Just don’t do it

Forget new year’s resolutions. Here are 19 things you should stop doing in 2019.

Story by Tony Knoderer • Illustrations by Curtis Billue

We’re a couple of months into the new year. If you’re a resolution-maker, you’ve made yours. And probably broken it. (We’re just being realistic, statistically speaking.) Now it might be best to drop the focus on those big, yearlong tasks you said you’d do. Maybe take a different approach.

At Kiwanis magazine, we’re instead offering 19 things to stop doing in 2019. Maybe you don’t need to worry about all of them. But we all have our shortcomings, right? Look at the list. When you see one that hits home, maybe tell yourself to STOP. 


Blaming “kids” for being addicted to screens. Kids these days live with their faces in their phones. Here’s a lesser-known fact: You do too. We love to blame youngsters for stuff we’re also guilty of. (Honestly, how many people your age could find Bolivia on a map?) But the next time you’re in public, look around. You’ll see people of all ages — younger and older — scrolling and texting. And then, let’s face it, you’ll go back to your phone. 

According to market-research group Nielsen, American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or simply interacting with media.


Leaving voice mails. Speaking of phones: As long as you’re using yours, why call and leave a message for someone whom you could just text? A text is quick. Go with the more efficient option when it makes sense. Need to tell someone what time the Kiwanis project starts? Text. If someone wants to hear your voice, they’ll probably text you to tell you to call. This is how it’s done now. Seriously.

But always, always call your kids and grandkids, no matter how many times they tell you to text. There are exceptions to everything.


Telling people what to do.
All right, fine — but technically this list is telling you what not to do. And we’re distinguishing here between, say, getting things done and micromanaging how they’re done. Effective people — not to mention leaders — know the difference. So do the people around you. Stop and think: Are you the type who offers advice that makes something easier or better, or are you someone who simply needs to control things? 

Did you know: Micromanagement is the top complaint people have about their bosses. And research by an instructor at Harvard Medical School has proved that micromanaging bosses can make employees physically ill.


Refusing help. On the flip side, there’s the inability to take advice. Or, worse, to accept help. Whether it’s a small observation or professional expertise, everybody needs assistance with something. If your time as a Kiwanian has taught you anything, it’s that. So, take the hint. Consider how much better are people’s lives — and the world around them — because they stopped thinking of themselves as “proud” and started being open to help.


Talking like a young person near a young person. You’re probably doing it wrong. How do we know? Because you’re an adult — you have all the street cred of the vice principal “rapping” to the students at a pep rally. (Admit it, you don’t even know if it’s called “street cred” anymore.) An updated vocabulary will not save you. Quite the opposite, actually. In fact, times haven’t changed much on this one. How cool did you think your parents were when they tried to talk like you and your friends? The teen version of you likely rolled your eyes too.

Take our advice and you’ll be made in the shade, daddy-o.


Rushing through yellow lights. Take it as a metaphor, if you wish: Stop ignoring the moment in front of you in your hurry to get to the next thing, which you’ll also want to rush through. Always good advice. But also feel free to take it literally: Stop rushing through yellow lights! You’re endangering yourself and anyone with you — not to mention the other people rushing through. Metaphorically, literally … just stop and slow down. 

Every year, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports approximately 2.5 million intersection accidents: 50 percent are serious collisions and about 20 percent are fatal.


Apologizing without apologizing. If you’re sorry and want to say so … say so. Not sure? Don’t believe you’re wrong? Do not split the difference with the “Sorry if you were offended” routine. An apology-sounding sentiment is not an apology. It’s an obligation, and it sounds like it. Move the situation forward. Apologize — or start a longer discussion if that’s what’s called for. Anything else will leave you at square one, with a little fresh resentment thrown in.

According to psychologist Harriet Lerner, research suggests that women overapologize and men don’t apologize enough. She adds that apologizing to your children shows you are strong and value fairness.


Giving unwanted nicknames.
People who don’t go by Buddy or Dude notice when you call them “buddy” or “dude.” It might even sound suspiciously like you’ve forgotten their names. Or you just don’t care. There’s a surprisingly fine line between friendly and overbearing. In fact, bestowing generic nicknames can seem more like a dominance maneuver than a friendly gesture. Be honest: How important have you ever really felt when someone called you “chief”? 

Do this instead: At your next Kiwanis club meeting, ask members if they had a childhood nickname. You’ll get some funny answers for sure!


Taking yourself too seriously.
It might simply mean accepting that another person could have a good idea. Or it could simply mean cutting yourself some slack. Either way, see your flaws and strengths as part of the larger world. Then contribute. Be part of the group. Do your best where you can, for whomever you can reach.


