Standards, Pride & Professionalism

America, Bring Back Your Standards

Standards, personal and professional pride, and any degree of decorum are becoming extinct.  

The impetus for my commentary on this subject: this year’s commencement ceremony at my high school alma mater. I hadn’t attended a graduation there since my own back in 1988.  What I saw appalled me.  

I witnessed “untidy” (and that’s being generous) people in all manner of dress, almost none of which would qualify as appropriate.  Sleeveless T-shirts with slits cut down the sides, dirty caps, tattered shorts, sweat pants, and footgear verging on house slippers.  

Mind you, I’m no Fashionista. I simply believe there are certain life events you honor by showing up bathed and appropriately attired, rather than appearing homeless. 

It’s About Standards, Not Money!

Special occasions not only merit respectful attire, these events also merit respectful behavior.  

Which means you don’t scream, make barking noises, or blow off airhorns.  Yeah, you heard that right. One group of sweat pant wearers blew an airhorn when their kid graduated. The ensuing raucous made it impossible to hear the names of the next two graduates. I’m sure their families appreciated their children being denied recognition on their special day.  

If you’re saying, “Damian, these people dress and act inappropriately because they’re poor,” I have a simple response: You have your cause and effect wrong. They’re poor because they have low (or NO) standards for their appearance and conduct.  

As a kid who wore hand-me-downs as the youngest of nine children, I’m specifically NOT making this about money.  I’m making it about standards.  

My family was not well off. Most of my friends in my factory and farm town were blue collar.  Yet for weddings, funerals, graduations, and even wrestling banquets, me and my blue collar people showed up in the nicest clothes we had and conducted ourselves in a dignified manner. 

Standards = Effort & Respect 

Sadly, this complete lack of standards is not isolated to a single graduation ceremony. It’s everywhere. I see it in my travels in the pajama -clad person next to me on the plane.  I see it in my fellow traveler who tells me to “deal with it” when I ask her to please turn down the volume of her electronics. I see it as a customer - and you do too - when those we do business with don’t respect our time or act unprofessionally.  

Standards - high or low - go beyond clothing. Clothes are just the most immediately apparent. 

You see, the standards you set for yourself commonly go hand in hand from one aspect of your life to the other. How you work, how you dress, how you conduct yourself, and how successful you become are are all linked to your standards. 

Raise your standards of what you will and will not accept, and you’ll likely raise your income, your lifestyle, and your peer group.  Of course, it’ll take a little effort.  Because that’s all standards are is effort. And respect, for yourself and for others.  

What You Allow, You Endorse 

Sadly, societal standards seem to be collectively lowering.  Want to attend your daughter’s graduation wearing your tank top and gym shorts with your ball cap on? Go ahead, you likely won’t be the only one. While you’re at it, blast off the airhorn. That’d be high class. 

What you allow, you endorse. What you tolerate, you strengthen.  What you accept, you embrace. That’s why I’m covering this topic. I refuse to endorse, I don’t want to strengthen, and I’ll never embrace a culture of pride-less non- effort.  Who’s with me? 

Damian Mason is a Businessman, Podcaster, Agriculturalist, Author, and Social Commentator. Find him at 

Angie Carel