Find articles from my Blog Archive:

Friday, 18 October 2013

40 lessons of life

This post collects together a set of things I've learnt and wished I'd known earlier in life. The lessons of life are hard-won and it seems to me that we aren't always taught the right rules when we are young. I've written these lessons down in the hope that others might find them useful. They might better be described as beliefs, in the spirit of at least one of them, which suggests that we all have slightly different perceptions of reality. Its possible you might not agree with them all. Please take them in the spirit in which they are meant; as a set of things that have come to me over time and which I am sharing in the hope that others might find them useful, not as a set of rigid rules that must be followed.
These thoughts reflect my personal philosophy and approach to life. You may differ from me. It's ok for there to be different approaches and beliefs; it's what makes the human race so dynamic.
So, without further adoo, let me start with the first of my 40 lessons…

1. Your dreams can't come true if you don't dream

It seems obvious really, doesn't it? Why settle for mediocracy when, just maybe, you could achieve something great? Dream away and work out what you want to come true. Just make sure that once you have a dream, that you think hard about how to make it happen - because the chances are that its more achievable than you might think.
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe”– Antole France, poet

2. But don't just dream, do something

If you have a dream, get out there and make it happen. Don't sit on your hands waiting for something to drop into your lap. It won't, you need to go and take the initiative to make it happen.
“Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his idea, to take a calculated risk, and to act”–Maxwell Maltz, cosmetic surgeon

3. Better to define yourself by what inspires you, than what frustrates you

Sometimes we think those little sarcastic comments, funny jokes, etc, are an effective way of handling things that annoy or frustrate us. But sometimes we can overdo it. Nobody wants to be around a cynic. We all love inspirational people, so I try to think positively. For people and things that annoy me, I try to ignore them. Why waste precious time on irritations and annoyances? Instead, I try to focus on the things that inspire. I've learnt not to tweet every annoyance of my day; a tweet stream of petty wifi problems, beaurocratic challenges and PC crashes isn't wow I want to be remembered. Finding things to love, that whichinspires and focussing on tha seems to me a better approach. Finding the positives in life and spending energy on those, rather than things that deflate, is better.
“The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money”– Thomas Jefferson

4. Do what you love and you'll be successful

Some decide to pursue riches early in life, entering careers and professions not through love, but because they are lucrative. Beware of such attractions - they have a habit of fulfilling in the short-term, but ultimately lead to an empty soul. Early life decisions set you on a path - make sure its a path you can live with and that satisfies. I've always found that my best work is done when I love the topic, my worst when I have no interest. Bear this in mind - try to choose careers and jobs that interest and satisfy you. Avoid those that lead to disinterest and emptyness - you're unlikely to succeed at them, regardless of how lucrative they might seem.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.”– Seth Godin

5. Ignore what other people want or expect from you

The expectations of others on you can be very limiting - either because they think you should do things that don't inspire you, or because they think you not capable of something you want to do. I believe we should cast off the expectations and limitations placed on us by others. It's your life, not theirs. Find your inner voice - your dreams, not the dreams of those around you.
“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric”– Bertrand Russell

6. There is no such thing as a job for life

The middle-class was built by our Victorian ancestors, many of whom got on in life by being entrepreneurs. The “safe” job didn't exist for them, so they often built their own businesses. Somewhere in the last 200 years we've become anaethesised to risk and come to rely on safe jobs with large companies. The fact that “a job for life” is a phrase that's sometimes used, says it all. Don't kid yourself; there is no such thing. Increasingly large companies are restructuring. In a modern Western capitalist society corporations look to their shareholder's interests. The paternalistic leanings of early 20th Century companies are long gone. You are best to remember this - if your employer's priorities or finances shift, their past loyalty to you as an employee can change rapidly.
I've learnt to keep one eye on the future and change - to be prepared for that change and to make sure I maintain skills that are attractive outside of any one employer. Be aware of the possibility of the bullshit job. If your job isn't really needed, someone will probably notice, given time. If you are doing a job that's not really needed, your skills are probably stagnating. Its best to take corrective action before its taken for you!
“The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that you are working for somebody else. Job security is gone. The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Remember: Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!” – Earl Nightingale

7. It's never too late to start again

Sometimes we take the wrong path and find ourselves unfulfilled in our choices. Sometimes we make mistakes and regret our choices. We can feel trapped in our circumstances. But it's always possible to start again and change paths. It just takes a little courage and determination.
I try to view life like a series of experiments - if one fails, I try to have the courage to try another. Anyone can learn new skills, find new opportunities and redefine themselves. Stepping away from the day-to-day and asking “what do I need to do to get on the right path” and making it happen, is something worth finding the time to do.
“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late"– Lee Iacocca, businessman

