Everyday we learn valuable life lessons. I have decided to document many of these life lessons for my children in order to guarantee they are passed on and not forgotten.
When in Doubt Make A Left
Making decisions is like anything else in life; practice makes better. Rarely will you be faced with a challenge AND provided a complete and clear set of data upon which to base your decision. Do not waffle. Evaluate the evidence you have, trust your gut, and take action. Life is too short to just ride along, get behind the wheel.
When I was young I played a game called Wolfenstein 3D, it was full of mazes where you are faced with decisions constantly. I figured out that if I made a left and followed the wall continuously l would eventually make it through every time. This became a mantra by which I live. Anytime I am faced with a decision where no correct choice stands out, I do not hesitate, I make a left. This decision making practice will lead to new experiences and knowledge upon which you can make better decisions in the future. You’ll find yourself a better more intuitive decision maker as time goes by. People will respect that and look to you for advice. The discipline of decision making is the first step to leadership.
Keep Score Privately
Compete in all things you do, against others and most importantly against yourself. “What gets measured gets improved” is a saying I believe wholeheartedly in. Count and measure everything you do, this will provide a baseline upon which you can gauge progress. Strive to be the best at everything you do.
There will be times when you may be given an award for just showing up, a participation trophy or someone may not keep score in order to avoid hurting others feelings. Do not engage in this practice, politely refuse any award not earned, or at minimum dispose of it later.
Everyday you are winning or losing at something, it’s ok, it’s natural. Compete furiously to be the best you can be but recognize that you cannot always win. I have learned that the most important ingredient in winning is losing. Learn to be a good loser. Congratulate sincerely those who best you no matter how frustrated you may be. Let them know you gave it everything you had and they beat you fair and square. Embrace their skill, learn from them. This is how to lose and more importantly this is what leads to winning.
Simply put, when you are wrong, point it out. If you’re keeping score privately the way I have advised you to this should be easy. Whether others know it or not point out when you are wrong clearly and without excuse. It is natural to be uncomfortable doing this at first and like everything else, practice makes better. Your ability to overcome that discomfort and say, “you were right” is what will set you apart from others and build trust in those around you.
The ability to say “I’m sorry” is the same, I do not know of a better way to build an unbreakable rapport with another human then by proving to them publicly that you not only listen to and value their opinion but you will point out when they are right and you are not. This is very closely related to our previous topic on keeping score. Winning feels good but losing feels even better when you are selfless.
Strength and Honor
Physical and mental strength develop through rigorous constantly varied training. Education and productive hobbies like reading, writing, dreaming and building develop mental strength. Physical strength is obvious, train your body for functionality and maximum energy output, never for looks. Break a sweat every day both physically and mentally. Although perfection is not achievable do not let that prevent you from aiming for it.
Honor develops through the application of strength. Act with integrity always. When presented with a challenge stand in the truth no matter the cost. This is easier said than done, you will be tested, remember these words and stand firm in the truth.
Making good decisions like never lying, cheating, or stealing no matter how tempted you are is the path of honor. Defend your beliefs and defend the right for others to have their own beliefs. Seek out opportunities to stand up for the weak and apply your physical and mental strength to protect them.
Throw the First Punch
Aggression is a old value and in today’s world increasingly depreciated and frowned upon. The irony is for those who embrace it success is much easier. Ultimately we are all animals and as much as some would try to deny our nature the truth is those who strike quickly and with force are far more likely to persevere.
When I was a very young child my father taught me to always throw the first punch. His exact words if I remember correctly were “When you know a fight cannot be avoided, never let the other guy hit you first.”
This advice got me in a lot of trouble early on as I struggled to fine tune the meaning. Ultimately it hardened me. This lesson applies as much or more to business as it does to self defense. When you know it’s time to rock and roll, get into position quickly, watch for your opportunity (a distraction in your competitors eyes) then strike with everything you have, as quickly as you can, and do not yield until you have clearly won.
Check Your Emotions
You’ll learn that despite what would appear to be logical common sense humans instead tend to make decisions based on emotions. My biggest mistakes in life have all been rooted in high emotion and impulse, not sound logic. If you can learn to remove your feelings from a situation and instead focus on what the ideal outcome should be then move in that direction you will find far more success and be a more effective leader.
It is easy to get excited, recognize this in yourself and take a timeout if necessary. If you allow a situation to get you too worked up it will cloud your judgement. You will bend logic and back into the answer you want. This applies to everything from making small purchases, to changing jobs, to arguing with someone you love.
When emotions run high acknowledge them, decide where you want to be long term, view everyone around you as a partner in achieving that goal, and discuss positively how we can all get there together. Remember your lessons on Humility, Honor, Respect, and Charity. The emotional fog will lift and logical path will present itself.
[3/2/2014 – note from Bill; 6 done, 21 more life lessons for my children drafted and on tap so check back for more next week]
Bill, I stumbled upon your website by complete accident because I was curious if the domain (which happens to be my name also) was available. I really enjoyed this article. I think it is sound and incredible advice. Words that everyone, especially good leaders, should follow. And it’s actually very interesting to me that I feel like I could have written it myself. I look forward to reading more. Good words here.