December 17th, 2013
A Mother’s Contemplation: Advice To The Younger Me And The Real Life Younger Me’s
Insomnia sucks. Well, for the most part it does but lying awake and contemplating life and all its nuances does have its advantages. Last night, as I turned off the TV, hell bent on not allowing myself to watch yet another consecutive episode of Duck Dynasty, I thought about my life. I've been doing that a lot lately. Things I'd change. Things I would do differently. Things I'm so thankful for. As I lay there, I thought about the things I wish I could tell my younger self and things that I hope that I can teach my own children. I made a list. And for those who know me, they know that when I have important stuff to say it often comes out as a list (just so you don't miss anything, ya know?)
So here it is. My advice to the younger me and the real-life younger me's that I've been entrusted to raise as good, kind, productive human beings. Drum roll please...
1. Don't be Fake. Be your genuine self. It wasn't until I meandered my way out of my 20s and was well into my 30s until I fully realized that I needed to stop pretending to be something I was not. I didn't need to impress anyone and who I was, as a person, was just fine. My job, my house, my income did not define who I was and the people who would love me, would love me regardless of all of these things. The acceptance that not everyone is going to like you and that you can't be all things to all people is frankly liberating.
2. Practice self and situational awareness. Along with being true to yourself comes knowing your own capabilities and your shortcomings. Self-awareness is a gift that comes when you know yourself well enough to make accurate decisions based upon what is. Situational awareness will allow you to frame your behavior contextually. From relationships to business ventures, there is no aspect of your life in which this will not be useful.
3. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. My mentor, friend and now colleague Rob Vandine told me this very early in my career. His advice not only allows others to shine, but provides you exposure to ideas and thoughts that come from the collaboration of great minds. A rising tide lifts all boats...so having people around you that are smarter will not make you look inferior, it will make everyone perform better. Recognize intelligence and realize that it takes way more than a piece of paper to make someone smart.
4. Give a sh*t. Care. Really allow yourself to have empathy for others and care enough to make a difference. Explore feelings from a point of view other than your own. And don't underestimate the value of a good, appropriately placed hug.
5. Be honest. It really is the best policy. Being honest is not always easy, but it is always right. Lying hurts and the truth will always emerge. Honesty is a fundamental principle that is the foundation for effective relationships in every aspect of life. Honesty will allow you to make decisions based upon a foundation of truth versus quicksand of lies.
6. Listen. There is no coincidence that listen and silent have the same letters. Listening is a gift that you give other people. It is more than hearing, it is processing in a way that allows understanding. Listen. And you will learn more and your interactions will be so much more meaningful.
7. Be accountable. When you screw up, own it. When you promise something, deliver. When you say something, mean it.
8. Don't be so serious. Be silly. Or Weird. Or do something random. Play pranks and have fun. Life is way too short to be serious all the time. Play loud music. Go to the movies as much as humanly possible. Laugh. A lot.
9. Have a good handshake. Seriously. Don't be wimpy. I can't tell you how many times I've been praised for having a good handshake. So, man, woman, child or otherwise, shake hands like you mean it. Oh, and while you're at it look people in the eye. It makes a difference.
10. Use your manners. Make please and thank you part of your everyday conversation. Hold the door for someone. Write a thank you note. Not an email, an honest to goodness thank you on paper with a pen. Mail it. Yes, with a stamp.
11. Give without expectation. If you can help someone do it. Give to others without the expectation that you will get anything in return. Be generous with what you have. Always.
12. Be kind. People will always, always remember how you made them feel. Just be nice. Sometimes be nice anonymously just to do it...you don't always need acknowledgement to make someone's day brighter.
13. Under promise and over deliver. Many times people make the mistake of doing the opposite; they promise exceptional things and then fall short. Be realistic, set expectations and then blow their mind.
14. Be extraordinary. Good enough is no longer good enough. Don't be okay with the status quo. Push yourself beyond your boundaries and your comfort zone. Find something you are good at and then become great. Everyone has something. Find it and use it to become part of who you are. If you are going to be a widget maker, be the best damn widget maker this world has ever seen.
