As the author’s point out – in the workplace, helping management see the good work of others, helps the managers SEE you! You are the link. So don’t be afraid to be the person who get’s people’s attention, not for yourself but for others.

3rd  - if you only want the spotlight to be in the spotlight – you don’t deserve the spotlight  Oh my goodness – I love this advice the best!  Yes!!!!!! We have too much craving of fame for the sake of fame. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out the spotlight. It just means why you are seeking the spotlight matters to whether or not the spotlight helps you or hurts you.

When you seek the spotlight not for yourself but so that you can do more good you are seeking it so that you can maximize the good that is being done and for other people!  This ties into the 2nd bit of advice – shine the light on others.

Women's Credibility Gap

We women have a problem. If we do good work that people love, it’s expected of us. So we aren’t given credit for it. We are also discouraged from seeking credit because it makes us look power hungry.  Especially when it looks like we are seeking the spotlight to just be in the spotlight.

But … we can use this to our advantage by turning this around a little bit. In order to be as effective as you can be so that you can do great work that really makes a positive difference, you need to get credit for it because – that credibility gives you greater influence so that you can get more done.  The seeking of credit isn’t to make yourself bigger, it’s in the service of your goal of service.

When we shine the light, not on ourselves but on the people whose work we are helping or whose lives we are changing, we end up in the spotlight. Not because we were seeking it for ourselves, but because we sought it out in service of a cause that makes a real difference in real people’s lives or work.

Will you still get pushback for trying to get the credit you deserve? Of course, but here’s the thing. Doing good for the sake of doing good feels REALLY good.  Helping others is great motivation, it doesn’t mean you have to subjugate yourself to other people. Just help raise other people up and raise yourself up so that you can raise other people up more effectively. If you do this, enough people will recognize you for your good work and you can happily ignore the haters who were going to hate anyway.

Credit = Credibility

Remember, getting credit is getting credibility. Credibility means you have more power to be more effective at what you do. You get credibility not by focusing on building up yourself, but by building up others. Being that person whose opinion is credible because – you aren’t self-serving.

Go get ‘em girls.

And men – if you are reading this – PLEASE start noticing the good work that women do and stop taking us for granted.  Be the guy who gains credibility by putting the spotlight on the women who should be getting the credit!

Why are people camping on the street?

Homelessness and Humanism – we aren’t doing enough.
Irfan Khan/LA Times
Last winter I took my son to Los Angeles.  It was a family visit combining dealing with my dad’s estate and visiting with family. As we drove into downtown LA my son suddenly asked me. Why are people camping on the overpasses?

I hadn’t really realized it because – homeless people are everywhere in downtown LA. But he was right. There were tents crowding every overpass. We live in an area that is semi-rural. Here our homeless have camps in the woods. You just don’t see them congregated like this on the city streets.  So my son hadn’t ever seen a homeless person where they “live.”

In LA, he saw the tents, and to him, tents mean camping. But why would someone camp in the street? It’s a darned good question. I’m ashamed to say, when he pointed it out my first thought was, at least they have tents. That’s a really nice improvement over what it used to be like.  But that doesn’t solve the problem. Does it.  It just makes homelessness slightly less sucky.

A couple of years ago my son did a summer arts program in Sarasota FL. I spent a lot of time in the downtown library waiting for his program to finish. There are a lot of homeless people that hang out in the library. I can see why. Its air conditioned. There are bathrooms and water fountains and you can sit down. Sarasota actually took out the benches in the park across the street to discourage the homeless from congregating there.  Apparently homeless people aren’t allowed to sit. Now, to be fair, Sarasota has done a good job of getting homeless veterans off the streets.

What I was reminded of that summer is that homeless people are first and foremost people. Many of them refuse to beg – they play music for tips instead.  That’s how this guy was discovered.

What I learned from hanging out there for a few weeks was that there are a lot of people like him living on the streets in Sarasota. Now imagine how many of the people living in tents in LA have hidden talents that they can’t make the most of because of harsh economic circumstances.

Yes, mental health issues are important. We need to start funding mental health care and care for the homeless. If not out of compassion then for national security/public health reasons.

But mostly – we just need to start caring. There but for fortune go you or I.

So what can we do? Besides being politically active to direct funding and aid to people on the streets? How about volunteering.

