Why do I like dogs more than humans? Because they know how to live and love.

The other day I went to the grocery store and, as is usual, there was a dog tied out front of the store.

Our eyes met, I immediately forgot about the jelly donut that had consumed my entire being all morning and said, “Hello puppy dog.”

I walked into the store and passed several humans, all with whom I didn’t make eye contact and to whom I certainly didn’t say, “Hi.”

On my way home from the store, I thought this was a curious behavior of mine. Why am I more inclined to say hello to a strange dog than a stranger?

The next morning, I went for a five-mile run. It was morning rush hour or, as I call it, “mourning rush hour.” The new school year had started and this added stress to the commute that wasn’t there the previous months.

Drivers, in general, were driving faster. Having to stop at the stop sign upset them. It pained some drivers to wait for a human to cross the street even though that human was running. I became a defensive runner.

On that five-mile run, I heard two drivers honk at other drivers and saw some adult sign language. It was then that I noticed my internal anger. I wasn’t angry at any particular person.

I just wasn’t feeling the love.

I asked myself, “Why don’t I feel the same sort of happiness about my fellow homo sapiens that I did for that canine? Why aren’t we humans waving good morning to each other? Why does the privilege of taking young people to school make for a bad commute? Why can’t we drive with as much care as dogs sniff each other’s butts?”

This is when I thought we could all learn a few things from man’s best friend. I thought of that Facebook meme that says, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

Assume strangers deserve unconditional love.

Assume everyone deserves your unconditional love and would appreciate a wave or a smile (the human version of licking strangers). Be the first to be friendly. This will make you happier and, over time, your disposition will rub off on others.

Live in the moment.

Dogs only care about the here and now. They’re not depressed about yesterday’s mistakes and certainly aren’t stressed about tomorrow’s maybes.

This is a lesson taught in many of the world’s oldest religions. Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching, said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you’re living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

Dogs have mastered living in the present. Be the dog.

Enjoy the simple things.

Our fast-paced, high-tech, constant-consumption world hasn’t made us happier. Some argue that being so connected on social media makes us less happy.

You’ll never see a dog missing Facebook. They do get excited by the sound of someone at the door, though.

You don’t need social media or textual relations to be happy. Connect with the people in your life for increased happiness and deeper relationships.

Forgive easily.

Forgive yourself and others as easily as a dog loves you after it’s scolded. Anger is a cancer that eats the soul. It does no favors. It is both a great example and great relief to forgive.

To err is human; to forgive, divine. – Alexander Pope

Don’t be quick to anger.

I was angry during my manic morning run. The dogs I saw were walking with their tails in the air and sticking their noses out car windows. They were just smelling the world as happy as they could be despite all the chaos around them.

We humans would all have better mornings if we were more like our canine companions. Do yourself a favor and push away anger and focus on joy.

Smother your loved ones with love.

Dog owners know this feeling. No matter how good or bad their day is, when they walk in the door their dog couldn’t be happier to see them. Dogs practically jump on their owners with so much pent up excitement built from the time they hear the key enter the keyhole to the time their owner walks across the threshold.

Be this way with your loved ones each and every time you see them, even if you’re just passing through the kitchen for that last jelly donut. Both your days will be better.

If you adopt even one of these behaviors, you’ll be amazed at how your life improves. If you master them all, you’ll live in a dog’s paradise.

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If he isn’t all that, do you tell her?

Supporting your friends can be hard — especially when you think they’re heading down the wrong path. When that path involves a boyfriend you just can’t stand, things get even more complicated.

But like it or not, a friend’s relationship decisions are theirs alone to make. The only role you should be regularly taking in a friend’s romantic life is that of a supportive confidant. If only it were that easy.

Once it’s clear the new guy is here to stay, though, it becomes an issue of adapting or losing the friendship. So how can you ditch the negativity?

Hang out with his friends.

Meeting your significant other’s friends can be nerve wracking. Consider the possibility that your friend’s boyfriend is so nervous about hanging out with you that he comes across as aloof or arrogant when he’s really just anxious.

