Geico is always saying that 15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance. I’m going to boast that by skimming through this list of life lessons you will find at least one good idea you can use—and it will take less than 15 minutes to do it.
One of the many things I learned from my late friend Sunshine is that we can’t blame our past for our present failures. Sunshine would always say, “You think you had it rough, I was abandoned as a baby and bounced from foster home to foster home. I was widowed three time. My home burned to the ground with everything in it. Still, I believe in abundance, possibilities, and owning my failures and my successes.” What she said.
Not everyone is a morning person, but most successful people are. The truth is, if we don’t do what’s most important by lunch, there’s a good chance we will not do it at all. Also, by doing the worst first (or first things first) we can leave the little stuff to do later in the day and end on a high note by checking off a bunch of easy tasks from our to-do list.
When we don’t know what we don’t know, we won’t grow—and eventually will end up looking like an idiot. It’s actually a show of strength when we can admit we don’t know something and be open to learning it from another person.
“You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.” Ricky Nelson sang these words in the song Garden Party, and they still ring true. You can’t live your life trying to please others. Trust me, I’ve tried and failed. It’s so freeing to let go of worrying what others will think of us, or living beyond our means (in time and money) to impress others. Let it go.
If we’re going to do something, we should do it right. Attention to detail isn’t always noticed by others, but sloppiness is. Sure, some things just need to be done quickly, but triple checking we did it right, doing a little something extra to polish it off and stand out, and caring about quality is the difference between good and great.
The things we use the most should be within the easiest to get access, while the things we need the least can be stored our of reach. Whether you like to leave things out or store your stuff away, if you can find what you need when you need it, you’re organized in my book.
We should surround ourselves with people smarter than us. Better than us. More connected than us. More experienced. Older, and younger than us. Then we need to give to get. Think of it like a checking account. We begin with a zero balance. To build up equity we must do something for the other person first. Only then can we ask for something in return.
THE BIG IDEA
If my house were on fire I would grab my wife and kids, my computer, and my idea book—it’s that important to me. Having a place to store good ideas is one of the best pieces of advice I could give someone with vision, ambition, and a desire to be on Shark Tank someday.
In the song, Limelight by Rush they sing, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” If you decide to not brand yourself, someone else will. Decide who you want to be and then live that brand with your words and actions. Dress the part, make your voice mail recording, e-mail signature, social media all match that message.
It’s so simple, treat others how we would want to be treated. This is the secret to being a people person. Everyone wants to be respected and made to feel important. Nobody wants to be be taken advantage of or marginalized. Remembering and using people’s names, listening intently, saying thank you, offering praise when appropriate, and making others feel important goes a long way to winning them over.
No matter what we do for a living, we should be finding ways to do what we do better. It doesn’t have to be giant leaps of insight and big ideas, just making small, continuous improvements over time (compound innovation) makes a big difference.
I have a lot to say about this subject, but I’ll limit it to three main points. The first is, the people we see doing brave things were often afraid, but pushed past it. Our lives grow only as far as we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Susan Jeffers said, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” I agree. Second, the only time I’m afraid to go on stage and speak to a large crowd is when I am not prepared (which is never, by the way). Practice, prepare, and then push yourself. Third, just say, “Yes!” The more we look before we leap, the harder it is to step off the cliff. Trust me, I know. In Hawaii, when I jumped off of some seriously high cliffs, I always offered to go first.
I have found that the easiest way to simplify things (especially when it comes to decisions about what to do or not do) is to always choose to do the right thing.
We’ve all guessed on a test and then later came back to revisit the question only to change it to something else so it’s not just a good guess. Ha! That change is usually wrong. Our first instinct and gut reactions are usually right.
SLOW IS SMOOTH
Having coached baseball, football, and basketball I’ve come to learn that success comes when we slow things down. Don’t get me wrong I want a fast baserunner, a speedy receiver, and quick point guard, but I’ve come to live by this mantra: Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. How many times in life do we rush something and have to do it again. (Measure twice and cut once.) By slowing things down, we can actually save time.
KNOW AND NO
Some of us suffer from volunteerism. Others want to be people pleasers. And still more will say, “Yes” without thinking. Don’t be afraid to say, “No”. Many times a no to another person is a yes to ourselves. It’s okay to put family first and maybe miss out on going out. It’s okay to work on a personal project instead of trying to help others reach their goals. It’s okay to focus on fixing things in our own lives instead of trying to save the world. Know what matters most and focus on putting that first.
