It took me 50 years (as of today, thankyouverymuch) to learn these lessons, and they only really mean something to me, but hey… this is my blog anyway.
Kevin’s Lessons From Living Fifty Years (in no particular order):
1. I gotta be me. Sammy Davis Jr. nailed that one a long time ago. Any successes I’ve had in life — personal or professional — have come from “me being me.” There’s little value in trying to be something I’m not, though like most people, I’ve tried that a few times.
Some people like the “real” me, and that’s good. Some don’t, and that’s, well, their loss. To coin another old song, “It don’t matter to me.”
2. Tell it like it is. We spend way too much time talking around things as if everyone comes to the party damaged, and needs us to patronize them so they wont be offended. I say be direct and to the point. You can clean it up later if needed.
This politically-correct garbage we see today is pure bunk.
If we would all “tell it like we see it,” then people would know more about us, trust would be increased, and we’d communicate better and more frequently. If someone is offended by unoffensive language or conversation, they have an issue, not me.
3. People will disappoint you. Get over it. This includes me, family, and friends. We allow our expectations to grow beyond reality, so we set ourselves up for routine disappointment in others. Friends are friends; family is family. Neither are anointed with some “I am perfect” super-powers or intuition.
We can’t hinge our satisfaction or value in relationships on some arbitrary (and fairly capricious) standard of performance and behavior that we levy on others without so much as a word of warning. In work parlance, we would at least insist on “setting and communicating performance expectations.” We should do the same with our relationships, or even better, just realize that people will disappoint, and not intentionally.
Heck, they probably don’t even know it most of the time.
4. There’s always a mountain to climb. I have a small statue of a German mountain climber on my desk given to me by Roy Van Cleave, my graduate professor in Management. Dr. Van Cleave was a retired Marine Colonel, and one of the smartest men I’d ever met. He gave me that statue when I told him I was leaving the Air Force, saying I would always have a “mountain to climb.”
He was right.
Sometimes big ones, sometimes just mole hills. There’s always something big and bodacious staring right at us. Such is life…
5. We don’t listen nearly enough. I’m not talking about “hearing,” but really “listening.” Tuning-out-distractions-focusing-on-the-present listening. Working hard at understanding what others are saying, without thinking about all those things our minds feel inundated with due to the stupid quantities of information we screen today.
I facilitate several leadership groups, all levels. One of the most common “ah-ha!” moments, from a year-long curriculum, is usually the art and value of listening.
Try it sometime. Sit next to someone speaking to you; tune out everything else, and try with all the fibers of your being to “get” what they are saying. Don’t think about your next conversational volley, or judge the speaker’s content prematurely. Just listen.
You’ll be surprised at what you “hear.”
I’m sure I should have learned much more over the course of fifty years, but I’m actually a pretty shallow person. Thanks for reading…