Try seeing him in a setting with his own friends, where he’ll be more likely to relax and be himself. If you want to learn what makes someone likable, there’s no better way than to observe them in a situation where they’re surrounded by loved ones.

My parents have a friend who went on a first date with a man she didn’t really like. He ended up convincing her to go out a second time to a party his friends were having. She says she liked all his friends so much, she figured he couldn’t be that bad. They went out again.

They’ve been married for 25 years now.

Examine your own feelings.

Disliking someone’s boyfriend can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Everything he does turns into one more reason he’s not the right guy for your friend.

But what if the real reasons you don’t like him have more to do with you than him?

It’s easy to feel jealous and resentful of a friend in the middle of a new relationship if you’ve been single for a while. You might even start comparing yourself to her, wondering why you’re single and she’s not.

Or maybe you’re upset that she’s spending more time with him than with you, and that their dates are now cutting into the nights you used to spend together. That jealousy is a common sentiment, but it never leads anywhere worthwhile.

Dig deep into your own feelings and ask yourself: do you dislike the guy or the idea of him? It can be difficult to realize you’ve been acting petty and unsupportive of your friend’s happiness, but it’s better than continuing to hate someone for no reason.

Don’t tell her.

Unless your friend is being abused in any way, there’s likely no need to tell her what you think. She might already have a sense of how you feel, and if you do tell her, you’ll only risk driving a wedge between the two of you.

It’s hard to be quiet if you think your friend is dating someone below her standards. but you never know what happens behind closed doors. I’ve had plenty of friends whose boyfriends I didn’t like, only to come around on them at some point when I got the full story.

You also want to make sure if your friend does run into problems, she won’t hesitate to turn to you for help or advice. If you’ve been constantly negative about their relationship, they may avoid reaching out in fear of an “I told you so” moment.

At the end of the day, your personal feelings about a close friend’s significant other are just that — your feelings. Yours to know, yours to understand and yours to deal with. So deal with it.

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Thought everyone left immaturity in grade school like you? No, some people are bullies even as “adults.” Overcome it.

You would think that by the time you’re a mature, successful adult, dealing with bullies is no longer a concern. Unfortunately, some people peak in high school and never really evolve beyond that mentality.

Adult bullying is an inevitability we all face at some point. You’re no longer worried about being pantsed in the cafeteria or facing ridicule for being the new kid in school. Now the bullying is much more subversive — you’re caught in the middle of petty power plays, fighting to earn credit for your own hard work, and perhaps even the subject of nasty rumors meant to defame your otherwise excellent reputation.

Anyone who’s ever dealt with a bully — whether in adolescence or adulthood — knows that simply taking the high road rarely results in justice. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to stoop to a bully’s level to defeat them.

Here’s how to deal with an adult bully and keep your dignity intact.

Remain neutral. I’ve known a lot of bullies in my day. Fortunately, I’ve been able to avoid becoming their victims by playing the role of Switzerland.

Often, adult bullying begins with fake friendship. They lure you in with deep, personal conversations, make you feel comfortable, then use the information you share — presumably in confidence — against you when the opportune moment arises. One Wednesday you’re all wearing pink, the next, you’re tricking each other into getting fat off high-calorie nutrition bars.

The secret is to be a great listener, but never actually engage in bullying rhetoric. Let the bully tell you everything that’s got them peeved, but keep your own mouth shut. Smile. Nod. Walk away. Repeat.

Keep your cool. Bullies are fueled by the superiority they feel when putting others down. But if you don’t give them the satisfaction of that feeling, their powers fizzle pretty quickly.

Refrain from reacting emotionally when a bully makes a joke at your expense or belittles you in front of your peers. When in doubt, ignore them; it’s not only effective, but pretty damn funny when you pretend like the biggest asshole in the room doesn’t exist. Don’t believe me? Just try it.

And if you’re fortunate enough to be blessed with a sharp sense of humor, even better. Feel free to send a few quips their way. If you have others laughing back at them, they’ll be quick to move on in pursuit of a weaker target.

