Filed under "Life Lessons"

If you were trying to solve a riddle, would you want me to tell you the answer before you had a chance to figure it out for yourself?

If you were putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and I offered to finish the rest of it for you, would you let me?

If you were assembling a Lego set, would you accept a fully-assembled version if I offered it to you?

There are many people who will offer you answers to your most challenging problems in life. Their answers might be wise with good intent, but being handed the answers ruins the game, spoils the ending, and prevents you from learning important lessons.

Maybe ask for hints instead.

~

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It’s my belief that most of the people you encounter each day are starved for praise.

In the career world, most bosses rarely compliment the good work employees do each day. Some even waste no time pointing out areas of weakness in their employees.

In relationships, we tend to overlook the kind things we do for each other out of habit. I sometimes overlook the fact that every time my wife takes a trip to the gas station, she buys me a pack of M&Ms. She’s awesome.

Take the opportunity to compliment someone today. But remember: to give meaningful praise, you should know the person and understand what makes them praiseworthy. Don’t give hollow compliments; don’t make a show of it; just share a word of kindness, send an email, or even write a letter. You’ll be glad you did (and so will they).

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A bit of friction sharpens the claws; too much friction dulls them.

A bit of friction within a team strengthens a project; too much friction stalls progress.

A bit of friction in communication can reveal a deeper meaning; too much friction creates separation.

Don’t eliminate it. Just reduce it.

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June 15, 2017

Avoiding the downhill

I sometimes think about dying. But not in the suicidal way. I wonder what it’ll be like in the end; will I die in a fiery, explosive exit, or will I wither away from disease or old age? Will I leave life fully spent, having given away everything I can?

If life is a mountain, I’m on the climb: I’m enjoying my career, I started a new company, I love the life that me and my wife share (and our travel wish list continues to grow).

But I sometimes wonder what the downhill will be like. Is there an age when I’ll look at a problem or an opportunity and think, no thanks, I’m too old for that? Will there be a day when I decide not to learn something new because I can see the end ahead of me, and maybe I don’t feel like it’s worth my time? Will I choose to make my way down the mountain and retire quietly, having never reached the summit?

I hope not.

But then I remember that this mountain’s peak is as tall as I want it to be. I can keep climbing. Maybe the summit could reveal a new, taller mountain. But in the end, I can choose to keep going. I can choose to keep learning and setting new goals. When I’m 80, I can decide to write that next book or song, and maybe it’ll be my best.

Consider the story of a woman named Audrey Crabtree. At age 99, she finally received her high school diploma, 80 years after leaving school one credit shy of graduation. There’s a very cynical part of me that thinks, “but why bother?”, but I realize that people like Audrey, no matter their age, are climbers. Audrey’s early life regret turned into an opportunity to plant her flag late in life, and she didn’t turn to head back downhill and abandon her dream.

Be like Audrey. There’s a mountain ahead of you, so climb. Also, don’t look down.

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The problem is that they don’t know their own story. They’re living it; they don’t think it’s a story worth telling, so they ignore the fact that their successes, failures, and lessons learned could inspire others and provide insights into what many are seeking.

When we can look back over any period of our lives, recount the narrative, and wrap it up into something that can be shared with others, it’s a recipe for books, talks, projects, or companies.

Ben Chestnut took his expertise in email marketing, packaged up the valuable parts of his narrative, and turned it into MailChimp.

You have a story to tell; it might be one that’s​ new to many people. Take the time to dissect the threads of that story, package it up, and tell it to the world in a way that creates the greatest good.

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May 27, 2017

Life Currency

We all have a life currency—an area of our life (not including money) which, when we have it in abundance, we consider ourselves wealthy.

Some people’s life currency is in relationships. They attract friends easily and feel most accomplished when they develop a large friend community.

Others choose a life currency in travel. They feel most at home on the road or exploring the unknown. Their richness is derived from experiences.

