Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Things I’ve Learned, Part One

Be thankful.   For your talent. For your health, for the ability to see, breath and walk. Be thankful for the time you get to spend with the people you love--being with those people you love is best when you are together, but it's still good even if it's only on the phone.

Your own name is music to your ears. That's why people love it when you remember their names. All that being said, the names I like best are "Dad" and "Poppy".

Wear Sunscreen and quit smoking. I have been paying the price for avoiding sunscreen as a kid and smoking as young man for the last 20 years. I fear I will always have to deal with what I did to myself all those years ago.

All our stuff is temporary. Whatever it is that you have today, whether it's riches, possessions, family or health, it can be stolen away in a moment. All your good things are on loan. So while you have good things, cherish them and be thankful.

If you lose something, even if it seems to be everything you have, remember God never closes one door without opening another--maybe even a better door--so be aware and look for that new door, it will be there.

God expects you to accept help. There is an old joke about a drowning man who was offered assistance by a lifeguard, but turned him away saying no thanks, he was waiting for God to help, then he was approached by a fisherman on a boat offering help, and the man turned the fisherman away, saying he trusted that God would help him. Finally he drowned. At the gates to heaven he asked St Peter why God had allowed to drown. St Peter said, "God first sent you a lifeguard and then he sent you a boat, what kind of help did you expect?"

Read more. There's a great deal to be said for reading a real book--probably Kindle counts too-- for actually turning the pages and for creating the tale in your mind's eye. Finding quiet time and spending the time it takes to read a book is healthy, and allows for some think time too.

Binge watching TV is pretty cool. It's almost as good as reading a book if the show is well written. And it sure beats the hell out of 1/2 hour comedies, or news that repeats and repeats and repeats all day.
Go boating whenever you can. There is nothing...absolutely nothing...half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. From the wind In the Willows.

You are the average of your parents. That's a good start. But we are all modified by the people we spend our time with, in other words, you are influenced by your social environment. Choose that environment wisely. Don’t hesitate to make changes when you suspect things (or people) aren’t right.

Childhood doesn't last. When you are a child or a parent, this fact is a happy thought. But later when you have raised your children, you realize it's a shame--you will always remember those little kids, and want them back.

Nobody plants weeds.  But in our social environment, weeds (sometimes in the guise of bad situations) come up.  As soon as you notice them, you must weed your environment, the same is true in your business, don't be afraid to fire people who become weeds.

Real New Englanders save stuff. For 30 years I proudly saved every nail and screw, spring and stick, and oddly found a use for much of what I had "in stock".  But when we moved, it became painfully obvious I had too much junk. Now I am learning to throw things away.

Public opinion is usually wrong. Situations change faster than our society's accepted opinions. They always said you must go to college, you must get married, you must, you must, you must. When our parents went to college--they were in the very top of their age group, when we went to college we were in the upper percentile of our age group, today so many more people go to college that being a college graduate only makes you average--today a diploma is less important and less relevant because the way we do business has changed so much. If you can think for yourself, you will shine at whatever you do.

Remember the nuggets your parents used to say. In the back of my head I still hear my mother repeating her lessons to me. Things like "that may be OK for some people, but it's not for us..." or, "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is..." or, "make me proud". And my father saying, "instead of gambling, you may as well just go throw your money in the ocean--at least you'll know where it went." They never had anything much to say about drinking or smoking, although my father quit smoking only a few years before he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He started smoking again almost right then--saying, "these things won't kill me..."

Perception becomes reality. You must decide how you want to be perceived. You create your own reality in all ways, by how you act, what you say, how you dress, these all contribute to how you are perceived and what becomes your own reality. As they say, "if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck--there is no question: it's obviously a duck."

Fake it until you make it. A little more about perception, if you act like who you want to be--you will be perceived as that person and in short order actually become the character you have created. If you want to be an artist, do what artists do, paint everyday, act the role, dress the part, go to galleries and people will  perceive you as an artist--talent not withstanding. Perception becomes reality.

Be a good Gatekeeper.  Control your inputs. Some of us only control what we eat and drink but to be a successful gatekeeper, it's more than that. Control what you read, what you watch, what you listen to, where you spend your time, who you spend it with. Good inputs help you, and your environment, bad inputs are destructive, so guard your gates with care.

The greatest reflection of your priorities is your time. It doesn't matter what you say is important to you, the true test is where do you invest your time. If you say your priorities are your family or your health or your business, that statement will only be true if your appointment calendar reflects it.

What appeals to you when you’re alone. When no one’s looking, when the house is empty, when you're alone with your thoughts, when the afternoon is yours alone —where does your mind wander? Your natural wanderings are your touchstone to what’s truly interesting to you and will help focus you on your real dreams.

Most people aren't sure what they want. A lot of good happens when you define what you want. Once you can visualize what you want, put yourself in a position so that your dream can come true.  Talk about your dream and ask others for help in achieving it. When they are realistic, wishes usually do come true. Conversely, be careful what you wish for.