8. Be flexible

The best way to keep a job when change happens is to stay flexible. Being open to new ideas, being positive, being helpful, doing what's needed not what's in the job description. People like people who can help them, so helping others achieve is never a waste of time.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”– Albert Einstein

9. Learning is the foundation of advancement, but can take many forms

When we need to change paths, obtaining new skills and knowledge are what opens those new paths to us.We can learn through either education or experience. Both are legitimate.
Education is more about training the mind and less about the actual facts or knowledge; I've probably never explicitly used anything I learnt at university, but it did teach me a lot that's been useful in forming my approach to problems.
Experience is more direct; at the coal-face you learn exactly, but only, what you need. Making things yourself, trying, succeeding, failing, learning lessons through the school of hard knocks are some of the most effective ways of learning.
For many, taking 3 years out of work to attend university is difficult - with family, location or economic ties restricting us. Today its possible to learn in new ways. We can choose how and when we study and learn, fitting around our commitments. Online sites like Codecademy, Code School or FutureLearn help you to learn programming. Some of the world's top universities are now offering their courses on online learning platforms like Coursera, edx or Apple's iTunes U. And finding like-minded individuals, meeting up and taking part in and learning from a community is also becoming much easier. Online sites like Meetup and Eventbrite help you to find, take part in, or even build, communities and events.
Only you can decide how its best to learn, but never feel you can't learn something new or that the old traditional ways are the only ones. No matter your age or commitments, you have options your ancestors could only dream of. Make sure you take advantage of those options. Don't squander the luxury of living in the time that we do, with the options we have.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”– Nelson Mandella

10. Anyone can build a reputation

Today knowledge isnt quite enough - you need a reputation for having that knowledge. Fortunately, its easier than ever to build such reputations.
A bit of a techy? Why not contribute to open source projects on GitHub? Connect your GitHub account to your linkedin profile, so people on linkedin see your GitHub activity on your résumé. Contribute to technical questions on Stack Overflow and build an online reputation for solving problems. Get a Careers 2.0 account and let employers find you through your online technical activity on GitHub and Stack Overflow; for programmers, GitHub and Stack Overflow are rapidly democratising the search for technical talent.
Fancy yourself as a bit of a graphic designer? Then why not create some concepts and upload them to Dribble where aspiring designers gain an immediate platform to advertise their skills and gain jobs. Perhaps you think you're a photographer? In which case why not use the social sharing of sites like 500px or Flickr or create a tumblr blog like Kevin Russ?.
Have an opinion or want to gain a reputation? Why not start a blog and tweet on you chosen topic - you can build a reputation and following on almost anything, even your favorite puddings. An aspiring chef? Why not start a supper club and build a reputation amongst your local foodie set through Twitter?
It doesn't matter what your interest is, you can become renowned for it in a way our ancestors never could. Why would you not take that opportunity?
“The most important thing for a young man is to establish a credit… a reputation, character.” – John D. Rockefeller

11. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong

Everything that shouldn't happen has happened, so take care. Chernobyl and Fukushima are classic examples of highly engineered safety systems circumvented by the simplest things; human stupidity. The operators of Chernobyl turned off critical safety systems while testing the reactor. Fukushima was designed to withstand an earthquake of 8.6 magnitude because anything larger was deemed “impossible”. Fukushima was hit by a quake of magnitude 9.1. If you want proof of why we should never trust the “trust us, i t can't go wrong” brigade, read this. Things happen that should not be possible because humans have a habit of denying the possibility of things they think improbable.
“It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.”– Murphy's Second Corollary

12. Admit your mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. The best way of dealing with them is to admit they are mistakes and move on. If you don't admit them, you'll carry the baggage and be unable to emotionally learn. Until you admit the mistake it will feel big; once you admit it, it begins to shrink in size and impact.
“Admit your errors before someone else exaggerates them. ”– Andrew V. Mason, M.D.

