Valuable Tips to Live, Learn, Grow, and Prosper

The longer I live, the more I learn and I the more grateful I become.

I am often asked for advice or words of wisdom. I don’t know if I’d call the following words of wisdom, but I will say that they were lessons, powerful lessons that changed my life for the better.  It is from this place that I share with you.

What you really need to know in life, you probably learned earlier than you think.

For me, a good part of my life foundation came from the 4-H Club.  You may or may not be familiar with this non-profit organization that was founded in 1902. Their mission, although originally agriculture focused, was to engage youth (boys and girls) to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development. I grew up in the country long before organized sports for girls became a reality, so being in the 4-H Club was the bomb for me!

The 4-H’s represent Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. Members work their way through these four values through engaging programs and hands-on fun. The pledge I learned went like this…

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

I’d say they were a progressive organization ahead of their time, wouldn’t you?

It was there I learned critical thinking, goal setting, planning, problem solving and stretching myself beyond my comfort zone. Remind me to tell you about my cake baking demonstration and the lessons learned from that!

Take a minute to think back… where did you learn when to speak up and when to listen, how to play well with others, when to take your turn, how to share, how to get up when you got knocked down – physically or metaphorically.  Where did you learn giving, gratitude, and grit? What we learned then became the foundation of how we viewed and operated in the world, and who we became in the years to come… and probably who we ARE today.

There are no guarantees AND life isn’t always fair.

When I was 21, I had a great job, had just built my first house and had a 2-year old car. In my way of thinking, I had the world by the tail. That was, until the organization announced one morning that the doors to the plant would close in sixty days.

In the blink of an eye, my world changed… my heart began to beat rapidly, like it was going to jump out of my chest. I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. My mind raced with questions that I had no answers for… what would I do? How would I make my house payment, my car payment?  Where would I find another job? How did I let myself get in this place? Why did I think I was ready to take on these financial responsibilities?  And the biggest question of all …. now what?

Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones. Because of my skill sets and work ethic, I was one of four people kept on the payroll until the doors closed which was several months after the rest of the workforce was laid off. I watched as the final piece of equipment was loaded on a truck and we turned the lights out for the last time. I was grateful. I had time to save a little, look for a job, develop Plan B, and do a LOT of reflection. It was only two weeks before I started a new job, but those were the longest two weeks of my life.

As painful as it was, the Universe did me a favor that day. I realized the importance of having a Plan B in your hip pocket ready to put into action. I embraced the concept of not over-extending financially, and the criticality of always having a little cash tucked back.

I made it my goal to find out what I needed to do… to thrive, not just survive. I asked, listened, and learned what bosses and organizations looked for and valued. Then I did my homework to find out what I needed to do to be the person they were looking for.

Nope, there are no guarantees in life; so I couldn’t say I’d never be out of work again. What I could say and more importantly, “do” was to take actions to ensure I would be prepared should it happen again.

I vowed that day to be a life-long learner, to be a good team player, and to acquire and build relevant and diverse skill sets. I adopted a “how can I” mindset instead of an “I can’t.”  I kept a positive attitude, an open mind and did my best to help others.

What can you do?

Don’t wait to be on the receiving end of bad news. Take the initiative to do your own self-assessment, now. What are you good at? Are your skills relevant? Are you keeping them up-to-date?  Are you the kind of leader or colleague that you would want to work for or with? What would others say are your strengths? What’s your debt load? How many months savings do you have? If you got bad career news today, do you have a Plan B?

Ask yourself the hard questions, then take action now to ensure you thrive.  

Be the real you – warts and all!

This has been a hard lesson for me, and I’m still working on it. I have moved from being a “closed book” to an “open chapter.”  I don’t think I’ll ever be an open book. I’ve spent way too much of my life worrying about what people thought or that I’d be rejected. It took one of my team members to open my eyes… painful, but oh so life-changing.

I tried to make it a point during reviews to ask for questions and to ask what feedback they had for me. The words of one of my direct reports burned into my mind that day and for ever more. She told me I thought I was better than other people.

Anyone who really knows me would say that this is not who I am. After I caught my breath, and was able to speak again, I asked her to help me understand what had brought her to that conclusion. She went on to say that even though I allowed others to make mistakes and learn from them, I wouldn’t let myself do the same; therefore, I must think I was better than others.

Some lessons take reflection and others hit you like a 2×4 – this was a 2×4. You don’t have to tell me twice. Until that day, I did anything and everything to ensure I did things right – which is what I now recognize as misguided perfectionism. My team now knows that I am technically challenged, but at the time I’d knock myself out trying to hide that fact. It was amazing what happened when I allowed myself to be the real me – warts and all.

What happened was nothing short of a miracle. Life got easier!!! People who had strengths stepped up and others seeking the next step in their development also stepped up. Both of these things resulted in less stress for me and much better outcomes for the team and the organization.

It’s a fact, the real you messes up sometimes. The real you can feel scared or can let ego get in the way. Is the real you willing to say… “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong,” or “I don’t have a clue.” The value of being the real you is that you give others permission to be the real them.

Imagine the possibilities when WE are able to create and work in an environment where we can be real… no pretense, no wasted energy, no wondering if our authentic self is going to be judged or punished in some way. Just be YOU – You are enough!

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