There is one person I can credit for teaching me many things during my life. I try to apply what this person taught me as often as I can, but like most, I need the occasional reminder to get me back on track. So here is my reminder to each of you: Learn these simple, yet powerful life lessons.
• Treat others the way you want to be treated. Most of us tend to gravitate toward those who treat us well. We enjoy being in their company and try to spend as much time with them as we can. On the other hand, we do not look forward to interactions with people who treat us poorly. Although we may be required to interact with these people, we do so as little as possible. If we can take time to picture ourselves as others do, we could learn a great deal about our own behavior. Are we treating others in a way we would like to be treated, or are we acting like those we try to avoid? This introspection may lead us to alter our behavior and perhaps, improve some of our more strained relationships.
• Help others become better at what they do. There are many ways to do jobs. One way is to tell someone what to do and how to do it. This might even be the quickest means to an end. However, if we want someone to take initiative and ultimately become better at what he or she does, it might be better to communicate expectations in a different manner. Stressing results and leaving the means of achieving them open offers a challenge in which someone can excel. Watching someone “figure it out” is a rewarding experience.
• Support people whenever you can. Support is a human need that can take many forms. These can range from simply acknowledging a job well done to more substantial actions, such as providing time, resources and money. No one can do everything themselves. Even those who think they can need support once in a while. Of course, support is not an entitlement. Sometimes, we simply cannot support what people are doing. If this is the case, we need to tell them why we are not supporting their actions, ideas or beliefs so they can make a decision whether to proceed without our support. Being supportive when appropriate can go a long way in making someone feel appreciated.
• Never stop learning. Be curious, ask questions, explore—these are all ways to maintain a lifelong learning experience. Learning can come from reading, visiting, watching, listening, sharing and trying different things. Sometimes, it seems like we are too busy to learn something new or different. We should resist this excuse as much as we can because we immediately fall behind when we stop learning.
• Be willing to laugh at yourself. Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking yourself too seriously. Nobody is all-knowing or mistake-free. Admit when you don’t know something, and learn from your mistakes. Find humor in these situations when you can. People will have greater respect for you and might even share information more freely (which will also contribute to your continuous-learning mission).
• Know when it’s time to change, and make the necessary changes. Blindly heading down a “comfortable” path is certainly easy, but it might not be the best path to follow. Change can often lead to a better outcome even though it might force us out of our comfort zone. There is no getting around it: Change is one of those constants in life, and being willing to adapt to change will make us better-equipped to handle whatever challenges lie ahead of us.
The person who taught me these things, and so much more, was my dad, Mitchell, who passed away recently. I hope I can continue to put his teachings to use, and perhaps even pass a few of my own along to you as I continue my own journey of life-long learning.