13. Reputations are founded on authenticity

Be authentic. Live life in a way that you won't regret. Do and be seen to do the right things. Those who get on in life by doing the wrong things or by hurting others, are always noticed. They build a certain reputation, whether they realise it or not.
It is human nature to be more contemplative in our later years; nobody wants to look back on a life and feel regret. We all intuitively know what is right and wrong, so have the courage to stand up for right and make sure your older self will feel satisfaction and pride, rather than regret, when you look back.
“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” –Socrates

14. Anyone can build a business

It takes ten minutes to register a company. We can all build and sell things for virtually no financial outlay. If you're crafty you can sell creations on etsy. Most developer tools are free and for only £59 you can distribute your app applications globally in Apple's App Store. If your idea needs more substantial investment to make it happen, crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo or even Donald Trump's Fundanything provide new ways of gaining that funding. Never have there been greater opportunities for those with a talent or an idea to build a business and income around it.
“Its kind of fun to do the impossible.”– Walt Disney

15. But building a real reputation or business is hard

A reputation or business of substance takes a lot of work. Many stumble on the path. Reputations might be short-lived or not widely-based. Small businesses often fail or struggle to meet their funding goals. Don't kid yourself its easy - it's not. Those that succeed report that its tough and requires a lot of work and perseverance.
“A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”– Colin Powell

16. With a lot of hard work and focus, anything is possible

Doing something amazing might be hard work, whenever I've dedicated myself and put the effort in its paid off. The bane of modern life is our butterfly-like tendency to flit from subject-to-subject. But greatness never happens through flitting; you need to focus on one thing hard and make it happen.Things might not work out exactly how you plan and you need to spot the opportunities to adjust your dream along the way. But with sheer hard work you can take control of your own destiny and surprise your more cautious friends. Every single example of amazing achievement brings with it an equally gruelling story of hard work, focus, dedication and sacrifice. If your dream matters, then investing effort and focussing is the best way to make it happen. There are no shortcuts, no route to success without hard work.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”– Thomas Edison

17. Inspire others to help you

We all need help if we are to achieve something great. People who are manipulated, threatened and forced to help, do so begrudgingly and with the minimal of effort. Those who are inspired, do so with pleasure, enthusiasm and with disregard for the effort involved. One group is many times more effective than the other; I'll leave it to you to work out which.
If you are struggling to get people to help you, consider how you can inspire them, rather than dreaming up ways to manipulate them. If your approach to getting help is to dictate or threaten, you're probably not a leader. A leader's job is to inspire greater things and support people when they struggle. Step back and think about why you might not be inspiring those who you wish to lead. More threatening approaches might work for a short period, but you will surely loose support in the longer term. People have free will and will tend to seek experiences where they are inspired, rather then manipulated, so the manipulative approach is at best only effective in the short term. The inspirational and supportive approach is very different.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more and become more, you are a leader”.– John Quincy Adam, US President 1825—1829

18. Surround yourself with people who believe its possible

Achieving things is hard. You need people who support your ambitions and believe in you. Skeptics will undermine the confidence that's so necessary. You won't change the skeptics opinions. Skepticism is a state of mind, not a reaction to a particular idea. Those who specialise in dreaming up reasons things will fail aren't reacting to your idea, they do this for every idea that doesn't fit their world view.
So, try to surround yourself with optimists, those that see the possibilities and can carry you through the bad times. Don't waste time on the sceptics, the haters and the pessimists - they'll only drag you down. You won't change their minds, so don't waste your effort trying to.
“The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt”– Sylvia Plath, poet

19. Doers or talkers

There are those that are good at doing things and those that are good at talking about doing things. As a general rule we tend to be impressed by the latter, when the former is what we really need. It's why the interview process is so hard - by its very nature it tests your ability to talk about doing, not actually do. Of course what we often really want is the intersection of the two groups - those good at doing and good at talking about doing. Unfortunately that group is very small - and it's hard to discern if you're talking to a member of that group, or just a member of the 'good at talking about doing' group. So build your team of helpers in life from the doers group. Try not to be swayed by the talkers; the likelihood is that they can only talk, not do.
“Talkers are usually more articulate than doers, since talk is their specialty”–Thomas Sowell, economist

20. You can't manage what you don't understand

If you don't understand something, you don't know the right questions to ask, the pitfalls that you could fall into or the alternatives that might exist. You are, in effect, entirely at the mercy of the people you are supposed to be managing - their opinions and biases can go unchallenged simply because you don't know how to challenge them. To manage something you need to first understand it and if you understand it then you stand a fighting chance of being capable of managing it. So before you try to manage something, invest the time to understand it first. Don't kid yourself that managing is possible without that investment. Lots of people do, most of them fail.
“Never invest in a business you can’t understand”– Warren Buffett