Don’t tattle. As much as your company probably tries to convince you otherwise, your HR department does not exist to protect you — it’s there to protect the company.

If you’re dealing with bullying in the workplace, any information you share with HR regarding personal issues with another employee will likely be relayed right back to the guilty party. And trust me, the last thing you need is a group meeting to “talk things out,” which will undoubtedly add fuel to the fire.

A very big HOWEVER: If the harassment is extreme enough to impact your performance or mental health, you should definitely not let it go. Rather, document your interactions and conversations (be sure to save all those salty emails) and build a case against your bully. Come prepared to present your claim of a hostile work environment — your HR representative will hopefully be quick to solve the problem (i.e. fire their ass).

Never compromise your values. I’m a firm believer that all shitty people are eventually forced to face their own shittiness. Never pretend to be less intelligent, committed, or compassionate in order to placate a bully.

At the end of the day, your reputation is everything. Don’t jeopardize yours because it seems easier than dealing with an adversary. It may take some time, but people will eventually see a bully for who they really are.

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Without the right financial values, you’ll be lost with money and you’ll set a poor example. Fix that right now.

When you’re struggling financially, you might have two different ways of dealing with it. You might freak out because you can’t deal. Or you might just stick your head in the sand and ignore your problems because it hurts too much.

That’s what I did when I was dealing with the worst of my money problems. I had to hit rock bottom before turning my life around. That gave me a chance to figure out what my financial values are.

1. Money is not for the sake of money.

With money, you have to be that annoying kid. The one who asks, “Why?” after every sentence. “I want to be a millionaire.” “Why?” “Because I want to be rich.” “Why?” “So I don’t have to be concerned about having enough money.” “Why?” “So I can do the things I’d like to do.” “Why?” “Because I want to travel the world.”

Finally we get to an answer. There’s no point in having a high balance in the bank or a long-term investing strategy if there isn’t a goal other than gathering that money. If your only goal is to retire with a million dollars, you’re totally missing the point. The purpose of money is to do something with it. What do you want to do?

2. Balance financial independence with helping others.

What would you do if you ended up with one million dollars that you didn’t plan on having? How about one billion? What else is there besides “financial independence” (having enough money to do what you want without worrying about earning more from working)?

Don’t forget to look outside yourself and your family. Help others, especially those who don’t have the same types of opportunities as you. You don’t need to be financially independent to start making a better world. Some of the most charitable people are those who are not wealthy. Find the right balance for you between making yourself rich and contributing to a rich experience for the world.

3. Are your assets on display?

If you feel the world is a competition or that you have something to prove, you probably have less of a problem with showing off your success. Grow up in a community where success is hard to find, and you feel this even more. You celebrate your success publicly, because it not only helps validate you, but it gives hope to others.

But this perpetuates the idea that money and wealth somehow make people superior. And the competition isn’t only about wealth. Look around and you’ll see people trying to prove that they have the skills to save more money than anyone else. Money brings out your competitive nature. Whether it’s about earning money, having a wealthy partner, or saving money, you may feel the need to show off.

Showing off tells people you’re not confident with yourself. People don’t need to know about your success. Keep it quiet and do good with your money without fanfare.

4. Wealth isn’t something to idolize.

Wealth Isn't Something to Idolize: 6 Healthy Financial Values to Fix Your Money Attitude

We see popular people living well and we want to be like them, whether it’s the musical artist who’s an “overnight success,” a Kardashian, or just some couple on House Hunters International.

Have you seen all the books and blogs that supposedly teach people how to be rich by thinking like a rich person? As if changing your “mindset” will give you the same opportunities experienced by people who have lived their entire life surrounded by wealth? Yes, you do have to have a positive life philosophy if you want to be able to handle the wealth you build, but you won’t gain anything by just thinking like a rich person. Financially successful people are not better or smarter than the rest of us.

Strive to be a person of strong character, not a person of a huge bank balance.

5. Money isn’t related to human decency.

On that note, we often confuse wealth with living as a good human being, just as often or if not more than we characterize wealthy people as “evil.” These are both wrong! If you are a bad person before becoming wealthy, you will remain a bad person when you become wealthy.

