Eleven lessons that shaped how I live my life

It came to mind that I toss around a handful of phrases with enough frequency and a long enough time that I feel they have sufficiently affected how I orient myself to what is around me.

Maybe some will have meaning to you.

  1. Fifty percent of people are better off than you, and 50 percent are worse off — It’s one of the more powerful sentiments that my father instilled in me. While I am probably even more privileged than that, the value is limitless.
  2. No judging in brainstorming — The worst thing for collaboration or friendship or teamwork or success or for anything is to question someone’s willingness to share an idea with condescension or criticism. Be kind to those who share their ideas and work with them.
  3. Make a list and keep it — Keep yourself accountable by listing goals, resolutions, priorities and the like. And then stick to them. Promises made, forgotten and never kept are of no value.
  4. Say ‘I don’t know’ and ask questions — If you don’t know something, admit it and ask the question that helps you find out.
  5. In almost all cases, it’s not as serious as you think it is — Calm the Hell down.
  6. Everything online is public — Yes, even e-mail or IM conversations. Consider anything you write or say today to be public. I picked up this logic in college and have tried to follow its underlying logic.
  7. Relationships aren’t business, business is relationships — Get those priorities in order and treat people in a way that reflects this reality.
  8. When you treat people like children, you get children’s work — It was my favorite take away from the very excellent workflow management book by 37signals and a concept I came to learn while working with high school journalism clubs, the members of whom I would treat as if they were professionals. Expect the work you want.
  9. Never admit a big defeat when you can claim a smaller victory — Think creatively about what good can come of a situation, in lessons or experiences or something else.
  10. Diversify everything: from your finances to your coverage — Don’t focus on one anything.
  11. Lust isn’t about sex; it’s about how little we care about each other — It’s something I read somewhere, several years ago, and though I can’t remember the source, it has had a profound impact on my understanding of fidelity. That treatment goes far beyond the physical.
  12. [Updated] Action is a virtue — There is always a reason to say no, so focus on why you ought to do something.
  13. [Updated] Come with Solutions not  just questions — Creativity can flow with conversation, but when bringing up a problem, concern or idea, come with a solution, even if it isn’t the best, have a suggested direction whenever in a meeting, particularly when dealing with other leaders.
  14. [Updated] Be the nicest to the secretaries, assistants, garbage men, janitors and postmen because they really make it happen — My father would be dismayed when people seemed to have a strictly hierarchical sense of who is important and who isn’t, particularly because, when it comes right down to it, the supposed leaders are most often not the ones who actually do the work.
  15. [Updated] Our worst qualities are often our best ones too, just described differently — So whether you’re manipulative or strategic; lazy or relaxed; high-strung or detail orientated all depends on perspective and what the end result is.
  16. [Updated] Luck and opportunity are both about 75 percent found and 25 percent created — Good luck and opportunity certainly come our way, but we still need to earn a healthy portion of it.
  17. [Updated] The only person responsible for your happiness is you. — Take ownership of what you want in your life and when the details are beyond your reach, find what you can grab.
  18. [Updated] “When you realize nothing is lacking/the whole world belongs to you” – Wise words from Lao Tzu
  19. [Updated] Fail fast or succeed big — A lesson from the startup world that teaches it’s worth giving it your all or moving on.
  20. [Updated] You can’t think outside the box unless someone is thinking inside of it — A good reminder for anyone who strives to be different. Remember to not bash those who conform or follow normal practices, because without them, nothing you do would be original.
  21. [Updated] You often don’t lose friends in a year, but you can certainly gain them — So travel, move, try new things and challenge, particularly when you’re young.

And, yes, the old Golden Rule is a good one, just try to treat others close-enough as you might want to be treated.

Do you have any other rules to live by?

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  • http://Www.stephenzook.com Stephen Zook

    I have a few:

    Life is not a dress rehearsal – If you want to do something in life (travel, study, etc.), you should do it, to hell with what cautious people might say. You don’t get to do this again, so you might as well do it the way you want.

    Go big or go home – I like this because it reminds me that if something significant is worth doing, it’s worth going for broke. I believe mistakes are usually temporary, but regret is almost always forever.

  • Paul Bobnak

    While every dark cloud has a silver lining, the opposite is also true. Be careful not to invest so much emotion in a single event, or moment, that you lose perspective of what is truly important in the long run.