When I was a kid, my mother used this expression every time we went out in public. Leaving the house, she’d say, “Now mind your p’s and q’s.” No doubt the expression is older than the hills, nevertheless, most of us know what it means, or at least we think we do.
There are multiple theories about the expression’s origins, but for the most part, people understand it as: minding your manners, paying attention to the details, or taking extra care not to make mistakes.
Take a look at the letters “p” and “q”
Side by side, they are the mirror image of each other – easily confused or mistaken, and that’s why special care is needed when using them. When I was young, I thought that “minding my manners” was something I had to do for others, to be accepted. But today, I understand them very differently.
What if minding your p’s and q’s is actually a formula for success, for creating your life the way you want it?
Here’s how I see it…
Mind your P’s – Preparedness, Patience and Persistance
Prepare yourself for the life you want. Build the skills you will need long before you need them. Volunteer, practice and learn what you can now. Beyond the practical aspects of getting ahead, when you prepare, you are actually creating the person you most want to be on a cellular/spiritual level. It is like stepping into a costume that will eventually become your uniform, your new skin. If we have an inkling about where we are going, everything we do to get ready will serve us at some point in life.
Patience is more than a virtue. If you could measure success, it would only come at the end of your lifetime, not the beginning. There are so many twists and turns along the way that it’s impossible to know how successful you will be and at what. Strangely enough, this usually comes long after you’ve stopped looking for success. So take your time, do your best and just wait for it. The truth is what you want is already here, already unfolding in the way a wave builds from below and breaks only in the last moment as it meets the shore. The truth is the wave was there all along, you just couldn’t see it. Patience is knowing that what we want already exists, we just can’t always see it clearly. Don’t tear into it; let it unfold.
Persistence is a sign of true passion. When you’re passionate about something, it won’t leave you alone. You’ll know when you’re living your passion, because you won’t be able to give up, even if you want to. Those who really want something, find a way to have it. The only thing that can stop us or slow us down is fear – fear that we can’t have what we want or that we aren’t capable of attaining it. The good thing about fear though is that it comes like a storm and then passes. When it comes to you, try to see it for what it really is, a chance to rest, regroup and get back to your dreams when the sun returns. Don’t open the door and invite it inside to take up residence in your heart. Persistence is the gatekeeper of fear.
Mind your Q’s – Question, Quality, and Quan Yin
Question reality, question your thinking, and question the perceived authority. The only way to get beyond limitations is to question them. The only way to build knowledge is to question what we know and invite new thinking. Learning is how we grow and change and improve. No matter how skilled you are, assume the position of student and you will learn all you need to know to be a master. Learning is the juiciest part of life, the thing that inspires us and excites us along the way. Don’t stop.
Quality is something you have to define under your own terms. Only you can determine what it means to be a quality person and do quality work …for you. Let other people have their own definitions and stop trying to make this universal. Quality is between you and you. It is what you can expect from yourself every day. Adjust as needed and keep improving if you can. Our own quality suffers when we try to live up to other people’s standards. Pay attention to your own clarity, know what works for you and don’t confuse someone else’s dreams, goals and aspirations as your own. One person’s “p” can easily be another’s “q.” As long as you know the difference, that’s all that matters.
Quan Yin adds the meaning to life, so I saved it for last. Of all the qualities of success, this one is the hardest to find. You might not even be looking for it yet. Quan Yin is the name of a goddess in the Buddhist tradition. In its shortened version here it means the goddess of compassion. On the spiritual level, she is said to bestow clarity of mind to see beyond illusory desires, and to grant the clear vision of truth. Quan Yin is about finding our place among all others, without striving, or stepping on others to get there. Knowing your own personal Quan Yin is discovering how your passion (your gifts, the thing you love) can also benefit others. Once you find the truth about what you came here to do, you won’t feel the need to defend or protect it anymore. It is already hosted by the divine, protected by the world’s “need” for it and your willingness to give it. Quan Yin is who you are for others – the most important element of success.