Leading with Why

If Eggshells, Then Floor : Three New Angles On Old Idioms

“Walking on eggshells.” “Treat with kid gloves.” “Walking on thin ice.” etc. etc. etc.

It isn’t important why these terms are on my mind (use your imagination: I’m on the couch, at night, and a little angry; wife, baby, unemployed, existence… take your pick). I’m sure there is plenty of bad mojo to go around for everyone and mine, by far, is not the worst. We all have these days.

What is important is that I’ve discovered that I don’t do these things very well. I’m not an ogre with an icepick for a heart who has no understanding for other people’s feelings. In fact, I tend to think (and I’m sure I have a personality test laying around somewhere that will prove it) I have a fairly high level of emotional intelligence. I read people well. I notice differences in how people walk in the office that lets me know if they are happy or sad. I take notice when someone who can’t sit still for more than five minutes never gets out of their chair or when that person in the meeting is staring just ever so slightly to the left of my nose while in a meeting. Hell, I’m usually the one that bends the ear needed for these people to talk into.

The reason I say I don’t play well with the above phrases is because I don’t want to wear gloves, I can wait till the spring and take a boat, and I can damn well find a broom to sweep up those eggshells. What I mean is that I can listen, empathize, advise, speak, teach, mentor, train, and give to anyone that is willing to try and help themselves. When I see a problem I want to solve it. I don’t want it to sit there and go undone and you shouldn’t either, especially if those problems are causing others to treat you differently.

A good starting place is by getting rid of these tired old phrases. Maybe these new angles will make you think a little differently when you hear them again.

Beneath That Ice Is A Deep Sea Of Possibility

When you walk out on that thin ice you are taking a risk. It could crack. You could fall in. You could get hurt. These are all true, and that is exactly what this idiom is meant to tell you. Don’t take that risk because you could die.

Here’s how I see it. Screw what you need on the other side of the river and crack that sucker open. I can see that other shoreline just fine and I have a pretty good idea what’s over there, but I have no idea what’s under that ice. It might be nothing, but it might be an entire ecosystem yet undiscovered. That other shoreline isn’t going anywhere.

When someone says, “Careful, your walking on thin ice.” I have one reply, “Yes, I am.” And I pull out a drill and start digging. That ice is covering a solution to something and I’m going to find it.

Gloves are a limitation not an advantage

Treating someone with kid gloves is actually an idiom based on using gloves made from baby goat skin. Apparently, these particular types of gloves are extremely soft, yet thin enough to provide a great deal of precision. This allows you to handle something very gently and carefully so that you don’t hurt or damage it.

Here’s how I see it. Pull off the gloves and get your hands dirty. The human fingertip has one of the highest collections of nerve fibers in the entire animal kingdom, the metaphorical fingertip has even more. Don’t put limits on yourself just because you might damage something. Damage is an unfortunate consequence of a mistake, but it is impossible to maximize your potential when you are taking your own tools out of your tool box. Give yourself the highest chance of success by allowing yourself to fail and to absorb as much information as you can.

When someone says, “Handle that with kid gloves,” I say, “No.” Then I know I’m learning more than everyone else and I have more tools to work with. I have an advantage.

Eggshells Are Trash

Walking on eggshells is a phrase I hear all the time and probably the one that gets to me the most. It’s usually said in reference to someone who is on edge about something or about a particular topic that is hard for someone to discuss. I don’t really get it. I guess the concept is that you might break one of the eggshells if you aren’t careful about what you say, the proverbial boot will damage something??

Here’s how I see it. I’ve never seen an eggshell damage anything, ever, it’s a freaking eggshell. You crack it over the stove and throw it away. It is a container for a very delicious item that goes great with bacon and toast. The eggshell isn’t that big of a deal and it can’t hurt you, so why leave it lying around or worry about crushing it? That eggshell is covering up a perfect spot on your newly laid hardwood floor you spent the last week replacing after learning how from a few hours of watching the DIY Network. Stop staring at it, get up, walk over, and throw it away.

When someone says, “Walk on eggshells with that one,” I say, “No,” and I find a broom and a dustpan and sweep them up.

Ultimately, we are all going to be faced with these types of situations, where risk, precision, and fear are serious barriers to achieving certain goals. It is in those times where we have the best chance to be different, to stand out from the crowd and achieve something great. It is also a time where we have the greatest chance of failure, or causing damage or pain.

And the reality is that we are not going to be able to drill into every inch of that ice, use every tool available, or pick up all of those shells. What we can do is see what others don’t and never squash our human curiosity and urge to explore the unknown, get out of our own way and make sure that we maximize our chances for success, and realize some issues are insignificant and only serve to distract us from celebrating the work we have accomplished.

I hope this made you better. See you next time.

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