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Trying to Please Everyone

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Bill Cosby

This is a tricky quote. If you read it word for word it’s not telling the whole truth, is it? I think we all agree that there can be more causes to failure. In and of itself, trying to please everyone is not a bad thing.

But the point I think Bill Cosby is trying to make is that trying to please everyone is a road that will sooner or later make you feel 1) really bad, and/or 2) really stressed. Why? Because it cannot be done. So there’s where the failure come in.

A serious problem with trying to please everyone is that you might be forced to abandon you ideals. Not everyone will share your ethics and morals. Stooping down, as it were, from the bar you’ve raised for yourself just to make someone else happy will only makes you unhappy. In other words, there will always be a price to pay when trying to please everyone.

What then, should we stop trying to please each other? Not at all! On the contrary, we must do all we can for each other. It should be our goal to please everyone. The problems and the stress begin, however, when we start to measure the success of this goal by counting how many are pleased – or rather, are not pleased – with what we have accomplished.

Before God and man you can only do your best. That’s it. Period. And if your best is not good enough for some people, bluntly speaking: that’s their problem. You’ve done what you can. It’s neither right nor fair that you should punish yourself for something you can’t control.

I know what I’m talking about. In large parts I am this person I am describing. But I have decided not to waste more time and energy (cause I have none to spare) in feeling bad because I can’t make everyone happy. Coming to terms, accepting things as they really are, really helps. I just had to let go of the wishful thinking. But what I kept was the promise that I know we all can pledge to: that we always treat our fellow men with respect and kindness. That must be our gift.

Now the thing with gifts, once you give them away you never know if the receiver will be pleased. Does that mean you refrain from giving? No, you hand them over anyway, because it’s your duty. If your gift is well received, wonderful! If not, you’ve still done a wonderful thing, and you will be blessed for it. The one who looses is not you, but the receiver. Just be happy that you’ve done the right thing.

Be happy also for this great truth:

Although you can’t please everyone, you can always please SOMEONE.

That’s reality. And that’s something to rejoice about.

Brother Louis

22 replies »

  1. This is the first page that made me feel better. I google quotes when I am sad or need some type of boost. I like the story after the quote. Thanks for posting.

  2. WoW did I need this today!! I think it (this meaning I guess) started to recurr after the kids left home. I needed to have someone or thing NEED want & love me, maybe not all & not in that order. I rarely had a hard time saying no or feeling bad for doing that. Now? Not so much & I’m in my 50’s!! Sometimes I think its a maturity thing, that I should act my age or the like, cuz it seems so childish/like. I often come across to folks that ‘woe is me’ but if you ask or not, or need something-there I am, hand raised & ready to go. Almost like a brown-nose’r to a T. lol!! (A coincidence? the person posting above me did so a yr exactly from when my so-far-last grandchild was born…I am not superstitious, as a rule, but dates & times matter to me. For another example- the time 4:20. Many days I will look at the clock, timer, mileage, date or whatever- & 420 pops up. I play a silly game & lots of the time (haha) ‘it’ shows up there too. Makes me think of ‘being out west’, lol, I don’t necessarily DO the 420 thingie but good gravy, (random thoughts) Thank you, I guess I needed to write 2day! 😀

    • catmom you post really affected me today, I also have been experiencing empty nest syndrome and am so used to pleasing everyone else now I feel so lost and alone. I do rescue animals of any kind and this brings me so much pleasure as they are like my babies. My only worry is living long enough to raise and take care of them for their lifetimes, there would be nobody to take them and love them. I don’t worry about me dying just for them. Thank you for your insight, maybe you should play the lottery with your no’s. Good luck!