Just like wealth doesn’t lead to decency or indecency, the lack of wealth doesn’t correlate either. Poor people aren’t necessarily lazy. They aren’t necessarily hard workers, either. Everyone has a life full of their own circumstances that often don’t correspond with any stereotype or generalization. Separate someone’s character from their wealth, and don’t make assumptions.

6. Financial success isn’t a reward for hard work.

You do your chores, you collect your allowance. This is supposed to be a life lesson for kids about how the real world works. Except it’s not!

Yes, you do get paid when you show up for your job, but how hard you work often is not related to how much you get paid. I worked for an arts organization after college, and I worked hard. There were times of the year I worked 80 hours a week and the job consumed my life. Didn’t make much money, though.

There are wealthy people who never worked a hard day in their life. Many have, though, so having a great work ethic is still the best approach to build wealth. The problem is that it’s far from a guarantee. Sometimes working hard just doesn’t pay off. A vast amount — the majority — of people throughout the world work hard their entire lives but will never be wealthy.

Financial success requires grit, but also much more.

What are your financial values?

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Always coming up short when you’re out. Never paying their fair share. What do you do when you’re always covering?

We’ve all had that friend. You know the one.

When the dinner bill comes, they severely underestimate their share (let alone account for tax and tip). You spot them $10 here and $20 there, yet they always “forget” to pay you back.

But you let it slide every time. After all, what’s a few bucks among good friends?

That used to be your attitude, anyway. Lately, your desire for a person’s company has a perfect negative correlation to how much of their crap you are required to put up with. You are, in fact, too old for this shit.

So here’s how to deal with that friend who makes you feel more like a bank than their buddy — without killing the relationship.

Be honest.

The great thing about friends (real friends — not the people you pretend to like out of various social obligations) is that you can tell them the truth and they’ll still be your friend. You’re not doing anyone any favors by pretending your pal’s poor money etiquette doesn’t bother you.

So the next time they leave you hanging with the bill, be up front and tell them how much they owe right then and there. Add that you’re pretty strapped for cash as well and can’t afford to cover them. Consistently push back rather than ignore the behavior and eventually, they’ll get it.

And if this honesty does cause a rift in your relationship, it’s probably time to reevaluate whether you two shared a real friendship at all.

Find cheap/free things to do.

A novel idea, right? As much as you’re annoyed by your pal’s perpetual brokeness, they likely feel pressured to keep up with the group financially, too. That’s a tough spot to be in, and as a friend, you should find ways to spend quality time together that don’t force your buddy into yet another awkward situation.

Fortunately, another great thing about friends is that all you really need is each other’s company to have an awesome time.

Check your local weekly for low-cost and free events such as concerts, art exhibits, and movie screenings. Have a picnic at the beach. Go for a hike. Get dressed up, pretend you’re rich, and hop from one open house to the next while eating all their snacks along the way.

Consider it a gift.

That Annoying Broke Friend

When your friend does ask for money, and you feel comfortable parting with the cash, treat it as a gift. Loaning money turns a personal relationship into one of business, which opens the door for guilt and resentment on both sides, especially if the borrower isn’t able to pay up.

It’s your choice whether or not you want to support your friend financially — and it’s perfectly fine if you do. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t expect things to change if you continue to enable the situation.

Friendship is something that only becomes more precious as you grow older; it can be tempting to over-compromise in order to avoid conflict. But true friendship is also built on honesty and desire to make each other happy, so don’t be afraid to share your feelings in a caring but straightforward manner.

And if your own financial goals are jeopardized in order to keep the peace between you and a broke friend, that friendship probably isn’t worth it in the first place.

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Hard work, dedication, and focus are necessary for you to succeed at your goals. But it takes more than just grit; there are other important factors, and grit binds them together.

Drake raps about collecting $500,000 to perform after starting from the bottom. The step in the middle is working hard, and he tells his audience all about it.

