I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time — over thirty years, in fact. In that time, I’ve helped ventures grow from the seed of an idea into thriving businesses and seen good ideas not get off the ground. All of those experiences, good and bad, have been hard-won lessons that I’ve taken to heart.
I’m also a father. As my kids grow up and begin to pursue their professional dreams, I know that they will face their own set of obstacles and learn from their own failures. They need to; it’s part of growing up. But at the same time, I hope that I can share the lessons I’ve learned with them and help prepare them for the winding road that is life, if only a little.
These are those lessons.
Take the High Road
Being the better person is hard. During times of stress, it’s easy to lash out or make snap decisions that, in retrospect, might not have been that wise. No one thinks rationally when emotions run high — so whenever you feel the situation spiraling out of control, take a breath. No matter how time-sensitive the problem is, you can take a few minutes to calm down and walk yourself through the options. Go back to your moral roots; ask yourself, what would Jesus do in this situation?
Doing the right thing might not be easy, but it’s always worth it. You’ll always find better results if you take a moment to disengage from the moment and see the bigger picture.
Develop Your Education
Your education will be the foundation for your career, so focus on laying the concrete before you start chasing bigger plans. You can always build on your academic achievements, but if you don’t study hard and get good grades, you won’t have the knowledge you need to reach your full potential once you leave school.
Listen Before You Act
You will never learn anything new if you’re always the only one talking. Obtain as many opinions as possible before you make any major decisions, even if you think you know what you want to do. Hearing others’ perspectives will help you develop a more nuanced and clear view of your options and the situation as a whole.
Steer Clear of Petty Politics
Every day, I see people get so caught up in gossip and drama that they lose sight of themselves. Rather than consume yourself with why your colleagues are doing this or that, try to remain centered on your own goals and objectives. If you can focus on continuously improving yourself, you will achieve more and be more effective than you would if you let yourself sink into petty politics.
Maintain Your Humility
Never be arrogant. Arrogance stops growth and limits value, while humility grounds us. Always be mindful of your pride and remain humble.
Look for Solutions, Not Obstacles
If you ever feel stuck or discouraged, take a step back and try to see the situation with fresh eyes. Anyone can point out the obstacles in your path; it’s your job to find a way to overcome them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try
Failure is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how clever or creative you are; someday, you will face setbacks — and that’s okay, because failure is also a part of learning. You should never let fear keep you from trying something new or taking a leap of faith. If you do, you’ll never achieve anything at all. Your fear of not trying and allowing opportunities to pass you by should always outweigh your fear of making an attempt and failing.
Care About People
Bring compassion into your work. Care about the people you work with and those you manage, personally and professionally. Remember: you do not build companies with bricks and mortar — you build them with people. If you love on your people, any business you create will be stronger for it.
Always Put Family First
Your family is and should always be your number-one priority. Never lose sight of that. After all, what meaning does any of your accomplishments at work have if you don’t have anyone to share in or celebrate them with you?
Err On the Side of Trust
It might seem hard sometimes, but it’s essential that you believe in people. You might find yourself betrayed and let down from time to time, but you should never let those experiences sour you into a cynic. If you need to err, err on the side of trust.
Never Give Up
The only time you fail is when you quit trying.