21. There are no facts, only opinions

Once upon a time people considered the world to be flat. This was a fact, pure and simple…until compelling evidence emerged that it was, in fact, an opinion. Anything we consider to be a fact can be reversed if additional evidence comes to light. I'm always slightly suspicious of those presenting an argument with such conviction that they eliminate any possibility for a contrary opinion. A fact can only be so on the balance of probability and current evidence.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”– Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emporer 161—180

22. Don't reduce your risks to the point where success means nothing; try to do something great

If your choices are very low risk, then success will have little value. Don't set your life up such that success is meaningless. Strive for something great, so that when you achieve it, it's worthwhile. Even getting halfway up Everest is a great achievement; walking to the shops, not so much.
“It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win”–John Paul Jones, sailor

23. Take risks before they become too risky

To achieve great things we need to take risks. The best time to take risks is when we're young and have fewer commitments. Losing your job or having your business fail when you're living at home with your parents is not a disaster; the same when you have a family and mortgage to support, a little more so. Whilst we're young we have a golden age to take those risks - don't miss those chances.
Failing at something and not bothering to try have the same outcome. The biggest risk you can take in life is to die never having bothered to try.

24. Most risks are probably not half as risky as they might seem

Those who take risks might just succeed. Even if you don't, you've demonstrated a resilience of character, have experienced life in a way that the plodders never have. I've never regretted making a decision that seemed risky.
The personal attributes of those who try, even if they fail, are enormously valued; go-getters, risk takers, change agents, optimists. Even if you fail, you'll have more experience, knowledge and skills than if you never tried, so you will have likely enhanced your employability in the process.
In many ways risks aren't half as risky as they seem when it's you that's taking the risk. Think about failure, about what you'll have leant, how it differentiates you from others; even in failure you'll be worth more than you are today, so is it really such a big risk?
“Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise”–Anonymous

25. You can make your risks less risky; there's no need for wrecklessness

Read “The Lean Starup” and apply its principles.
“Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash”–General George Patton

26. Sometimes its just the wrong time to take risks, or its just not for us; that's OK

Sometimes its not the right time for us to change the world because we have other things going on in our lives. There are good reasons for not pushing the boundaries, or not pushing them right now. The point is not that everyone should change things all of the time, but that you should be conscious about what makes you tick. Be aware of your choices and be explicit in your decisions. Whatever you decide can be the wright thing. Don't feel you should be someone else, be happy with who you are and make the decisions that fit your personality and will make you happy.
“You do things when the opportunities come along. I've had periods in my life when I've had a bundle of ideas come along, and I've had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I'll do something. If not, I won't do a damn thing”–Warren Buffett

27. The really successful don't play by the rules; they change them

At school we are trained to abide by the rules, to be a good citizen and not to discent. The hard truth is that some of our more rebellious class-mates went on to be fabulously successful. That's because, to be really successful, you often need to change the rules rather than abide by them. If you want to change the world you need to be prepared to shake things up, to provoke, not to accept the rules. Our training in school might make for obedient citizens, but its entirely the wrong training for life, where a bit of discent is often what's need to break through fuzzy thinking, conventional wisdom and mundaneness.
Here's the conundrum that nobody ever tells you: society needs obedience to the rules to be stable, but it also needs rebels to push new ideas forward. It can't afford for everyone to be a rebel, because that way chaos ensues, but it also can't afford for everyone to follow the rules because that way society stagnates.Look at examples of people who've achieved something great - they are often tetchy individuals, obsessed, maniacal, maybe even a little crazy. Steve Jobs was well known for his ignorance of convention and rules, a trait shared by many high achievers. Apple's inspirational Think Different ad sums it up for me: Here's to the crazy ones, because “those who dare to think that they can change the world are the ones who do”. Nobody told my 16 year-old self that a healthy disregard for authority and rules was a good thing, but it turns out that it is.
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs”–Ansel Adams

28. You can't achieve anything by keeping everyone happy

There is a weird part of our psyche that doesn't want to upset others. But you can't achieve anything if you don't upset anyone. Builders often excuse a mess with “you can't make an omelette with breaking an egg” and they are right. Brave decisions, decisions that are meaningful and create change are going to upset someone somewhere, so get over it. Learn that doing things offends people and that very offence is validation that you are doing something meaningful, because if nobody cares they won't be offended.
“To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects.”– Margaret Thatcher

