How many times have you said something like: “I wish I had known this earlier (or when I was younger)?” It’s a common theme among thoughtful people. We keep learning. We keep reflecting on what we have learned. And we keep wishing we had learned some of the good stuff sooner.
To help you in this quest to acquire important knowledge about your work and your life, here are some things I have learned that may have value for you:
Life is Not Linear
Although many aspects of your work and your life do proceed in something of an orderly fashion, there is no hard and fast timeline that reflects linearity. Many times your situation will “stick” in one configuration for much longer than you’d like. Many other times you’ll experience a leap forward (or backward) that’s surprising in its scope.
Get used to it.
You can even capitalize on this lack of linearity by preparing for what’s yet to come – even if it’s not close – and by looking for opportunities to take great leaps instead of small steps. Who says you absolutely must walk before you can run?
Money Is a Tool, Not a Target
Among the thoughts I totally dispute is this: “Whoever dies with the most toys, wins.” I’d be more likely to accept “Whoever dies feeling most fulfilled, wins.”
But let’s not argue about that now. Let’s simply focus on the fact that many of the world’s most successful people don’t work as hard as they do because they want the perks and rewards that come with big money. Rather, they value money primarily as a way to keep score, and to multiply their own energy, time, and talent so they can accomplish more than they could with their bare hands.
But even that’s a little off the mark, because it’s possible to do great work and have a very positive impact without earning the big bucks.
The larger point is that striving to accumulate money for what it can buy you – once you get beyond a reasonable level of sustenance and comfort – is a fool’s errand. You’re too smart to fall for that one.
Your Time Is Precious
Decades ago, I created a long course on time management in which I stressed that we all have the same amount of time each day, and we’re never going to be able to get more of it. My conclusion was that your smartest strategy involved making the most of the time you have available.
That’s still true. Unfortunately, in their younger days relatively few people recognize the importance of time. Some of us don’t completely figure this out until we’re reaching the end of our work and our life.
I’m not going to try to convince you here and now that your time is precious. I’m simply going to ask you to consider how much time you have, and whether you value it highly enough. I’m also going to urge you to be sure you’re comfortable with your current valuation of your time.
Ask For What You Want
Years ago, my son – then a teenager – asked my older brother about the techniques that helped him achieve success in work and in life. We were sitting around at a family gathering, and my brother pointed to a paper cup near my son and said, “Hand me that cup, will you please?”
My son handed it to him, and my brother said, “That’s it. That’s the technique. Just ask for what you want.”
Asking for what you want is simple enough to do, and yet it is surprisingly effective. Of course, you can layer it with motivational elements and logical reasons why someone should comply with your request. But at bottom, asking is the basis of getting what you want, and not asking is probably one of the most common reasons for not getting it.
Listen to Your Heart
The human mind is a powerful instrument of action, of obtaining results, and of making progress. But it almost always makes at least one important mistake: our mind tries to convince us that it’s more important than our feelings.
The truth is that simply doing what‘s rational and logical all the time will lead you astray. It’s at least equally important to recognize and honor your feelings, including:
- Who you like to spend time with, and who you don’t.
- What you enjoy doing, and what you don’t.
- Where you like to be, and where you don’t.
- How you like to be treated and treat others, and how you don’t.
- What you value, and what you don’t.
The more closely you pay attention to your feelings, and let them influence your choices and actions, the more often you will experience fulfillment, both during and at the end of every hour, day, week, month, and year.
These are truths you will almost certainly learn at some point during your life. The earlier you learn them, however, the longer they will be active in helping to guide your steps productively and successfully through your work and your life.
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