Important Life Lessons I Learned Too Late in Life
Have you ever heard the remark that age is only relevant if you are cheese? All of my career it seemed I was one of the youngest guys in the room. Then, overnight, I looked around and was shocked to discover I was the oldest guy in the room. Working on my third career, I don’t know why that should have been a surprise to me. It was one of many important life lessons.
It was though … a reality check. But why? Who knows, especially since I have no fear about the value I bring and my ability to keep delivering relevance in a young person’s world going through rapid change. Luckily the feeling did not last long.
Always keep learning: The Story and Zen of Getting Things Done
Here are the top lessons I learned too late in life:
Do not rest on past successes
There is nothing more dangerous to life success than a great last result, is there? We are ‘only as good as our next result.’ Stay paranoid.
Darwin said it was not the strongest of the species that survived, but the ablest to adapt to change. There will be more change in the next five years than we’ve seen in the past 50. Get excited by change. Be part of the most movements that you can. Help shake things up.
Important life lessons … hustle is the flipside to fear
When I wanted to start my Digital Firestorm blog, I had no idea how to build a nice website or how to build a community following. I was also pretty scared of failing again.
What if I wrote for years and no one ended up going to my website? What if no one cared about small business growth? And then I realized, even if only ten people signed up, I would still feel awesome about making a difference in 10 people’s lives.
Still, need more encouragement to go out there and make it happen? Take a note from this quote from Richard Branson – “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
Stop fearing. Start doing.
You can go fast alone, but you go further together
When you work alone, you can move fast. There’s no red tape. There’s no management that you have to check in with. There’s no team you have to collaborate with. So what does that mean? You can create and test with an incredible amount of speed. However, it’s really hard to go far alone.
For example, I love writing for my blog. However, I can only write so much material every week (it’s pretty intensive regarding time invested). So I can continue doing this writing all by myself to build an audience, or I could work smarter by working with others.
Make yourself a project
Hairdressing icon Vidal Sassoon was famous for having said: “The only place you’ll find success coming before work is in a dictionary.” We have to work on ourselves. Put pressure on ourselves. Critique our days. Give back to society. Be our own very best coaches and cheering squads. All of this applies as much to our personal lives as for our business lives.
Work can be fun
You know that feeling you get when your alarm rings at 7 AM in the morning? That feeling of dread? Guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way for the next 50 years of your life. Find work that you’re passionate about. Find a mission that you want to get behind 100%. Find your calling. Do that, and you will wake up with a renewed sense of energy.
Happiness is a state of mind, not a destination
Looking back on my life, the unhappiest moments of my life occurred when I always thought I had to achieve a certain goal to be happy. That’s not the way happiness works. You can be happy right now. Be happy that you’re alive. You’re breathing. You’re here in this incredible moment that we call life. That gives you all the reasons you need to be happy.
Things that are worthwhile often take time
It feels like I see a new success story every week. “New technology startup raises $100M at a $1B valuation!” People see the overnight success. What they don’t often see are the late nights at the office until 2 AM. Whether it’s love, work or friendship, everything worthwhile takes time. So learn to be patient. And invest your time wisely.
Important life lessons … be a priority ‘ninja’
Getting more of the important things done every day. Be obsessed with getting priorities rights, on what’s important, every day, and make sure you spend the majority of your day on these priorities.
Keep trying until you get it right
One of the most important life lessons I learned was trying something three times (maybe even four times) before you stop trying and move on. Also, this monk taught me that, even after multiple tries, you should work on different angles to approach things that are difficult.
If you keep trying, you’ll eventually get where you’re going.
Adding to connections and being a continuous learner
Woody Allen said: “85% of the secret of success is just turning up.” Turn up to events. Make that phone call. Read that book. Do that training. Have the courage to ask that question. Make an effort. Stay connected to what’s happening around you.
Awesomeness is contagious
I try to surround myself with positive, upbeat people that want to make a difference in the world. Every time I do that, I walk away feeling energized and passionate about life. Find three people that you deeply admire and spend time with them.
Seriously, ask them to coffee, lunch or yogurt. Notice how you feel after you meet with them? You should be saying “I feel awesome.” Combine that awesome feeling with a dose of yogurt – that’s borderline life changing.
Take more risks
Life is too short to play safe all the time. Too many people work at a job they hate for years instead of pursuing their real passion. Remember that the only thing worse than death is a regret filled coffin.
Make time for those that matter
Make time for friends, your significant other, and family. You never know when you may lose someone close to you.
A lot of stuff goes wrong for every single one of us. Maybe your dad was a drinker, maybe your mom left when you were five years old, maybe you had an accident, and since then your nose looks weird.
Just because these things are outside of your control doesn’t excuse you of dealing with them. You are 100% in charge of your own life, and how you react to what happens is all on you, whether you like it or not.
If you always take responsibility, even for the shit that’s not your fault, you’ll automatically focus on what you can do, which will make you way happier.
You’ve been given an incredible gift just by being alive and breathing right this second. The odds of becoming a human, as opposed to an animal, a plant, or a pair of sneakers, are 1:400 TRILLION. Act like it.
Simple is essential
Life has so much clarity when you keep things simple. For example:
Want to understand better? Listen.
Miss a loved one? Call. (Or text, Facebook message, Snapchat)
Want to achieve? Hustle.
Want to laugh? Watch Youtube videos.
Love someone? Say it.
Positivity is a state of mind. Find the bottleneck and blockage problem and kill it. Use your friends as shields from negativity; they usually won’t mind, I promise.
Nowadays, it is more important than whom you know. It is not about buttering or greasing someone’s palm. I am bad at networking because I considered this as bad. How stupid was I? It is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Choosing what to be good at
If you’ve just started your career, right now is the easiest it will ever be to change direction professionally completely. Obligations like marriage, kids, mortgage payments and the other trappings of adulthood are likely still little ways off.
The great paradox of learning is that diverse expertise gives you the freedom to try more new things, but gaining expertise in one area always means ignoring others, reducing your freedom. Developing expertise in anything worthwhile takes time, and your time is limited. And while it’s not every day that you embark on a new career path, you will regularly make choices about where to develop skills. We do the things for a living that we know how to do well. You are what you learn.
If you don’t pay attention to what you get good at, it’s easy to get stuck in a field simply because that’s what you know, whether or not you find it fulfilling. When you’re young, you don’t have as many constraints that prevent you from changing tack and pursuing something new.
That freedom never completely goes away, but the constraints that pile up as life progresses can make it much more difficult (and expensive) to change direction later. Time catches up to all of us. You’ll be much happier if you choose your career path consciously rather than allow time to make decisions for you.
Real wisdom in life comes from doing something and failing
Before starting meditation, I used to get upset when I’d try something and fail.
I’ve been in sales since I was sixteen. I remember going to work and getting so angry with myself because I didn’t get a sale. If I ever got rejected, I’d get upset with myself, and I’d want to quit my job. But I just keep failing over and over—until I became good at it.
I remember, when I first started doing meditation, I ran into several problems. For example, at first it was difficult to calm down; but if you stick with it, it gets easier and easier. I tried for only a few minutes, and then every day, I added more time onto my meditation.
When we struggle, we learn about ourselves and what we need to do to become stronger.
The bottom line
These are things that we already know, of course. They are not rocket science and shouldn’t be.
Yet this list of little things simply reminds us of what we have forgotten. Then it is up to us to put these lessons (or reminders) into daily use through persistence and practice.
Remember … your experience and learning trumps all!
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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