Rules to Live By

These argiope aurantia spiders who live in our garden
epitomize the idea of "being where you are"
In a recent job interview, I was asked whether I have a personal motto.  At the time, I couldn't think of anything other than my favorite Kermit the Frog quote, "It's not easy being green," which was a bit of a non sequitur.

Of course, as soon as I went home and started talking to my friends and family members, I was reminded of past conversations in which I had articulated some pretty good rules I try to live by:

1) Leave more than you take.

(My husband and I came up with this rule on a long hike on Mackinac Island in Michigan's northern lower peninsula when we were considering what we might put on a family "coat of arms." We were inspired by the park's "carry in/ carry out" policy, but we wanted to extend it to contributions of time and energy in the world.)

2) Be where you are.

(This rule is even older.  I began thinking about this idea during my daily commutes on the PATH train from Jersey City to Manhattan when I worked at the 9/11 Memorial.  Usually, I'd listen to music or podcasts, but occasionally my battery would run out and I'd realize that I was standing on a train full of other people, and I had an opportunity just to think about where I was in the world and in my life with no other distractions for an hour of my day, every day.  From a practical perspective, this rule would eliminate annoying behaviors like texting while driving and walking into people on the sidewalk...)

3) Any time you ask a question, have a genuine interest in hearing the answer.

(This last rule comes from Nina Simon's The Participatory Museum. But I realize that I have tried and will continue to try to apply it in my work and personal life.  It is the key to communication.)