This could be a diatribe filled with profanity.  It could be a gripping personal memoir of everything I have seen and done and been in the last year, providing every sordid moment in glistening, horrific 3-dimensional detail.  It could be a long, woeful ramble about what a horrible person I am, how much I regret being myself, and how I should never be trusted to make choices about anything of note, ever, because I am also an idiot.  It could be a lot of things, but really it’s just one thing: I have distilled everything I have learned from all that into three words, easily understood.

Engage as equals.

Easy to understand the concept, but hard to understand how it applies in so many walks of life, and why it is the first tenet I have added to my own personal code in a very, very long time.  I will give you some examples of why I think engaging as equals is critical, is necessary, is indispensable in being a functional adult.

DON’T BANK ON WHO YOU ARE:  If you make your living with your brain, but you are not willing to take your statements, opinions, and arguments into a forum where no one knows who you are, you are refusing to engage as equals.  That is demanding a handicap of reputation, and in many cases, a handicap of perceived superiority over the individuals who may disagree with you.  Your professional reputation was (I hope) based on your ability to state your case well, to research well, to debate intelligently and to prove your points or convince others that you had.  Refusing to engage when the other party is seen as your equal (in intelligence, in reputation, in ability, in whatever) is cowardice, and I will not abide it.

DON’T PITY FUCK:  If you have any interpersonal relationships that involve any level of intimacy, it behooves you to engage as an equal inside them.  Even if you have a negotiated unequal power dynamic, that power dynamic does not change the equality of the partners as people.  And, in a more mainstream sense, it is all too common for one partner to assume that they are more intelligent, more resourceful, more qualified, more attractive, or more *something* than the other.  The catch is this: that usually cuts both ways.  If you are both in a relationship where you feel like you are doing the other one a favor, on some unspecified level, that seems to be to be a great big giant red flag.  You must engage each other as equals – persons of equal value, of equal worth, who may have different things to contribute to the relationship, but whose contributions as people are essentially impossible to measure on a quantitative scale.  If your relationship devolves into measuring who has done more for whom, get out.  Refusing to leave just because you’re used to where you are, or you feel that your partner deserves your treatment of them, or you deserve their treatment of you, is laziness and cowardice.  Again, I will not abide it.

MAKE FRIENDS YOU LIKE:  This is a corollary to the previous point.  If you are in a friendship or acquaintanceship, and you feel like you are doing the other person a favor, get out.  It will drain you and make them feel small.  The same logic applies for friends who feel they are doing you favors – it will drain them, and make you feel small.  Neither situation is one in which friendship can flourish.  The only people who can last as friends, honest and open with each other, are people who engage as equals.  If they do not believe that the other person is bringing as much value to the table as they are, then there will (of necessity) be some sort of commodification of the friendship.  Doing people favors is only kind if you are not waiting to call them in, and not waiting to capitalize on being “that guy” who does people favors.  If you do it expecting a return, that is not friendship, and cannot effectively be masked as such.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS: There are people in the world who are less intelligent than you.  There are people in the world who are less adept than you.  There are people in the world who are less attractive, less motivated, less everything-you-think-is-important than you.  I have bad news for you, chum – those people are still your equals.  No more, no less.  Your criteria for importance are just that – yours.  Those criteria have no bearing on their actual validity as human beings.  Those people are your equals, and if you want to get anything out of your interactions with them, you have to treat them as such.

KNOW THEIR LIMITS:  Corollary.  There are people in the world who are more intelligent than you.  There are people in the world who are more adept than you.  There are people in the world who are more attractive, more motivated, more everything-you-think-is-important than you.  I have good news, this time.  Those people are still your equals.  No more, no less.  Your criteria for importance are just that – yours. Those criteria have no bearing on your actual validity as a human being.  You are the equal to those people, and if you want to get anything out of your interactions with them, you have to treat them as such.  And, corollary again, they have to treat you as such if they want to get anything out of those same interactions.

REMEMBER, CAESAR: Thou art mortal.  Even when you are in the height of your field, at the top of your game, in your best element, and absolutely top-flight of where you will ever be… There is still someone who knows more about it than you do, for a correctly phrased definition of “it.”  That is not a reason to despair – it is a reason to make sure that “someone” has to be so narrowly defined that it takes serious research to find anyone who *does* know more, or is better, in your chosen field.  “Thou art mortal” – praise and damnation all neatly wrapped up in one package.  Thou art mortal, and so is everybody else.  You are, at the basest level, and from a fundamental human perspective, their equal.

Engage as equals.  Give your friends and your opponents the respect they are due as human beings.  Anything less is ego, hypocrisy, cowardice, or outright denial of fact.

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