      • Barbara- I’ve been in the midst of a couple rescues here- afterlosing my eldest cat Jan 23,(diabetic complications, he was 17), this tiger stray meant even more to me. He is & was a symbol– of me in a sense. No one wanted him, owner could care less & it got down to near -40! After many hours of treading the floor with worry, I decided to let him into at least my cellar way. He’d surely be warmer in there at near 45 above 0! ‘Tiger’ stayed in the box I placed for him & ate ravenously when I fed him. That being our only real contact was due to my other cat, unsure of mixing. Had him vetted/neutered shots etc this past Friday, thank God. It’s getting warmer so he wants to go out more which really is ok. I think the spraying stopped & now have to find some type of product to put in cellar as …… well, boxes or not, he assumed the cellar was IT. Love the lil boy, he’s very standoffish- working on the eye contact. Just popped in, ??? if posting in wrong place or not. have a good one! Spring is …..coming.

  3. I’m glad I stumbled upon this article, I mean, this is one of my struggles too. Trying to please everyone makes me unhappy and makes me look at myself as pathetic for not being able to reach their standard. When I get unhappy I sometimes forget that I’m created not to please man but to please God.

  4. thanks, this is a very very good message for me. Oftentimes I want to please all but i ended up stressed and not totally happy. I think I must try to please myself more especially when i know im right and have the courage to say No! God bless our ways.

  5. I’m not so sure we should try to please everyone, after all since when does god ever do the same? he make a very rigid set of rules that obviously very few are going to like them if they like at all, after the fall of Adam and Eve it is our nature to go against his will, unless we put energy otherwise, so while you cannot please everyone and you shouldn’t try to you can always help everyone, and should always try to help everyone even those who curse you

  6. hmmm, interesting, except Its not cosbys quote. Try Herbert Swope. Its funny because he was a journalist and won the first pulitzer prize, you wrote wrote a whole story on a misquote by a real journalist. its kinda funny and ironic.

    • The quote is taken from an official publication, standing in my book shelf, stating these are Cosby’s words. You can also find it on countless of quote pages on the internet. There’s no doubt Cosby said this. Swope puts it in a different way, but with the exact same meaning: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everyone.” I’m sorry but I must have missed your point that this is both funny and ironic? Both men said the same thing. So… I have not made up a “story” on a misquote. If you read the content of my text you will notice I am just teaching a principle, based on my personal feelings.

    • Hi,

      You’re awesome. And the words you’ve used to set your point across are even more awesome.

      P.S. Adam got owned 😛 Let’s see you try being a smartass next time Adam.

  7. This is written very nicely and clearly…..

    “To fail is a natural consequence of trying, To succeed takes time and prolonged effort in the face of unfriendly odds. To think it will be any other way, no matter what you do, is to invite yourself to be hurt and to limit your enthusiasm for trying again”…..David Viscott

  8. I´m so glad you brought this important topic up! It´s something we all struggle with, part of being human, I suppose.

    Myself I was, growing up, the one that turned myself inside out trying to plese – until one day I had no idea who I really was, and had to find myself again! But God is good, He turned on the light, and we´ve furnished and decorated my inner room together. One thing that really helped me is to remind myself that my worth as a person comes not from what others think of me, but from the fact that I am created to mirror God and that He loves me just as I am. This doesn´t mean that I can treat others without love and respect, for what is true about me is also true about them!


  10. I am sure many of us can relate to this, myself included. We try so hard, we want so much to please everyone. And letting go of the wishful thinking; well that can be a challenge.

    I believe the most important thing is being true to yourself. Because if you’re not, in the end you will have nothing to give to anyone. The tricky part is finding the balance in being true to your own ideals without stepping on someone else’s toes.
    I guess in some cases, that cannot really be done either!

    Maybe we need to remind ourselves “I am good enough” more often.
    And I like what you say; We never know whether or not the receiver will be pleased, but the gift has it’s own value anyhow ’cause you have done the right thing giving it. There’s a lot of wisdom in that.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  11. Gosh, I’m really touched by this article…
    You know why??? Well, what you describe is actualy one of my biggest problems.
    I just can’t say “NO” to someone, and that brought me in a lot of troubles the past few years. My husband just hates that!
    I wish I could do something about it, but it is so difficult to choose the right way between!
    Every time I hope God will help me to find the right way…I just want to HELP everyone, and I just can’t accept this is not possible. Stuborn as I am…


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