I don’t care if Aubrey Drake Graham really started at the bottom. He feels he did, and compared to some, sure, I’d agree. He’s not the only one praising his own humble roots. Donald Trump also claims to have modest beginnings, making do with just a million dollar loan from his father.

When Drake and Trump look back on their success stories, they put a strong focus on the hard work, keeping some of their advantages in the shadows. These success stories — and they are “true” stories as much as any perception is true — are about their persistence and defiance against obstacles to build their skills.

Unfortunately, hard work does not always lead to success. There are no guarantees. You could follow every rule in the book and still not get what you want out of life. Anyone who says differently is selling you something.

All who do succeed, by their own definition of success, have put in hard work to get to that point — and they have this thing called grit. Grit is essential, but not the only determining factor, for success. Combine this grit with other factors, and you increase your chances of reaching your goal.

What is grit?

What happens when a challenge prevents you from succeeding as quickly as you’d like — or as quickly as people you’re being compared to — and authorities call you out?

Imagine you’re dyslexic and are having a difficult time reading, and a teacher calls you stupid. How would you react? Work harder to prove them wrong, or give up? Success comes to those who set out to show that they can succeed despite the challenges. Those who persist. Keep trying.

Grit is persistence and self-control. Being in control of yourself gives you the opportunity and freedom to choose a long-term goal and for you to pursue that goal without wavering. When there’s only one thing you want to do, only one way you can see yourself living your life, self-control allows you to stay focused. Self-control also allows you to put aside some quick successes in favor of working towards the larger goal in the end.

Persistence is the fight in you, and it’s driven by your passion. Don’t give up because people say you can’t achieve your goals. Society places obstacles in front of you, and your obstacles might be larger than those that other people have to face.

Life isn’t fair — especially if you’re part of a group that routinely has more obstacles than others. It’s a disadvantage, but there is always the possibility of pushing through, even if the odds are stacked against you.

By itself, grit isn’t perfect. You can keep trying, but if you aren’t learning from your mistakes and focusing on other important aspects of success, you’re just as likely to fail at reaching those long-term goals. Even though everyone who succeeds has been persistent and controlled, not everyone who is persistent and controlled will succeed.

I grew my first business from nothing, and I eventually grew it to the point where it could sustain a lifestyle well beyond the ability of a day job in a corporate office or in a school as a teacher. It was never that lifestyle I was interested in. I just wanted to create something, a community, and I focused on that long-term goal. A large part of the success was a result of the hard work and focus I put into it over a long period of time.

But I also had these other factors working for me.

Creativity and intelligence factor into success.

You Won't Reach Your Goals Withing This One Key Factor

Hard work, determination, focus, and self-control, or “grit,” is still the primary driver for success. Grit is so powerful it can make up for shortcoming in other areas, at least to a point.

Creativity lets you look at problems from a unique perspective. When you fail — and everyone who’s successful has experienced short-term failure at some point — creativity gives you a new way to approach the problem.

Intelligence helps you gather knowledge along the way, so you develop insight that helps you make better decisions. It helps you make connections between different concepts. Some of the most successful people use creativity and intelligence to come up with business ideas and strategies that are unique, and they do this by taking good ideas from one experience and applying them to another.

And they test. Testing concepts over and over, in different permutations. That’s grit interacting with creativity and intelligence.

Luck and opportunity help a great deal.

Although not as important as grit, luck and opportunity play a big role in being able to reach goals. Unfortunately, these two concepts are often downplayed by people who are successful. In general, we like to feel that a good outcome is a direct result of things we can control like how hard we work, and that a bad outcome is a direct result of things beyond our control like bad luck, the lack of opportunity, the weather, traffic, culture, or insert your favorite excuse here.

“I built it” is the story we like to tell, because it’s more interesting, and makes us feel that we have had a direct impact on our ability to reach out goals.

But success is always a combination of things within our control and outside of our control.

Some people are in the right place at the right time. I started writing about finances a few years before the stock market crashed. When the economy fell apart, throughout the world, more people were looking to discuss saving money, earning more, and investing. Since I had already established my community, people found me. Advertisers found me.

