There have been so many times that I’ve looked to other people for advice in my own life. I have truly learned and grown as a result of much of this advice, even if I didn’t end up taking it.
Sometimes it’s business, sometimes it’s personal, but I find the same general rules apply to both. Some of the hardest times in my life granted me the knowledge and maturity to deal with those situations should they arise again… and I am grateful.
I thought I’d share some of my rules that have been created by necessity. The necessity of dealing with people, the necessity of dealing with friends, the necessity of trying to get somewhere in my life that I will be happy with. So here it goes.
People don’t live by your rules. This is a really hard thing for people to grasp. This was a really hard thing for me to grasp. All to often, I expect people to understand the way that I think and do things and the way that I would expect them to do things. You have to understand people, their tendencies, and their point of view in your life, there is just no getting around that. You are not the center of the universe, and people honestly don’t want to live by your rules, nor do they care that you have any. Empathy is a big thing here, hypothetically putting yourself in peoples situation allows you to work with them and there will be far less battles to be fought if you take the time to exercise your empathy muscles.
Take criticism, but don’t offer criticism just to criticize. I used to be so bad at this. In a world where you’re intellectual capital is always being questioned, everything is personal. I would always feel like criticism, no matter how constructive, was a personal attack on me. When I finally realized that people were trying to help me, I learned to take criticism as an opportunity to better myself. The other side of this coin is to provide that constructive criticism to others. I would often find myself criticizing people because I felt like they were competition; so I used it as an opportunity to bring people down instead of lift them up. I realized that I was only reflecting poorly on myself, and you immensely improve yourself when you try to provide people with insights and try to help them.
Don’t ask for promotions (or expect them). This is hard. As soon as you get into the working world you want to move up the ladder. You want the respect, you want the title, and you want the money. People (myself included) want to be managers without even understanding what it takes to be able to manage people or things. Who really wants to be a manager anyways? If you work hard enough, you should want to develop your skills and be the absolute best version of yourself. I quickly realized after the words “I want to be a manager” left my mouth, that I was in no way qualified for that position, nor did I earn it. If Chutes and Ladders were only ladders, the game would not be nearly as fun.
Listen to understand, not to reply. This is especially true when you’re arguing with people. I am SO guilty of being über defensive when someone tries to argue with me. I have started to adapt Daniel Dennet’s Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently and thus far, it has changed everything. The thing is, you should understand (not just think you understand) the other person’s point of view and argument before you can ever refute with anything intelligent. This rule will also help you to be more empathetic in general when listening to people.
Stop making a big deal out of the little things. Everything is not the end of the world. I can’t even fathom how many times I’ve let the little things consume me. For example, I get extremely anxious about being late, to the point where it can ruin my whole day. Or sometimes I get paranoid that a mistake I make today will set the tone for the rest of my career. In the grand scheme of things, these are not life changing things. In most cases, these things don’t even matter. Learn to let go of the little things, and reduce your stress levels. It simply isn’t worth it.
Life is not about image. In life, we tend to make decisions and even have meaningless conversations that add no substance to our life. Who cares if someone thinks you’re important. If you know your worth and value as well as your importance, it almost doesn’t matter what people think. Unless someone can directly affect your life, you don’t need to prove yourself to them. In most cases, if you feel like you have to prove yourself to someone else (and especially people that don’t matter), it’s time to walk away. Value is separate from perceived value. The only person you have to prove yourself to, is yourself. Focus on the substance, not the image.
I’m not saying I’m perfect with all of this, or that I always live by these rules, the truth is, it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and just act impulsive. That’s life. However, I do believe that introspection is one of the greatest paths to success, and recognizing one’s own faults and shortcomings and constantly trying to improve, makes you a better employee, friend, partner, and person.