29. Leaders are people like us

You think its intimidating to speak to a CEO, the Prime Minister (or a President), a celebrity? It's not. They are just people, like us. They were once a child. They go to the toilet like the rest of us. When they take their clothes off they probably look just as ridiculous as we do. So treat them like ordinary people, tell them when they are being stupid, ask them why, challenge them. Most people in positions of power are surrounded by fawners and in my experience often find a new perspective stimulating. And those that don't? Well, they're probably not worth you wasting your time on.
We used to be told to respect authority. However, we've seen through a series of scandals how those in authority have a tendency to loose their grip on reality. Every great politician ends up losing that grip on power because they can no longer see how the common person experiences things. Margaret Thatcher and the Poll Tax, Tony Blair and Iraq, the list of leaders who once intuitively understood the nations mood, but somehow lost that skill by being too insulated, is endless. The Financial Crisis came about because a small group of leading bankers created their own version of reality, insulated from the truth, and led the world's economy off the edge of a cliff. Historical sexual scandals in public life are only now emerging because too many people were willing in blindly follow and not question and challenge authority earlier.
We cannot afford to blindly trust authority. Its all of our responsibilities to have a healthy disregard for that authority - making sure it doesn't get locked in its own insular view of the world. So, don't blindly follow. Instead, question, challenge and provoke. Those in authority are typically handsomely rewarded; make them work for their living!
“I love argument, I love debate. I don't expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that's not their job.”–Margaret Thatcher

30. Clothes hide who we really are

I used to think it important to “look the part”, to dress appropriately. But I've learnt that its far less important than I thought. Most serious people who want to get things done really don't care what you look like; its your ideas and skills they want. Trust me, good ideas and skills are in sufficiently small numbers that nobody serious has the luxury of ignoring you because of your trousers. Those that do are perhaps revealing something about their own lack of focus on results - if they are more interested in you paying them respect through your dress, than in achieving something great with your skills, then they have lost the plot.
Every time I've seen someone dressed unconventionally, but who has ideas and skills, their capabilities rapidly eclipse the importance of how they look. Sometimes we need to look the part so that less intelligent people take the time to listen to us. But, often, our clothes have no influence when we have something of value to offer.
“Beware of all enterprises that require a new set of clothes”– Henry David Thoreau, author

31. Even quirky people can be successful

Steve Jobs was an odd-ball. Andy Murray is the first Brit to win Wimbledon in shorts, yet is awkward when being interviewed. But eccentricity and uniqueness don't matter. You don't have to be a perfect “conventional” person to be effective. Socially awkward people are often brilliant and effective as well. Apple's 'Think Different' ad reminds us about the misfits, rebels, round pegs in square holes, the people who see things differently. These are the ones that change things, not middle-aged men in suits.
Intoverts are just as, if not more, effective as extroverts. Most things of historical significance were invented or created by individuals working on their own. As Susan Cain says, “There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” . You do not need to be loud, confident, or any of the other assumptions about leaders, to be one. Many individuals and businesses today appear to associate leadership with a extrovert character traits, but they are wrong. One of the world's greatest leaders, Ghandi, was an introvert. Leaders lead through ideas, not through bullying, shouting, demanding or manipulating.
“Just because it's something original, eccentric or you're not used to it; doesn't mean it's wrong.”– Sandra Chami Kassi, Lebanese author

32. Most things of value emerge from solitude, not from group thinking

There is an inverse between the valuable output and the number of people involved in its production; If more than 3 people are involved in a meeting, my experience is that it's unlikely that meeting will result in much. Committees and boards are, by their very nature, incapable of innovation. Our cognitive biases mean that deep thought is best done in isolation or with very small groups. The more people involved, the greater the pressure to conform and avoid ideas that might appear daft to the rest of the group; but those 'daft' ideas are often the ones that lead to breakthroughs when they aren't squashed by group dynamics. There is much psychological analysis of group think that backs up these assertions; my experience is that it's all true.
“There is nothing in the world I loathe more than group activity, that communal bath where the hairy and slippery mix in a multiplication of mediocrity.”–Vladimir Nabokov, novelist.

