Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pigs with Lipstick

By Julie Rahm

Pigs are a frequent theme in my newspaper column. My husband, John, is responsible. Many of his leadership lessons use one-liners with pigs as metaphors. So, pigs are a frequent topic in our home. For example, John’s friend recently leased a luxury car. He is leasing the car from a dealer who has no morals or conscience. The leasing arrangement is a terrible financial decision. However, John’s friend persists in trying to convince us on the merits of leasing this particular car. John accuses him of putting “lipstick on a pig”. You see, no matter how thick the lipstick, the pig will still be ugly. In spite of color and amount, there is no way you can make a pig a beautiful with lipstick. John’s friend will be financially burdened with this lease for many years. I see other examples all around.

Our good friends purchased a 35-year-old sailboat with intentions of fixing it up and going cruising. The boat is tired and needs a major overhaul. They are spending enough on the old boat to have purchased a new boat. Sadly, after spending a new-boat amount of money, they will still have a 35-year-old boat. However, while wondering if they will actually get to cruise, our friends still expend a lot of energy trying to convince others in the wisdom of their choice. We find it awkward as all discussions seem to lead back to their boat choice. But, no matter how thick the lipstick, the pig is still ugly.

My husband, John, and I had a whole herd of lipstick-wearing pigs living in our house. Now, we don’t bother with the lipstick which makes life with pigs a lot easier. Recently, John got caught up in some good marketing and purchased a rigid dinghy for our sailboat trip. Almost immediately, we realized the dinghy was too unstable. Rather than take an unsuitable dinghy, John admitted his poor choice and purchased an inflatable dinghy with a hard bottom. It was an expensive mistake. But, John didn’t try to put any lipstick on his pig. He “fessed-up” and moved on.

It is difficult to “fess-up” when we’ve made a poor decision. So often, we are engaged in image control or have fear of being judged. However difficult, it is necessary to confront our failures and move on. Most often, others already know we’ve made a mistake. There is no sense in trying to convince them otherwise. However, if you do find yourself applying lipstick to your pig, stop! My metaphorical tools can help. The level lets you know you are off center. Shine the flashlight to examine your mindset. Use the pliers to remove those unhealthy motives. And finally, use the measuring tape to visualize your progress. And, most importantly, don’t put lipstick on your pigs!

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