Here they are, my top 10 life lessons boiled down. I regularly ask people I know for their 10 best lessons in life. Everybody has lessons to share whether it’s about their best skill or it’s their life lessons learned. I figured since I regularly ask people for their best lessons, I might share some of mine. This particular set is the result of me thinking really hard for 10 minutes (at which point I had to send my email), so they are likely to change as I give them more thought. As you’ll see below, there’s an important lesson I learned that helped me settle for these 10 lessons as “good enough for now”, with the idea that I can revisit later.
My Top 10 Lessons
Here is a summary of my top 10 lessons learned in life:
- Lesson 1. Model the best.
- Lesson 2. Be YOUR best.
- Lesson 3. Set boundaries.
- Lesson 4. Life’s not static.
- Lesson 5. Follow the growth.
- Lesson 6. Focus on one pitch at a time.
- Lesson 7. Version your perfection.
- Lesson 8. It’s what you know and who you know.
- Lesson 9. Use metaphors to shape your experience.
- Lesson 10. Structure your success.
Lesson 1. Model the Best.
If you want to be great at something, learn from the best. Find the best of the best. When I studied martial arts, I studied Bill Superfoot Wallace. He set a bar I never would have imagined possible. That’s what heroes do. They inspire and they prove a path. I learn from everyone around me. I find their super skill, and they are usually more than happy to share what they know.
Lesson 2. Be Your Best.
You can’t always be THE best, but you can always be YOUR best. You can’t ask yourself for more than that. Because I always modeled from the best, I always felt like I missed the mark. I had to learn 3 things: 1) When you’re just starting out, you’re the sapling. The might oak took time. 2) Enjoy the journey. 3) Your best is not the same as somebody else’s. I remember John Wooden saying in an interview once that the key to his peace of mind was knowing that he gave his best. I think the key to giving your best, is knowing where you have your best to give, and playing to your strengths. The thing that always keeps me going here is I remember that giving up is easy. Forgiving yourself is not. I don’t want to be on the rocking chair thinking, what if I gave just a little more.
Lesson 3. Set Boundaries.
Sure, set boundaries says the guy who regularly worked 100+ hours. That’s what playing to your strengths and following your passion can do to you. I didn’t burn out. Passion fueled me. I just didn’t know when to stop. I also didn’t know that limits are your friend. I have a simple frame now for setting boundaries, and I invest in my life hot spots: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun. Another key to boundaries is knowing your values. This is especially true if you’re a people pleaser. You can aim to please, but don’t lose yourself in the process.
Lesson 4. Life’s Not Static.
When I was younger, I thought I would make a lot of money and then live off of it. I was thinking like a static lake instead of a flowing river. Things flow in and things flow out. People flow in and people flow out. Your body changes. Your skills change over time. I’m regularly surprised by how people have made something more of themselves or how they’ve let themselves go. It’s also a reminder to find a sustainable path in life. Seasons change, and there are cycles to everything. It’s the ebb and flow, along with the waxing and waning.
Lesson 5. Follow the Growth.
This goes hand-in-hand with life’s not static. When you get on your surfboard of life, follow the growth. Find the waves, and when there’s no wave make one. I pick projects that grow me. I find people that grow me. I look to the market and I find the growth. Related to this, it’s important to know when to quit. Cut your losses. Quitting the right things and sticking with the right things is an art and science. It means knowing yourself and working on your anticipation skills. I regularly look to the future, find the trends, and figure out where to put my time and energy for the best waves. Life’s not static. You’re growing or dying, climbing or sliding. Don’t merely be a shadow of your former self. Become the mighty Oak.
Lesson 6. Focus on One Pitch at a Time.
Focus on one pitch at a time, but check the scoreboard now and then. Your brain works better when it’s in the zone. Your get in the zone by being in the moment. When I catch myself focusing too much on the scoreboard, I remind myself to keep my eye on the ball. This improves my focus, and it helps me find my flow. I make a time to check the scoreboard, but I don’t let it disrupt my focus or rattle my cage. It’s the key to how I knock the ball out of the park.
Lesson 7. Version Your Perfection.
When you try to be your best and you model from excellence, it can be tough to set the right bar at a given point in time. There’s never enough time and you can never be too good. Surprisingly, I didn’t learn one of my most important lessons until I joined Microsoft. version your perfection. Focus on “good enough for now” and improve with each release. Getting incrementally better over time is better than never being good enough, or never being ready. I get from idea to done quickly, and then I improve. Feedback is your friend. It’s a learning loop. I’d rather get the learnings and results from 20 dry runs, than one *perfect* run, that falls short. Good enough for today, means I’ll be back in the batters box, swinging better tomorrow. It’s this very lesson that let me have 10 life lessons for now, while I can refine again later, and this is a key concept behind my You 2.0 guide.
Lesson 8. It’s What You Know and Who You Know
Just when you thought being good enough, was good enough. Unfortunately, in my experience, it’s never been the case. The people in your life can create or limit opportunities. If you keep bumping into glass ceilings, you might be trying to go it alone. Life’s a team sport and it’s better together. You’re the sum of your network, and in today’s landscape, your network will open or close doors for you. Life’s not static and neither is your network. Tune it and prune it like a Bonzai tree. Add the catalysts to your life, and limit the time you spend with the drains. Life’s too short, not to stack yourself for success.
Lesson 9. Use Metaphors to Shape Your Experience
The metaphors you use can bring you down, or lift you up. Is your life a tragedy or a comedy or a drama? Are you nose to the grindstone or unleashing your best? Connect your metaphors to your values and you light up your life. Adventure is one of my values. I found this out at one of my recent leadership trainings. Suddenly thinks make so much more sense. It runs deep. I always thought I was going to be Indiana Jones (but with Numchucks instead of a whip.) I’ve got a lust for the open road, whether I’m on my motorcycle or in my Jeep with the top down. When I first joined Microsoft, the words “Go West young man!” echoed through my mind. Whenever I lead a project, I make it an epic adventure. When life’s an adventure, you deal with the pitfalls. Figure out what your metaphors are and if they aren’t working for you, swap them out.
Lesson 10. Structure Your Success
The most effective people I know set themselves up for success. They have personal success patterns for thinking, feeling, and doing. They have checklists, mantras, and metaphors that remind them of what works, and they throw away what doesn’t. I’ve made success a journey and I continuously learn and refine patterns and practices for mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships and fun. This helps me deal with the set backs and always find a way forward. I’ve learned coping strategies for some of life’s worst scenarios. I’ve adopted some simple practices for weekly results, such as my Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, and Friday Reflection pattern that help me get back on my horse, when I get knocked down. It’s more than just at the personal level. I also structure success at the social and environment level. Who I hang with and the container I’m in is an important influence. Your container limits or enables you. Your personal development helps you succeed, but your container helps you amplify your results, and your support network can help you get back on your feet when you need it most.
I’ll have more for another day. I think it’s about time for me to compile my best of the best life lessons learned. Consider this a starter set and version 1.0.
How about you? What’s your top life lessons learned?
Photo by Official Star Wars Blog.