One of the great lessons I learned from my mom is to go try new things. She used to often say, “Just go try it. You have nothing to lose. You’ll learn something, and you can use that later on.”
Such a great attitude. My work today is really the combination of many, many little moments where I tried something, learned something, and determined if I ever wanted to use it again. As you assemble bits of learning here and there, you now have more than you can assemble into a meaningful package of value to offer to other people.
Right now I’m reading two books from the Civil War era. One on Ulysses Grant by Ron Chernow called Grant, and one on Abraham Lincoln by Doug Wilson called Honor’s Voice.
The thing that stands out for me so far is that they were both down-to-earth, ordinary individuals from low income families. And yet they saved the U.S. and ended slavery. One as a writer and speaker, and one as a military leader.
We need to be very careful not to ever assume that we can predict an individual’s success. Sometimes greatness happens from a person who was well-groomed and well-funded in the early years of life, but greatness also happens from people who are not refined, polished, or rich.
As you think about what you will get for other people this holiday season, remember the person who was with you every day on this year’s journey: your Self.
This is the person who went through the highs and lows of the year with you. This was the person who experienced the emotions with you, who made the decisions with you, and who dealt with the consequences with you.
What can you do for this person, your Self, as a way of saying thank you for everything that has happened. You’re not on this journey all alone. You have someone with you who is really important. That someone is your Self.
I graduated from college almost 34 years ago. When I look back over all those years and think about what I’ve actually done in my working hours, I would say the best thing I did was to read books.
When I finished one, I pushed myself to find another. Not counting mystery novels, I’ve now finished 560 books since college graduation. I probably started and didn’t finish 200 more.
The beautiful thing about reading books is that the impact on your mind is not just the number of books you’ve read. The impact is much, much more exponential than that because your mind starts to combine ideas from multiple books and leads into new ideas. This is the greatest of reading and reading and reading.
Read as much as you can. At least 10 pages a day. You will be vastly better equipped to consistently deliver excellence when you do that.
Take some time to rest. Not only to not work, but to also take a break from volunteering and parenting and taking care of parents. Let your mind and body unwind. Call it meditation, call it taking a nap, call it vegging out. But rest.
Allow your internal batteries to recharge for an extended period of time. Not just one day a week, but every day.
And then go back into action.
If there is one word that I think could be used more in business it is forgiveness.
People work very hard. They become tired. Sometimes they say things that come out in a way that they didn’t mean, or they say things they shouldn’t have said but they just blurted it out.
I find that oftentimes others act too quickly to banish or bash the guilty person.
How about saying, “I want you to take some time to reflect on what you said, and then let’s talk about it.” Given this opportunity, the guilty person can discern what went through his or her mind and realize why he or she said what was said. Then the person can apologize in a sincere manner.
Then you are in a position to do something remarkable and that is to genuinely forgive the other person for the mistake he or she made.
In business there is always a lot of money involved in situations. Can you set that money to the side and truly forgive someone who said something in a way that he or she didn’t mean to do so in such a hurtful way?
In the film, Deconstructing Harry, Robin Williams played the part of Mel who was always out of focus no matter who looked at him. He looked fuzzy to everyone. The punchline is that at the end of the film all of his family members wear special glasses to be able to put him in focus. Rather than Mel changing, everyone else had to change.
In the book, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, Fred Rogers talked about the dangers of sublimation, which means “the process by which socially unacceptable behaviors are channeled – sublimated – into more socially acceptable ways.” For example, he talked about how violence in children’s cartoons went from an unacceptable to an acceptable behavior. People thought it was out of focus to put a machine gun in a cartoon, but little by little they allowed it to become acceptable. They put on “special glasses” to make what was out of focus, and wrong, into something that was okay.
Please don’t fall into that trap. When someone says your behavior or your words or the way you phrase things are wrong or inappropriate, don’t attack back and make the other person change. Really consider the feedback that you may be out of focus and consider what you need to do. I learn the most when someone is honest with me in a private conversation and tells me I’m out of focus.