Things I’ve Learned Along The Way

Posted by Matt Grawitch

As we enter the month of August, parents are getting ready to send their children back to school. College students are starting to make their trek back to campus, and faculty member are diligently preparing their classes.

Now is a good time to reflect and share some of the important lessons I have learned over the past few years. These are not a “Top 5″ list or anything like that (you’ll see the problem with that down below). To be better prepared for the upcoming challenges that a new school year present, I am sharing my wisdom.

Lesson #1: Most lists are arbitrarily put together. Any time you see a ‘Top 5′ or ‘Top 10′ list of important ideas, usually they don’t mean anything. There was no systematic process used to identify the ‘Top 5 ways to manage stress’ or the ‘Top 7 habits of successful employees’. This is not say that those 5 ways to manage stress or those 7 habits are unimportant. But, they typically only represent the author’s opinion, not some sound, systematic process.

Lesson #2: Experts often make up much of what they say! I know it sounds odd, but most experts know only so much. They have a particular field of study or expertise, and they fill in the gaps with things that sound logical or intuitive, rather than being based on anything scientific. They typically over-generalize from previous research (meaning they read more into research results than are actually there). This is especially true when something major happens, like a school shooting, a terrorist attack, or a plane crash. We all do this: speaking on topics based on what we know and filling in gaps based on what sounds logical. Remember that before you make a major life decision based on the work of one ‘expert’.

Lesson #3: No major innovation was developed by playing it safe! Every major life innovation over the last 100 years (and more) resulted from someone (or a bunch of someones) taking huge risks, being willing to experiment and meet with a series of failures before they found success. I would never suggest that we all go out and take a series of major risks, but we always need to remember that if we want to innovate, we have to take some amount of risk (read, calculated risk). Most of the good things in life require some risk: marriage, parenting, love, hope. Without the risk, you will not get the reward.

Lesson #4: Most people want to enjoy their work! Believe it or not, most people do not hate to work. However, they want to have fun while they work because the more fun we have, the more camaraderie we develop in our jobs, the less it feels just like something we have to do, and the more it feels like something we want to do. Add to that the feeling that you are doing something meaningful, and you are set for a productive, engaging work life. It’s getting to that point that can be difficult. But, if you are not there now, keep learning, keep reflecting, and keep searching, because there is something out there for you. But, remember Lesson #5.

Lesson #5: Change is really damn hard! And, the bigger the change, the harder it is. Don’t ever let anyone try to convince you that change is easy. Whether it is getting a new job, changing your eating habits, quitting smoking, or changing your outlook on life, it’s going to be difficult. But, if you keep trying, if you learn from failure, and if you can generate some small wins early, you will increase the likelihood that your ultimate goal will be reached.

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned along my life journey. What have you learned? Are you willing to share?

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