33. Listen and learn

The Dunning-Kruger effect says that people have a tendency to overrate their ability when they know little about a subject, whereas those who know more tend to underrate their abilities. If you combine this effect with dominant extroverts, you can see how stupidity can take hold. So, always seek out knowledge and listen and learn from those who know more than your do about a subject. If you are confident in your opinions, consider that you may be over-confident. If you are hesitant in your opinions, consider that you may be more experienced than those who are louder than yourself.
“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”–Bertrand Russell

34. With age comes wisdom, but with wisdom comes caution

As we age we gain wisdom; something that only comes through experience. However, increased wisdom means increased caution. As we foresee the pitfalls we stop doing things. We step back to assess before jumping in. The audacity of youth slips away from us.
The world needs those with wisdom, but it also needs the naivity of youth - many great things appear ill-advised to the wise and without youthful ignorance we wouldn't reach for the seemingly impossible. Listen to wisdom, but don't let it constrain you.
I've noticed that teams built only by the wise, or led by them, will tend to exhibit great caution. Companies that rely too heavily on their elder colleagues will blunt their potential. They won't make mistakes, but they might just not do anything either. It's why startups make breakthroughs, established businesses less so. My plea is that you should find a way of balancing wisdom with youthful enthusiasm.
“If you are too careful, you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something”–Gertrude Stein, writer

35. Your mind only ages if you let it

An aged mind relies on experience and wisdom instead of curiosity. Instead of trying to understand something, we quickly fit it to something approximating a previous experience and pronounce an answer. Who hasn't noticed the irritating elderly relative who is always saying what the answer is before even understanding the question?
Wisdom means we have a larger pool of experience to draw on, but also sometimes leads us to relying too heavily on that experience. The wise sometimes have a tendency to shortcut their understanding of the problem and go straight to the answer. By relying too heavily on previous experience, we eliminate new ideas and perspectives. We fall back on previous answers, never really searching for new ones.
Psychologists have a name for these tendencies: Cognitive Bias and its something we can consciously avoid. By checking our perceived wisdom, consciously engaging with the problem at hand and searching out new perspectives, we can offset the tendencies that emerge with age. But it requires conscious effort. If you aren't consciously checking the what you think is your wise part of your brain, you're probably relying too heavily on it. Accept some humility; your assumptions might be wrong, so stop and think before pronouncing an answer. Above all, be curious and open to new ideas.
“Stay young, Stay foolish”–Steve Jobs, Standford lecture

36. Not everything of value can be counted

Some very important things are very, very hard, if not impossible, to measure. We shouldn't try. Sometimes we need to make decisions based on what we know the truth to be, even if its hard to quantify with numbers.
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”– Albert Einstein

37. Things are never as important as they seem at the time

I've never looked at anyones educational qualifications when assessing them for a job. I'm interested in their experience and personal qualities and potential, not some arbitrary mark at a point in time. Exam grades get you on the first rung of the ladder, but very quickly the grades are meaningless and nobody will ask about them ever again.
Exams, meetings, decisions, they all seem so important at the time. But, given a sense of time and perspective, none of them are half as important as we might have thought at the time. So, relax a little. De-stress. Know that, even if you fail, that with time it will almost certainly not be the disaster it might seem to be.
“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” – Bertrand Russell, philosopher

38. Life isn't about money

It's not about making more money. Its about experiencing life, trying things, exhausting the possibilities, doing things you and others remember, making an impact, leaving footsteps in the snow for those that come after you. What does that mean for you? One thing it shouldn't mean, is having more stuff. Doing great things does not always equate with earning vast amounts of cash or being at the top in a corporate structure chart. Earning enough cash is important; earning more cash is not.
Do you want to die owning a big house and a smart car, but having spent 40 hours a week for 40 years working on things that don't matter? Or do you want to do something important, even if the house is smaller and the car scruffier? Maybe you won't have to make the choice, but if you did?
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me.”– Steve Jobs

39. But life is about having fun and making a difference

The only possible reason for existing, it seems to me, is to make a difference and and to have fun doing it. If you believe that (how could you not?), are you having fun now?
Do you laugh at yourself, or do you take yourself too seriously? Serious is bad, laughter is good! A sense of humor can carry you through difficult times. And laughing at your own stupidity can help you accept your mistakes, learn from them and move on. The serious guys and gals can have a tendency to not acknowledge miss-steps and hence fail to learn from them. So, don't take yourself too seriously; you are human, you make mistakes, you're pretty ridiculous really, so see the funny side of it!
“Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.”– Vaclav Havel

40. And finally…

Everything I've said might be true, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier to do anything about it. I've written these things down because I believe them to be true, but I'm as bad as anyone at not living by them day-to-day. I hope that by capturing these thoughts and making them explicit, rather than vague beliefs in the subconscious, they become easier to consciously do something about. And I hope that you, too, find them of some use.
“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.” –Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet.
Written with joy in Editorial for iPad.

No comments :

Post a Comment