Some people might say that I was particularly skilled at setting myself up for an opportunity that would be coming, but I didn’t know when the economy would crash. I didn’t know if I’d be ready to reach as many people as I did. Luck played a part. But I recognized the opportunity and jumped on it.

And I didn’t give up when the numbers of competitors increased. Instead, I looked for partners and worked harder and came up with creative solutions to drive my community and business forward.

A good combination of all of these factors absolutely makes your goals much easier to reach, whether these goals are related to business and financial success, fitness and athletics, creative fields like music, or even education. If you want to be able to put “Doctor” before your name, you can be sure you’ll need a mix of all the above. But grit binds everything together, and without that, long-term success will continue to evade you.

Grit: The Most Important Factor for Success

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Take any relationship to the next level by ditching the device and communicating deeply instead.

We need other people in our lives. Your crew is a big part of your emotional health. If your device is getting all the attention you should be giving to your friends and family or if you feel like you have a lot of acquaintances but no real friends, you might want to think about how you can create closer ties with the people in your life.

Our social interactions make us happier, and developing deep, meaningful relationships with people lead to feeling support and even greater happiness. This doesn’t mean that you need to try to become besties with everyone you meet. But you can work to create deeper relationships with a few people you really enjoy being around. (As an introvert, I am more comfortable when I limit the number of deep friendships I have.)

Reduce textual intimacy.

Your first step is to stop using text as much and actually connect in person — or at least via voice. I love texting as much as the next person. It’s easy and you can avoid a person or put them off. Plus, you can respond slower, reviewing your words before firing off.

While all of this is great, the reality is that texting has made it easier to avoid people and their emotions. Want to break up with someone? Send a text and block their number. You can avoid the emotional consequences. Telling your bestie something difficult? Texting means you may have the guts to say something hurtful that you would never say to someone’s face.

Rather than relying on texting (or Facebook messaging) to keep in touch, make sure to spend some time talking on the phone, using Skype, or seeing each other in person. Textual relations might be easier to manage, but that distance means that you could be missing out on something harder, but worth it.

Listen.

No More Textual Relations: Develop Meaningful Connections: Listen

One of the issues with our soundbite culture is that we’re always looking for the next quip. On top of that, we often want our turn to talk. My 13-year-old son can barely contain himself when he has something to say, and that means he’s often busy trying to figure out what he will say next, without really listening to me.

Listening is one of the keys to meaningful relationships. It forces you to pay attention to the other person and usually results in boosting your empathy. Your buddy will appreciate your effort to listen, and you’ll have a willing ear for your own issues. Just the act of sharing these thoughts can help you develop meaningful relationships that go below the surface.

Laugh.

Laughter really is the best medicine. When you can laugh with (not at) someone, you are more likely to build stronger ties. Research indicates that laughter can foster an emotional connection and enhance positive feelings. If you can find some common things to laugh about, you are likely to have deeper relationships.

Don’t be so judgy.

We all have our unique quirks. If you’re constantly judging others for their issues, no one will want to hang with you. Plus, you’ll have a harder time seeing others’ good qualities. You can’t really understand someone and get to know him or her when you are too busy passing judgment.

Follow up with potential besties.

No More Textual Relations: Develop Meaningful Connections: Follow Up

It can feel vulnerable to put yourself out there and make a move. Whether you are inviting a friend to the movies, asking your brother to hang out with you, or trying to get with someone, following up can feel like defeat. You don’t want to look desperate.

If you like someone, and you want to be friends or more, put it on the line. Follow up. You’ll show your interest, and it might be the beginning of something really cool. Waiting and making excuses only means that you miss out on the potential for meaningful relationships.

Like yourself.

Before you can have a meaningful relationship with anyone, from your mom to your bae, you need to like yourself. Take the time to get to know who you are, and learn to feel confident in that. When you like yourself, you are less likely to use passive-aggressive tactics on others.

Deeper, happier relationships require effort and time. Put down the phone, make eye contact, and watch your relationships mature beyond textual intimacy.

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Your boss sees the photo of you partying too hard. Or she sees you rant about your job. You’re done.

