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The one ingredient that's absolutely essential for understanding anyone.

Picture credit:  bhav.bhav


An old college classmate spotted me on YouSuckMyFatFaceSpace.com or somewhere and sent a message. 

It sparked an idea that's vital for understanding anyone - get it working for you now!  

I don’t remember much about that lad except he was a bit windy and had a mango shaped chin.  He was a good geezer, but it’s over four thousand days ago so ya forget the details.

His message reminded me of a favourite college professor and the day he and I met during her first lecture. 

I couldn’t remember the talk but I do recall she was wearing a homemade knitted tank top with a paper-chain-cut-out-people pattern.  That top was seen around campus quite a lot during my years at college.

Picture credit:   Hiten_Mistry

Hearing from Tropical Fruit Jaw got me thinking about the well dressed professor and something she’d said came back to me:

“In ten years time, some of you sitting here today will be doing very well, and some of you will have gone right off the rails!”

More than a decade has passed.  I think I’m one that’s “gone right off the rails”.  Or perhaps I’m not.  Maybe I’m still on the “rails” trundling along nicely...I’m doing very well, thank you.

But wait, how can I know if I’m on, or off, since I can’t remember her ever saying what those “rails” are?

I think I can guess. 

Make a stab.  Pick up a few clues, put two and five together, and end up with six point nine.   Oh yea, that’s what she must have meant.  Yea, I’m definitely “on the rails”.  Hang on though.  Maybe she didn’t mean that at all.  Maybe she meant something else entirely.  Flamin’ ek!  Now I’m right “off the rails” again. 


The problem is, sometimes, without really knowing people, it’s kinda hard to understand what it is they mean when they say stuff. 

‘Cos despite our dedication to accurate communication in the nation, without hesitation, we all bring our subjective interpretation to every situation. 

We only get partial meaning from words alone.  They’re often not sufficient for us to fully understand what someone means.

So guess how I know the lovely old professor, should I see her again for a cup of tea and two custard creams, would probably say “oh it’s good to see you didn’t go “right off the rails” after all”?

Picture credit:   Ciccioetneo

Relationship.  That’s how.

When we spend time with people, get to know them, it’s not just their words that speak to us.  It’s how they live, what they believe, and what they stand for that’s loudest.  Those things rise above words.

Relationship gives us a clearer picture. 

Relationship gives context.

T'was relationship that eventually let me know exactly what she meant when she said some of us will “go right off the rails” because I got to know that professor quite well. 

Relationship tells me that for her, a life “off the rails” is one of selfishness, closed-mindedness, and a refusal to see, and pay attention to, the bigger picture. 

And what did she mean by “doing very well”?  Well, I think she would have said that that’s all about caring, generosity, making a difference, and reaching for something higher. 

I know this because of relationship.

I’m sure, if she knew the full story of how I, and probably that mango-chinned, windy-arsed classmate too, have turned out then she’d see we do, from time to time, go “right off the rails”.  Yip, more often than we’d want to admit.

But hey!  Here comes that relationship thing again, revealing the context: when we slip off those “rails”, at least we recognise it and do our best to get back on again, fast!

Hey!  Let's have some tough love:

If we're often misunderstood, or we don't seem to "get" people, perhaps our relationships are "off the rails"?  Hey, if we want a better way of living, we can't run away from this one, we've gotta take it square in the gob and deal with it eh?

And so back to you my dear professor.

I do hope our relationship established all those years ago will allow you to see that at least I'm still havin’ a crack at “doing very well”.

Oh yea, and I wasn’t the one who stole your tank top and nailed it to the chapel door.  That was Chris Pope.


Cheers for reading....I do appreciate it tha’ knows!  Do ya reckon our digital connections help us build proper relationships where we really “get” each other?  Let me know if that’s happened for you?  As always, I love your comments.  Much love, Ian.


Think Better.  Feel Better.  Take an Aspin.


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  • Ian AspinLocation: Lancaster Lake District, UK
  • Bio: I’m passionate about my work:TV journalist, producer, presenter, business ideas person. I care about: family, friends, helping people, finding meaning, running