To really know what you think, write it down. When I write something down I find I can edit and rewrite it until I can clarify and clearly say what I actually think about something.

You must vote.  If you don't vote you don't get to complain about who won. And conversely, when you go to the polls, do your homework first. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to make the best choice based on the abilities and standing of the candidates who are running. Too often we have had popularity contests just like in High School. The best looking candidate is usually not the best candidate.

For a satisfactory career, do just what you like. Doing what is expected of you--by parents, spouses and others, instead of following your passion--usually doesn't work out all that well and wastes your time. When you find your passion, you will work harder (and longer) and become more successful than you ever thought reasonable. And if you are following your passion, it's not really work--it's fun.

Once you have found your real career, the money will follow. I thought I wanted to be a publisher and worked at that for almost 20 years. Then I discovered real estate allowed me to work near home and turn clients into friends. I loved walking into a local supermarket and have former clients say "Hi". And the better I got at real estate, the more money I made. I only regret that I didn't find it sooner.

Exercise in some way. I know exercise is good for me, even if I don't do it all that often. I try to find little ways to exercise every day. I take the stairs. I work around the house and yard, and I try to swim a few laps everyday. Is that enough? Probably not.

Risky business is good. Nothing is a sure thing, so take risks. Nerves on edge is really the only way to know that you’re being stretched. If there hasn’t been a moment of  "good stress" in your life for a month, ask yourself if you’re pushing hard enough.

Stress can chew you up. Learn to accept stress in bite-sized pieces. Burn it off with a walk or a drive or just playing with a dog. Dogs are totally non-judgemental, and love you unconditionally. Think of them as the valve on a pressure cooker, they can bleed off the pressure and make you whole again.

Be genuinely curious.  Curiosity ends up being the driving force behind the most interesting people. Find a topic or two that interests you and allow your curiosity to run freely,  follow where your curiosity takes you.

Pay it forward.  I like the concept, and being generous feels good. I say generosity is paid out in emotions, money and time. It doesn't have to only be money. Be a mentor or teacher or a volunteer, give of your time and energy. And be a spouse or a parent and share your love. Being stingy with your time, energy and emotions will comes back to bite you. As the Beatles wrote, "the love you take is equal to the love you make..." You get what you give--I think that's true.

We are really just tiny beings. In the great scheme of things, we are only a collection of atoms in a poorly understood universe that’s probably infinite. Go outside to admire the trees and mountains, watch a sunset or experience a rainbow. At night look up at the moon or the stars. If you are having problems, they will seem pretty insignificant in the context of all of that.

Build (or share) something. Of course society wants big discoveries like a cure for cancer or an anti-gravity machine, but most of us only make small contributions.  Yet even the small stuff is important. Never forget the value of creating something, even if it is small. Even if you just write a letter, share a great recipe, make a painting or snap a photo--and share them. No matter how insignificant your creation, making something feels good. Sharing your creation makes it a gift. Giving a gift feels good. Plus you'll enjoy the personal pride of your creativity.

Most people live lives of quiet desperation. Most jobs are only average. Most people’s work is mediocre. Most products and experiences are mediocre. Most lives drift to mediocre. If you can rise above what's average, everyone will notice. Being above average is usually only a function of showing up on time with enthusiasm. If you can add value to a company, you will be a success. Remember in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

People are afraid to take the blame.  We have somehow raised a whole country full of people who will not stand up and accept the blame they deserve, they'd rather hire a lawyer or deny and flat-out lie. I think owning up even to a bad situation shows character and usually solves the issue. Lying is only a temporary solution, the truth almost always comes back to haunt you.

Don’t be too big for your britches. It’s easy to be passionate about great wine, or hand roasted coffee or truly wonderful food; but don’t be above enjoying a paper cup filled with boxed wine, or a cup of instant coffee or a hot dog.

Don’t get disheartened. Attitude is everything. If you get disheartened, the life you planned for is drifting out of your reach. Don’t ever underestimate the value of enthusiasm. Even when things are going south, and enthusiasm is all you have left, if you really have enthusiasm, you're already on the upswing.

Everyone has a vice. Everyone has a fault-line. Don’t spend too much time searching for it, but just know it will be there and don’t be disappointed when you find it in others, it's a human frailty.  You have frailties too within yourself. Maybe you know your fault line. Try to keep it to yourself and just try to do your best.

Listen to your body. And care for it. It's the box you live in and if you’re not careful, your box will fail--sooner than you think.

Understand the value of time. Life ends up being really short, no matter how long you live. You can recover money, you can rebuild houses, you can re-buy stuff — but you can’t get back time.

One day I will die. Maybe even today. It's as natural as being born, and we will all go through it--nobody escapes this transition. You never know where you are on history’s big wheel. You never know what’s coming for you. You must have faith. Your moment is coming.

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