38 Lessons that took me 38 Years to Learn

I’m Hoping You Can Learn from My Mistakes

I turned 38 years-old today. Looking back on a myriad of past mistakes and bad decisions, here’s my birthday present to anyone interested — 38 lessons that I wish I’d learned much earlier in life.

  1. We almost always know what we should do to get what we want. We just rarely do it. We don’t want to pay the price. Recognize that there’s always a sacrifice that comes with achieving something of significance.
  2. Trying to keep score in a relationship is a recipe for disappointment.
  3. Action isn’t just the effect of motivation. It’s the cause of it.
  4. Leaders cannot break trust with people and continue to lead. Building and strengthening trust must always be a top priority.
  5. We‘re all role models to someone. People will use your actions as a model for their future behavior. It’s worthwhile to make sure we’ll be happy about that.
  6. When someone doesn’t do something that I asked them to do, 90% of the time it’s because I didn’t communicate it well.
  7. If you hold yourself accountable to the highest standards, no one else will ever be able to do so.
  8. Temporary fixes quickly become permanent. Don’t live with deficiencies.
  9. You can learn something from everyone you meet. Most of those things may be behaviors to avoid. But it’s valuable knowledge none-the-less.
  10. There is nothing in this world that’s worth missing your child’s birthday.
  11. There are no real shortcuts to success. There are simply a bunch of charlatans trying to convince you that they, and they alone, know the secret.
  12. If, like me, you’re not good at golf, don’t base your day’s happiness on whether you play well at golf. The same principle applies to cheering for Buffalo sports teams.
  13. The willingness of someone to simply follow orders is inversely proportionate to their talent level. Only idiots want to follow idiot-proof procedures.
  14. Ideas are never perfect at first. They mature through development and collaboration. Don’t hesitate to share them with others. No one wants to steal your ideas. If you don’t believe me, try giving your ideas to people. Everyone already has enough to do.
  15. Often the people with the least to say take the longest to say it.
  16. The more time people spend trying to improve themselves, the less time that they have available for criticizing others. The inverse of this is also true.
  17. Admitting that you don’t know something is infinitely preferable than trying to make up a story. People generally understand if you don’t have all the answers right now.
  18. It’s easy to start thinking that your intentions are a product. They’re not. Until those hopes manifest themselves into a tangible action, they’re not worth mentioning.
  19. Just because you didn’t like a food when you were a kid, doesn’t mean you won’t like it now.
  20. No one ever has a time management problem. They have a priority management problem. Train yourself to never say that you don’t have time. Say that it’s not a priority. And make sure you’re happy with that prioritization.
  21. Cynicism isn’t impressive. It’s much better to prove your worth by showing the value of others than by showing their faults.
  22. Appreciate anyone who changes his or her mind in light of new evidence. Make sure you can count yourself among this group.
  23. For being so simple, listening well is a much-underutilized superpower. The best way to have people listen to you is by first listening to them.
  24. Safety features on power tools are there for good reasons. Don’t bypass them for convenience.
  25. The only worthwhile reason for criticizing people is to help them improve. If your feedback doesn’t meet that standard, it’s better to just keep your mouth shut.
  26. The level of coordination and organization to support most conspiracy theories is well beyond our companies and governments. A far more likely explanation for events is plain old incompetence.
  27. If you’re a leader, show your flaws. Be honest about the things that make you unique. When people see leaders who are different, it reinforces the fact that leadership is attainable for everyone.
  28. Before agreeing to a new commitment, identify the trade-off that it will carry. Our ego tells us we can do it all. Reality reminds us that we can’t.
  29. Working more is rarely a sustainable solution. And any manager who uses it as a primary tool isn’t fit to lead people.
  30. If you want a behavior to change, simply make people measure and report on it. But remember that there’s always a trade-off for that focus.
  31. People are rarely afraid of failing. They’re afraid of failing differently.
  32. Hiring people for a lack of weaknesses leads to teams of average performers. Hire people who bring amazing capabilities. You need people who do a few things exceptionally, not a lot of people who do everything just okay.
  33. Never lecture people about the chain of command.
  34. Every rule is negotiable if you talk to the right person and have the right situation.
  35. Preventing mistakes isn’t the same as achieving excellence. A corpse can sit at a desk and not make mistakes.
  36. People aren’t afraid of change. They’re only afraid of change that they believe will hurt them. The challenge is in giving them a better vision for the future.
  37. Never negotiate with someone who doesn’t have the authority to give you what you want.
  38. Approach every challenge with excitement and opportunity. Few things bond people together like problem-solving.

With one final reminder to kick off year 39:

  1. Days spent doing something meaningful, with people I enjoy, and working to be my best self, are the days that I treasure. That determination of success is always available to every one of us.

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