15. Pick your battles. Not every argument is worth winning. Decide which hill you want to die on and don't engage in disputes that at the end of the day, in a week, a month or five years just won't be worth it. Oh, and fight fair. Don't bring up garbage that doesn't matter.
16. Trust your gut. Your instincts are probably right. Don't try and talk yourself out of what you likely already know.
17. Show respect. To those older, those younger, those wiser, those struggling, those winning and losing. Show respect. Period.
18. Never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. Be a lifelong student and you will have some of the best conversations of your life. Learn from books, learn from others, learn from experiences, learn from Wikipedia. It doesn't matter. Just never stop learning.
19. Sometimes life sucks. It's true. And it's going to kick you in the gut more than once. Reality isn't always pretty or what you want. But with every challenge comes a lesson and when you look back on the hard times, each is simply a season moving you forward to another chapter in your life. Understand that when life stinks a) there are people that have it worse than you do and b) things will get better. They always do. Like Winston Churchill said, if you are going through hell, keep going. You'll come out on the other side. I promise.
20. Seek out the positive. Maybe it's 20 years in public relations and sales, or maybe it is just how I'm wired but there is tremendous benefit of putting a positive spin on your life. There is always something to look forward to, to focus on, to bring you to the light at the end of the tunnel. And if you can't see it, ask someone else. Sometimes when you are at your lowest point it is difficult to see the blessings that are right in front of your face. And when you finally do see them, count them...and all of a sudden things just seem to suck just a little bit less.
21. Forgive. Forgiveness is a gift that you give not only the person who fell short but also to yourself. Harboring anger is not healthy and the greatest achievement is forgiving and accepting an apology that you may never hear. And, when the time comes, forgive yourself for falling short of your own expectations.
22. Take a stand. For something. Anything. Be passionate and defend what you believe in. With that being said, don't shove your beliefs onto others. There is certainly a way to have firm beliefs without flaunting your opinions and shoving them down people's throats. Respect that others may take just as hard of a stand on the opposite side. Different opinions. It's what makes this world interesting.
23. Appreciate true friends. In the world of hundreds of virtual friendships that manifest themselves online, be thankful for the true friends that really have your back. The ones you can call at 3 am. The ones that will listen to your problems over and over and over and act as if they are hearing them for the first time. The ones who give you advice you probably should take but won't. If you have one you are lucky...a handful? You are incredibly blessed.
24. Dream big. It is absolutely never too late to chase a dream. So many amazing people are stifled by their own insecurities. What if I fail? What if it doesn't work? What if....Forget what if and just do it. Will it be more difficult? Maybe. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
25. Consider what marriage means. In a time when more than 50% end in divorce, sincerely consider what you are signing up for. Marriage is hard freaking work. Consider that when you have children that they, too, will be impacted by your decisions. They will look at your actions as a framework for their own future relationships. Take your vows seriously and nurture your relationship with your spouse. And if you don't marry your best friend...don't get married. Oh, and if you can't stay faithful, stay single. Your spouse isn't a car that you trade in when it gets old or you get bored or annoyed.
26. Practice saying no. Sometimes it is ok to say no. You can decline an invitation without being rude, pass up a job because it wasn't a good fit, say no when someone asks for something that you can't realistically provide. It is perfectly okay to say no.
27. Have adventures. When you get unique opportunities take them. Go to places you've never been and do things you've never done before. Be spontaneous. You will never, ever regret these types of experiences.
28. Be fearless. Don't protect yourself from sadness because by doing so you may just end up missing out on tremendous happiness. Live with tremendous courage even when you are scared. More often than not the reward is worth the risk you take.
29. Share with others the things you think are extraordinary about who they are. Compliment others...about their talents, their personality, their resilience, heck, compliment them on their choice of perfume or how their jeans make their butt look good. It doesn't matter...when you think a compliment, say it. It means more than you know.
30. Love without condition. The greatest love you can give anyone is that of unconditional acceptance of who they are. Love with all of your heart, without reservation and never pass up the opportunity to tell someone how much they mean to you. Life is fleeting. Figure out what selfless love really means and offer that to another.