Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TED Tuesday - Why to believe in others with Viktor Frankl

I'm going to preface this by saying that I have been, at many times in my life, a pedestrian, a cyclist, and a motorist.

I know what it is like to be cycling on a busy road, to feel intimidated by other vehicles around you. And I know what it is like to be hit by a truck while cycling! I'll just say, none of it is fun. I go out of my way to be non-aggressive when I am passing a cyclist, to leave the appropriate amount of space (half a lane), and to stay calm behind a biker even when I have somewhere I really need to be right. now. But it really really really irks me when cyclists don't take the time to follow the rules of the road themselves. Most of those rules are there to protect themselves! And many of them are there to uphold a standard which helps motorists know to respect cyclists as a vehicle.

What is this all about, you might be asking, why is Farren ranting about cyclists today? Did a cyclist kill her entire family?!

No, no... This post is actually about Expectations. It is popular these days, and especially in my circle of friends, to expect very little from those around us. We are all people with our own predisposed ideas and we will all make our own decisions, and they may seem random at times, so don't expect anything from anyone, and the world is your oyster, correct? While I do agree in some cases and situations, I also wholeheartedly disagree. I do have certain expectations. I expect you not to spit in my food, I expect you to be honest when speaking, and I expect you to respect all living things. These are common expectations, no?

So the other day, I am driving down a long and winding road and there is a cyclist in front of me. Since I am about to turn right onto a one-way street, I decide to slow and wait for the cyclist instead of passing and immediately turning in front of them. To my surprise we turn the corner together, and he immediately darts to the left directly in front of my car - out of his designated bike lane - and takes the first left without signaling to me at any point! I had to slam on my brakes to avoid him. My first instinct? My window was already down, so I called after him - "PLEASE SIGNAL!"

Rude? Maybe. It embarrassed the manfriend something awful. He argued that yelling out a car window probably won't influence anyone and instead they might defiantly ignore my request... my request to look after his own safety. I considered his point for a long time, I really did. After all, you do attract more bees with honey (or flowers, really!!), than vinegar.


But ultimately, I have decided that it is not only appropriate for me to register my expectation that he communicate with me properly while putting his life at risk - it is necessary. Maybe he had never even considered signaling before. And whether or not my request influenced his decision, I can only control my output and not the reactions of others - but I do feel that it is absolutely VITAL that, as a society, we communicate our expectations to the others who share our communities. This is how we build vibrant and respectful places to work and live! If it happened again, I would do the same thing. Cyclists need to signal if they want to be successful and alive at the end of their journeys, and I'm willing to be that jerk who tells them. Besides, I said "please."

By being idealists about the intentions and the power of humankind, we are pushing ourselves to attain those goals, says Viktor Frankl, legendary psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor, as he delivers a powerful four and a half minute long message on why it is important to believe in others. This TED Talk was actually filmed in 1976 and has been declared by TED to be "best of the web" and definitely worth seeing. Please spare the 4:21 to listen to this funny man tell you about the human search for meaning -- and the most important gift we can give others.

In many ways, we do create our own reality, and in general, the people around us will rise or fall to our expectations. Do you think it was wrong of me to request this cyclist signal?


  1. Blake recently yelled at a cyclist. He was biking and pulling a huge cart, so he was basically impossible to get around. I finally did get around him and at a red light he caught up and was behind me. THEN he passed on my left and ran the red. Blake yelled, "Hey you ran that red back there:. It was stressful to try and avoid this guy.
    I try to be nice to cyclist, but it's scary when they are endangering themselves.
    Also, your new layout looks really good. It's a lot cleaner.


    B) I guess everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. That, however, is how I ended up with 1 baby and 0 babydaddies. So, you know, maybe I should temper my faith in man's good intentions with some good old fashioned cynicism?