2010 Lessons Learned

Another year has passed and I am left wondering where the time went. I need a new clock with 30 hours a day instead of 24, because 24 isn’t cutting it. Even with the measly 24 hours per day, a lot happened in 365 days. Today I reflected on how many things changed in my life this past year and what I learned as a result. Some changes I consciously focused on throughout the year, while other opportunities randomly presented themselves. Here are my takeaways for the year…

Friendship:
Over the year I developed some new friendships and ended some old ones. Such is the circle of life I suppose. The idea of friends coming and going made me think about relationships in general. Whether with your spouse, your friend or just a new acquaintance, if you cannot communicate and respect each other, then you cannot connect. Connections are very important in our daily life. What is wrong with wishing the cashier at the market a happy holiday? The concept of connecting with people seems obvious, until you realize that some people can’t or won’t always tell you their true feelings (duh, they are not communicating!). Also, what you see on the surface may not be the reality. We all have problems and challenges in our lives, so why can’t we share them? Isn’t that what friendship is for? This year I realized more connecting and sharing (even the worst part of our lives or ourselves) felt a lot better than hiding behind conversations about the weather.

Respect:
Respect seems to be something you earn by placing boundaries around yourself. Not the unhealthy kind of boundaries made of steel bars or moats with alligators, but the kind where people are forced to treat you like a person, not a doormat. I learned this year that pushing back definitely worked. When you demonstrate to others that you respect yourself first, then they can respect you next. I didn’t let family, friends, or customers at work push me around this year and I was a lot happier as result. I highly recommend it.

Communication:
I spent a lot of time communicating this year and I am not sure the message or the end result always turned out the way I wanted. Sometimes I had to tell people things they didn’t want to hear OR listen to things I didn’t want to hear. “What?”, you say, you didn’t know that LISTENING was part of communication? No one wants to hear they lost a job or be ‘unfriended’, however, I experienced new doors of opportunity that opened when old ones closed. Accepting the situation and dealing with next steps was lot more fun that sitting around wondering ‘why me’?

Hope:
People talk about hopes and wishes, but that is total crap. If you really want something, you decide what you want and then go out and make it happen. I want to be the person making things happen, not sitting around waiting for it. I recall a friend from years ago who wanted to get married and have a family, yet she sat around her apartment waiting for Prince Charming ( or some guy named Steve) to show up at her door. You cannot depend on others to fulfill your dreams. We are responsible for our own destiny. Instead of hope, you need action.

Community:
So many people this year talked about the sense of community (or lack of it.) What happened to the small town feeling where everyone knew you and your kids? What about lending your neighbor a cup of sugar? Unfortunately whether living in big cities or suburbs, people are divided instead of brought together. Letting the neighbor kids come by for a visit so another mom can get a much-needed break seems an obvious thing to do in a community, but who am I to say anything with cinder block 6′ high walls around my house? I may have the physical walls, but I am trying to remove the mental walls, at least for myself. Hopefully others will find the removal of the mental walls liberating too.

The more I learn in life, the more I realized how little I know. I can only hope that 2011 brings as many opportunities to learn, just different ones than 2010 – because honestly, I don’t want to relive the year. Hello 2011!

A student of mentoring

Mentoring is another form of education.

Have you ever helped someone solve a problem? Or talked over a personal or business challenge? Did you make the other person think? How was it to listen to another person’s problems and help guide them to a solution without telling them specifically what to do? I wonder if we all have within ourselves the capacity to mentor?

As I have entered what I call mid-career , it appears that there are as many coworkers younger than me as there are older than me, which suddenly puts me in a position to teach more and learn less. I don’t want to be the guy that says, “We have always done it this way”, but I hope what I can share is a lesson learned or two. Occasionally ‘that guy’ with his statements about how things didn’t work a certain way, will turn out to be right. Sharing an experience does not always have to be about the right way but instead, something to think about.

I like the idea that we can all learn from each other (my Utopia) but there are some people who feel they have nothing more to learn (I don’t associate with those people, at least not by choice). I am questioning now, what makes a learning culture? How can someone educate or mentor me? How do you learn? By making your own mistakes, hearing a story, or reading a book? I usually make a mistake which I wish I could have learned about from a book. In the end though at least I have a story I can use to help someone else learn (assuming they didn’t already make the same mistake or they were not unable to learn from a book either). At least my mistakes are productive. What better way to learn? Maybe I am my own best mentor? How are you learning (or mentoring) today?