wisdom of the ages

As I rapidly approach middle age, I’ve noticed that I have collected some core beliefs, lessons, and philosophies over the years. If you stand next to me long enough, you’ll hear me say all of these things. From my experience, they are universal and apply across cultures, gender, race, industries, etc. That said, your mileage may vary, use at your own risk, etc.

It’s all about priorities. This explains ALL human behavior. We all have different priorities, but behave in ways that support our highest priorities. Even when someone’s behavior is completely inexplicable, rest assured they are honoring their most sacred priorities.

Everyone needs a hobby. We all need activities that bring us joy, excitement, and pleasure. For some it’s mountain biking or scrapbooking or watching football or music. For others, it’s gossiping, creating drama, putting others down, playing the victim, etc.

I have reasons, other people have excuses. That’s the difference between a reason and an excuse, but really I just have excuses. I use this as a reminder that even though my explanations make complete sense to me, they are really only excuses. To quote the great Mark Twain: “There are a thousand excuses for failure, but not a single good reason.”

Imperfect action beats perfect inaction. Perfectionism destroys more than it creates. This is a lesson I keep learning over and over. In most cases it’s far, far better to take action, notice what’s not working, make corrections, and keep going than it is to wait until I’m 100% certain of everything before moving forward.

Some things are better to have done than to do. I learned this during a long, sometimes grueling backpacking trip through the Sierra Nevada mountains. Although it was very difficult doing it and there were quite a few stretches when I really wanted to quit, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. But really, this applies to any situation where we are deferring gratification and enduring in the short term to gain in the long term.

The #1 leadership secret is… there are no leadership secrets. All leadership is on display and any of us could quickly compile a list of traits of our best and worst bosses. Interestingly, those lists would be remarkably similar, even going across industry and culture. Want to be a great leader? Do what your best managers did, don’t do what your worst managers did, and you’ll be off to a really great start.

The best ideas in the world are worthless, until the moment they are put into action. Theory is nice and pleasant and fun. Application is what changes the world. Action without thought is counterproductive, but thought without action is meaningless.

So what wisdom would you add to the list?

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