Regulars and Shorts, Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center

By Dennis Hinkamp

How to be less of a jerk.
by Dennis Hinkamp

People often ask me where I get the ideas for columns. My stock answer is: “It’s easy—everything irritates me.” I take one thing and try to make it sound more funny than angry. The trouble is that I also irritate myself with my relentless criticism of everything.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.52.18 AMGoat: I alter my way home several times a week just to see this cool square-pupil guy silently munching away at weeds along this fence line.I guess it could try to write a self-help book or delve into the weird and wonderful “blogosphere” or even do a TED talk, but I am going to keep it simple. Here’s what I’ve learned about criticism, in a list of three.

1. Use your real name. Unless you are a secret Santa, government whistle blower or in the witness protection plan, nothing good will come out of being anonymous. Your comments section name of Dr. Truth will only bring out your darker nature. While you are at it, use your real face. Mirrors are unflinchingly honest but that’s who you are every day. No need to hide behind a superhero or PhotoShop.Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.52.37 AMMini Library: Nobody reads anymore right? This sort of dogged optimism deserves an award.

2. Snark is dead (or at least on life support). Pull the plug; having a wise-rear response to everything is, like you, getting old. “Hey, your dad just died; at least that makes the family reunion less complicated. LOL” No, really, I have seen this and worse.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.52.44 AMMosaic: Got some broken pottery? Make some art!3. If you look for good, you will see it. This has always been an option but more recently the concept of “mindfulness” has helped me bring it into focus. I bought a package of cheap blue first-place ribbons and started carrying them around with me. It changed my life. Instead of looking for stuff that annoyed me, I started looking for “the coolest thing I saw today.” It doesn’t work every day, but these are my top four so far.

Dennis Hinkamp would like to note that being less of a jerk does not preclude still being an occasional jerk.Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.52.50 AMBe Kinder Than Necessary sign: This has been around the valley for several years and I still don’t know who to thank. Contact me and I will send you some money to keep this going.

This article was originally published on June 30, 2015.