Some choose to build their life currency from a career. They dedicate most of their time and energy to a cause or an organization, and they consider themselves wealthy from their professional accomplishments.

Others choose to build life currency in family. They set out to raise a happy and healthy children and dedicate most of their time to family upbringing.

With this in mind, remember that we all have our own idea of life currency. Not everyone shares your values or dreams, so be careful not to judge others if they’re not chasing your preferred life currency.

Also, like money, life currency is best used when given away. If you’re pursuing a career, build your skills in an effort to serve others and meet their needs. If you’re traveling, use those experiences to give back and enlighten the world around you. If you’re building relationships, build those relationships out of love, not out of a desire for acceptance. And if your currency is in family, raise a family built on values, so that those you raise can go out into the world and make something good of it.

Whatever life you choose, live it richly.

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May 25, 2017

The Great Directives

I believe that in life, there are three directives that are unavoidable and essential for a quality life. These Great Directives choose us from the moment we’re born, and we risk squandering life if we ignore them.

The Great Directives are as follows:

Use money for good

Money chooses us. We can’t avoid it, but many of us fear and misunderstand it. It comes into our life out of necessity, but often leaves our life through waste.

But to achieve a full life, we must choose discipline and control over our money.

Choose to use money efficiently and effectively. Choose to give it away when there’s a need. Choose to use it as a tool for good rather than a means of self-worth.

Become a wise master of money or risk becoming a slave to it.

Embrace your health

Our body is the greatest gift we’ve been given, and our health is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

Our health reveals our discipline, passion, and vitality. While some may lose their health to age or misfortune, to knowingly abandon our health is to abandon our potential.

Improving your health is the only selfish act that creates a selfless outcome: to be healthy is to be present, mindful, and useful, and the world desperately needs more useful people.

Care for others

We live on a planet of 7 billion people, yet many of us choose to focus our life’s attention on just one — ourselves. No matter who we are or where we live, our life was created, influenced, and will be remembered by other people. We’re raised by a family, given knowledge by teachers, find passion in lovers, and inspired to greatness by leaders. To go through life without compassion for others is to forfeit our humanity.

Be compassionate, serve people, and celebrate life by caring for others.

Avoid these directives at your own peril.

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In 1999, NASA lost a $125 million Mars spacecraft due to a simple math error.

The navigation team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory used metric units of measurement (meters, newtons), while the engineering team at Lockheed Martin used the English system of measurements (feet, pounds).

Rather than slipping into a stable orbit over Mars, the mismatch in measurements led to the spacecraft burning up in orbit.

There are two lessons to take away here.

First, check your work. Pay attention to details and avoid making assumptions. Re-read that email and make another pass at editing that paper. Better yet, get someone else to do it for you.

Second, unless you too are a rocket scientist at NASA, don’t take your mistakes so seriously. Those two engineering teams set the screw-up bar extremely high back in 1999, so you’re unlikely to make a mistake that extraordinary in your lifetime.

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Regardless of your current mood or situation, make a point to give people a pleasant experience. Smile when talking to them. Give them your attention. Actively listen. Offer a genuine compliment. They won’t forget interactions like these.

Leave people better than you found them.

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April 4, 2017

Don’t Ruin the Game

In video games, there’s a concept called “God-mode”, a cheat code that gives your character unlimited money, unlimited powers, max health, no restrictions.

And without exception, “God-mode” ruins the game.

At first, it’s fun to run around as an omnipotent being, breezing through the game without obstacles. But soon, you realize that having no obstacles means no fun.

The hook of a good video game comes from being given a limited set of resources and having to find a Win scenario.

See also: life.

Don’t go looking for your real-life version of “God-mode.” Don’t try to fill your life with more money, power, or possessions, and don’t avoid challenges. Crossing to the other side of difficult challenges and making the most of constraints can smooth the rough edges of life.

Start that company. Finish that book. Revel in your constraints and learn from them. Solve big problems, and enjoy the game.

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