Deborah Hill Cone: Black-and-white thoughts on a world of grey

The more you think about things, the harder it is to hang on to hard-and-fast opinions. Photo / Anna Crichton

I just changed my Facebook work status from "Tries to write. Curses a lot" to "Psychology student". My first textbooks arrived, which disturbingly include one about statistics. More cursing, then. Apologies for repeating myself, but I'm going back to university fulltime next year and so this is my last column.

But wait, there's still time: "There must be someone you haven't pissed off yet?" my droll boyfriend muttered, without looking up from the racing pages.

Actually, I was planning to say it has been a pleasure and privilege to write this column every week, like other departing columnists do. An honour, blah blah. Also, that it has been your feedback, and emails, Dear Fabulous Readers, that have inspired and sustained me in my darkest hour. But I'm afraid that's not really true.

Of course it's lovely to get emails from strangers who say they agree with you. Who doesn't like that? And you've got to appreciate the people who write to say you're a dick, but still, they bothered to read the thing. Then there were the huffy ones, affronted that I wrote about feelings - that really seems to bother purists who think anything in the business section should have lots of numbers in it.

National treasure Steve Braunias was one of those; a few months ago he told me I was "chatty" (his highest term of abuse, I suspect) and that I thought readers were merely an inconvenience. He was spot on, as usual. I just write because I'm trying to work out things for myself, which is shamefully indulgent. So I really should be thanking you, Dear Fabulous Readers, after all.

Thing is, we're all just trying to find our own truths. My therapist - his name is Dr John McEwan and he is quite clever - has a saying whenever you get stuck: "Just tell yourself the truth." The truth has incredible power. I've used this column to find out my own truths. Which is not always that easy, though it will sound brattish if I complain about the icy finger of deadline terror.

With a column, you have to feel it in your gut or you end up with one of those on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand Peter Dunne-type pieces that brainy people say they really like because they're so "nuanced", but in actual fact no one reads because they're also boring.

But it gets harder and harder to hang on to black-and-white opinions because the truth isn't black and white. And you do feel like a bit of con artist. Why do I have any more right to voice my opinion than anyone else? No reason, really, except I hold forth too much, I babble like a drain when I'm nervous, and I'm a hopeless listener.

Yes, I know, how could I possibly think I could be a psychologist! But I would like to get better at just shutting up and listening and learning.

About statistics, even. Fancy.

So I'm afraid I'm less opinionated now, but I do know a few truths. On business: please remember private enterprise is still a noble endeavour. Be proud of what you do. After all, it is still all about making neat stuff and meeting people's needs. But business, like everything in life, is a mind game. Whatever problem you're grappling with, it all comes back to loving and approving of yourself. If you don't feel deserving, you will sabotage your own success.

As Ellen DeGeneres says, be kind to one another. Yourself included. Happy Christmas, Dear Fabulous Readers.

* Illustration by Anna Crichton:

By Deborah Hill Cone
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