The words you say, the pictures you post, and the memes you share have consequences.

Don’t be the guy or girl who gets fired or expelled for a stupid mistake you make on social media. You’ll just be next on the long list of people who didn’t realize that trouble awaits behind every ill-conceived post.

It is so easy for everything you do and say to be shared with the world. Forever. Permanently. There’s no going back to having private lives, now, so you just have to deal with it.

Remember when you thought Facebook was a safe place for you to just be yourself without parents, teachers, and bosses seeing what you’re up to? Well, social media sites are universal now. Everyone can see everything.

Even if you think your privacy settings prevent people from seeing what you’re up to, the real truth is that it doesn’t take much for anything you share in the strictest of confidence to be made public.

Here’s what happened to famous people who didn’t realize this. (Hint: they weren’t famous first.)

Craig Keefe, Justine Saccor, Ashley Payne

These folks became infamous after their incidents.

Craig Keefe

Craig Keefe was a nursing student at Central Lakes College in Minnesota when he used Facebook to make “private” derogatory comments about his classmates. The school nevertheless discovered the comments. Because that behavior violated the school’s code of professional conduct outlines in the student handbook, the student was expelled.

Keefe believed he had protection under the First Amendment to publish whatever he pleased as long as his comments didn’t slander anyone, but that was not upheld in court.

Justine Sacco

Justine Sacco made a bad decision when she, the lead public relations employee at an advertising company, posted a remark that could be considered racist on Twitter right before her airplane took off. Sacco may or may not have thought her “joke” was racist, but when her flight landed and internet service returned to her phone, she discovered she was fired for quipping about being safe from contracting AIDS in Africa because she was white.

As someone who worked in public relations, she should have known better. Good news for Justine. After only seven months of unemployment, she found another job in communications, working for the fantasy sports company facing legal troubles, FanDuel, according to Sacco’s LinkedIn profile.

Ashley Payne

Ashley Payne did nothing more than post a photo on Facebook holding a couple of drinks. Payne was a teacher, and even if she kept her profile private, a parent spotted the photograph, taken and posted several years prior, and informed the school’s administration.

She was asked to resign immediately, losing her job for a photograph that depicted nothing illegal. Even if she hadn’t touched alcohol since that photograph, because someone could find it, she had to face consequences.

You may think none of this is “fair.” Here’s what you can do.

Don’t use social media to complain about your job or school. If your boss hasn’t found you on Facebook yet, she will. And hiding posts from people isn’t the perfect solution because any vindictive “friend” can take a screenshot and make your post public.

Realize the public doesn’t have your “context.” If you joke about racism often, and your friends encourage you for some reason, don’t expect that anyone outside of your group will also consider your thoughts appealing. There are laws to protect employees from being fired for illegitimate reasons, but if your conduct in public reflects poorly on the company, you’ll quickly find yourself unemployed.

Remember you represent every group you’re a part of. When your actions become a news story, whether globally, nationally, or just within a group larger than your closest friends, you become a scapegoat for everything people don’t like.

If you’re a student at Yale making an insensitive comment about privilege, you now represent all Yale students to someone who’s not. You represent the Ivy League to anyone outside of that community. You also represent all college students to someone of a different age or life path. To someone outside the United States, you now represent all Americans.

It’s worse when you’re a member of a minority, especially if you are part of a group that isn’t well understood by others. If your skin color is dark, every mistake you make is seen as a failing of all those who share that skin color. If your sexual orientation or identity is not normative, despite diversity within your group, your attitudes could come to represent the entire group for those on the outside.

Does it matter what other people think of you, even if they’re ignorant? Yes. Once your behavior hits the news, your identity from an external perspective will be reduced to any identifying group that you could represent, regardless of the depth of your character. And sometimes you need to be respected by those people as an individual, and a capable, responsible person.

Yes, these consequences can stifle free expression throughout society. The world has opened up, and what used to be private communication now has the potential to get you in trouble. If you freak out when your boss finds your Twitter account or when your students find the Facebook account you use with your middle name instead of your last name, you may want to change some of your online behavior.

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