The Beyond Belief Network has volunteer teams all across the country. Many of them do projects to help the homeless. Find one near you – and volunteer. Make a difference.

Prejudice against prejudice?!?!?

Discrimination is a problem for all employers. Recently, we are starting to see a legal argument being made that discriminating against people who want to discriminate is a form of unfair discrimination. I was asked about this on Quora and I wanted to share it here for humanistic leaders and managers to help you understand why despite a person’s plea that you accommodate their prejudices, you shouldn’t.

Is it acceptable/wrong to be prejudiced against prejudiced people? In society, prejudice and discrimination is deemed as inappropriate and morally wrong, be it in the form of racism or ageism or so on. However, even people who accept this as a fact of life are prejudiced against those in the society who are prejudiced, making them hypocrites. Is such prejudice ok?

I am very intolerant of intolerance. So I understand why you feel this way. However, let's start by defining prejudice, which is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

If someone is prejudiced, they cause harm because their actions aren't based in reality. In other words, these opinions are not based on experience and/or reason.

Prejudiced people discriminate against other people for no good reason and discrimination causes real social and economic harm and sometimes physical harm as well.

Because people who are prejudiced cause real harm to real people for no good reason, the real people who are really harmed by prejudice reasonably start judging people who are prejudiced as dangerous, because they are.

Judging people who are prejudice as dangerous ignoramuses isn't prejudicial because that judgement is based on real experience. If you are being harmed by prejudice, being upset by it and disliking people who are prejudiced is totally reasonable.

I understand why prejudiced people don't want to be socially ostracized because of their prejudice. Social ostracism causes real harm. Which is the entire point.  But if you act like a jerk you should expect people to treat you like a jerk.  Don't want to be socially ostracized for being a jerk? Don't be a jerk.

All our actions have consequences. If you act in a way that harms other people, other people will start to avoid you and employers will fire you to protect the other employees and their customers. This avoidance behavior isn't prejudiced because avoiding people who hurt people is reasonable judgement, not prejudice.

So, to answer your question, no: people who dislike and avoid prejudiced people are not prejudiced and they aren't being hypocrites. They are taking reasonable actions to protect themselves and others from the harm prejudiced people cause.


Why do people chase happiness?

They chase happiness because they think that will make them happy. And they think being happy will make their lives better.

It doesn't really work that way though. You can't catch happiness. Happiness is an emotion and like all emotions it is fleeting. It comes and goes moment to moment.

The problem with "chasing happiness" is that having happiness as a life goal is not a good thing. It's what I would call a proxy problem. What people really want is to thrive or to be content or eupraxsophy (I hate that word btw). What we humans really seem to want is something other than happiness and tied to happiness but that is more than happiness.  We don't really have a good word for it - except to say - we want good full lives.  And we feel like we are failing when we aren't optimizing our lives.

Psychologists have a term for this - it's called wellness syndrome where we tie our concept of wellness to morality. It's not healthy or good for us mentally as it can create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and when we fail to meet those unrealistic expectations, we feel bad - not good.

A better way is to understand your goal isn't happiness but to live life fully, whatever that means to you. When the bad moments come - and they will come, they are part of the experience. The good moments, same thing.

What helps us feel fulfilled is knowing that our lives matter, not just to us but to others.  This is an existential matter tied to our awareness of death. Our lives, in the big scheme of things don't matter. Yet, we need to feel like we matter to feel ok.  Carl Sagan addressed the solution to this in his book Contact - “She had studied the universe all her life, but had overlooked its clearest message: For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” ― Carl Sagan, Contact

Being of service to others. Caring for others. Doing our best to be and to manifest love, even when we are stressed out. This is what gives our lives meaning. This is what helps us to feel ok and connected and that we matter. The key to feeling connected is to not focus on yourself. It is to focus on how you can be of service to others.

If we want to be happy, we should stop chasing happiness and focus instead on mattering. What can you do that will matter to others and help others? If you can accomplish that, you will feel very satisfied and happy with yourself regardless of the details and problems you face. This is the Humanist way.

This essay first appeared on Quora -

If you want to learn more – may I suggest the following books:
      or dvd  

My online course – Living Made Simpler -
Or any of the following life skills courses -

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