Ignoring that pain. On the other hand, don’t take specific parts of yourself too lightly. Particularly when one or more of them is causing you pain. After all, pain means something is wrong. Sure, it might be minor — but you don’t know that until someone says so. Someone knowledgeable. (We’re talking doctors here.) Don’t treat aches like bees — they won’t go away simply because you ignore them. 

Some common — but possibly serious — pains you should never ignore: sudden severe headache, severe stomach pain, pins and needles in your feet, swelling and pain in one leg, sudden difficulty breathing.


Expecting immediate responses. Technology sure has put our communications into hyperspeed, but it also increased the volume of messages we receive. Remember, people receive a ton of emails, texts and phone messages every day. It may take them many minutes to find your note. Or maybe they’re busy with work or their families. Or they’re on vacation, happily disconnected on some remote island paradise. Let ’em be.


Wasting time. There’s no shortage of advice out there on procrastination. We’re here with a big-picture reminder: Kids need Kiwanis. That means you. How much of 2019 have you already spent on the internet or in front of the TV? (Or, um, making lists.) Meanwhile, the clock ticks. An hour becomes a day, and the day becomes … well, as the writer Annie Dillard once put it: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Spend yours fruitfully.


Wasting talent. Everybody has something they’re good at. Some lucky folks do it every day. But many don’t — because of limited time or personal circumstance. If you’re in the latter group, don’t give up. Making your talent even a small part of your life is a nice little jolt of fulfillment. Find the time. It beats that gnawing feeling that you were meant for something else. 

And who knows … being a part of your Kiwanis club might be the exact talent you need to express.


Saying “yes” too much. You’re a Kiwanian, so you know: It’s nice to be nice. But pleasantness, like candy, can be a good thing you come to regret if you partake in excess. In the long run, what’s worse: an honest “no” or a “yes” you can’t fulfill? Agreeing to something is different than doing it well or at all. Remember, limits enhance efficiency. Don’t be afraid to draw a few.



Acting on impulse. We all value what comes naturally. But there’s often a difference between an instinct toward generosity and an impulse to act or respond. Let’s face it: The latter doesn’t always lead to good things. Especially if you’re sending an angry text or email — or reacting verbally to something. But even a generous impulse can have long-term consequences you didn’t intend. Don’t confuse backsliding — or backing down — with thinking things through.

Never send your first draft. If you must, initially let your sarcasm and anger flow in a cathartic vent; then, edit your message as if you’re the recipient. And destroy the original!


Reasoning with unreasonable people.
There are folks who just will not believe sensible things. Even worse, not all such people are 2 years old and 2 feet tall. The good news: You’re not responsible for them. We can’t offer any surefire ways to get an adult to chill out. But we will offer this reminder to save you time and sanity: You can’t reason someone out of an opinion they haven’t reasoned themselves into. Don’t try.


Believing everything you read or hear.
But wait! What if you’re the unreasonable one? Next time you encounter an outlandish headline or rumor, take a second look. Or get a different perspective. Maybe it’s harmless to believe your least favorite actor or politician is a space alien. But it’s the plausible-sounding stuff that does damage. For instance, parents who won’t vaccinate their kids — and spread illness through a community. Spread reason instead.

Don’t know right from wrong? Check snopes.com when you question the validity of a “fact.”


Referring to every good quality as a “superpower.” You know what’s super? Helping people in need. Raising money for a children’s hospital. Running faster than a speeding bullet. But showing up for work or starting a meeting on time? Sure, it’s good to do the stuff you’re supposed to do. But calling it “super” (or a “power”) inflates the grade. And it devalues what’s truly super. Such as changing lives or improving a community. Or leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

Idea: As an ice-breaker or to start your next Kiwanis meeting, ask everyone what they would choose as their superpower.


OK, complaining too much. The world offers plenty to gripe about, so you won’t dodge every temptation. But the next time you’re on the verge, step back and ask yourself: Is this something to bemoan, or to solve? And isn’t addressing things the reason you joined Kiwanis? You’re here to change the world. So do it! 

According to Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, it’s best to complain with a purpose. Otherwise, complaining can make you sick. Really!

This story originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Kiwanis magazine.


2 thoughts on “Just don’t do it

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  1. Good article and I agree with 18 of the 19 just don’t do its. However, but, although, etc.., I think your way off with your take of voicemails vs. texting.

  2. Just Don’t Do It … a practical and well received article from Tony Knoderer. A ‘HOME RUN’ “dude.” 👍😂. Btw, what was your childhood nickname, and YES, kids need KIWANIS.

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