July 15. “If you have a tendency to brag just remember it’s not the whistle that pulls the train.” (O. F. Nichols)
Two of the many short lessons my mother taught me as a child are “don’t toot your own horn,” and “self praise stinks.” Those two sentences have stayed with me all my life. She taught me early on that my actions should do the talking for me, and that if there is a horn to be tooted, or a praise to be given, that it will be far more meaningful coming from someone else. Today’s quote is another reminder of the idea those notions.
I like the train metaphor for this quote. The whistle on a train is located in the locomotive. In the days of steam engines, the whistle was blown by venting some of the steam from the boiler out through the whistle. The rush of the air would cause the noise. The whistle was a pure by product of the operation of the engine itself. In fact, the whistle could only blow if the engine was working hard. But the whistle offers nothing to the operation of the train, and doesn’t help to move a single car down the track.
In my life, if I take time to brag on my own accomplishments and traits, then I am diverting energy away from actually getting things done. Instead, when I concentrate on working hard, I can accomplish far more. The lure of bragging is a distraction from the actual work.
A director I once had at work had a saying that falls in line with this quote as well. He used to say that “it was amazing how much would could be done if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” I am sure we can all relate to the scenario where there is a team of people working hard on something, and there is posturing going on to take credit for the work. Usually that posturing is done by a small handful of people who have put their self interest above that of the group or project. What my director reminded us of, and what today’s quote reinforces is that those distractions reduce the team’s effectiveness.
Today my reflection is on staying vigilant to make sure that I am not partaking in bragging. There are times when my efforts must be totaled up and reported, but those times should never take on the form of bragging. Instead they should be a dispassionate gathering of facts and data, and the evaluation should be left to others.