THE POWER OF NOW
I’ve been wearing a wrist band for months as a reminder to live in the now. It works. If I find myself feeling bad or mad or guilty about something that happened in the past (which I can’t change) I just touch the bracelet, take a deep breath, and move on. When I start to worry about what may happen in the future, I do the same thing. I know all I can control is what’s happening right now and that that is where happiness is found.
Earlier in this list of things to do I mentioned knowing what you don’t know. I’d like to add to that. Learn what you don’t know if it’s important to you and involves your career. Try to be the most prepared person in the room. Since I create customized presentations, I often have to do a deep dive into a topic I know nothing about. By the time I step on stage, I can sound like an expert . . . for 30 to 60 minutes.
What made the late Chris Farley so funny was his self-deprecating humor. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves and find the funny in less-than-fun circumstances. Humor also has a way of diffusing serious and tense many situations.
If we want to make a change, it can’t be a complete departure from who we are. For example, let’s say we want to get organized. If we don’t take into account our natural way of doing things, we’ll just end up going back to our old (and familiar) ways. Instead, if there is a pile of stuff by the door, clearly that’s where we want it to go, put a basket or bin there. If we toss the keys on the counter when we come home, put a bowl there.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Sherlock Holmes said, “You look, but you don’t see.” Meaning, most people miss a great deal, much to their detriment. Pay attention to the details, because details matter.
I have almost died several times—surfing, diving, boating, cliff jumping, parachuting, off-roading, and the list goes on. One of the reason I didn’t die is I let myself go to the dark side and ask, “What if?” In advance of doing something stupid and dangerous. This is also helpful when I’m traveling to speak. I will ask, “What if they don’t have a Mac adapter?” “What if my laptop crashes?” “What if they forgot to print or bring my introduction?” This forces me to have backups of my backups and be ready for whatever may go wrong. It’s better to be looking at what you need than looking for it.
There’s so much to say on this topic, but I will just mention what I think is the most important part of being a good leader, and it is this: Lead by example.
People . . . Whatta ya gonna do? People piss us off. People frustrate us. People disrespect us. People do us wrong. I have found that it’s okay to get mad, but it’s better to get even . . . by having success (it is the best revenge). It’s best not to burn any bridges. Instead, use the anger you feel to fuel your fire to succeed.
We should not send an e-mail or text when we’re emotional or drunk. Hit pause, let it sit overnight, and then decide if we should still respond. Enough said.
In the old days, we could only instantly capture a special event in our lives with a Polaroid picture and view it right away. Now there’s no reason to miss a memorable moment. Ahhhhh, but we need to create memorable moments, and we do this by doing something exciting and new, making sure we are present and appreciate the small things, and go the extra mile to make points in time where people say, “Wow!”
My father would do things like take an old soda container, punch some holes in it, attach a hose, and voila, it’s a sprinkler. I learned a lot from my father about how to be handy—and it’s served me well. They say, necessity is the mother of invention, and being handy is handy. Besides, with YouTube, we can learn to fix almost anything.
Don’t let one bad decision lead to another.
It’s not just what you make, it’s what you keep. There is no shame in getting something you want and need for the best possible price. From what I can tell, the wealthiest people can be some of the most frugal—which may explain their wealth.
KARMA IS A . . .
If I ever stray from doing what’s right (which is very rare, and usually out of laziness) I pay the price immediately. Karma reminds me that the only thing to do is the right thing—or else there is a greater price to pay. It also works the other way, too. Do good and good comes back to you.
Einstein said, “If you put your hand on a hot stove, one minute will feel like an hour. When you are doing something you enjoy, one hour will feel like a minute.” That’s relativity. Pay attention to the things you are doing when time flies. There’s a good chance it’s what you should be doing more of—and it’s often also your passion. It’s far easier to focus (and focus is the key to everything) when you love what you do.
Think big, but start small. When people ask me how to promote a book, I always reply that it’s like dropping a pebble in a pond. The first ring is family and friends—promote to them first. (It seems like a small thing, but it could lead to a big break because you don’t know who they know.) I also say, “Think global, but start local.” Start with where you live and then work your way out from there. I guess with social media we can go global right away.