5 Lessons Learned from the Trenches

lessons learned

In more than 40 years in business, I’ve been very fortunate to have had some great mentors, clients and associates who have taught me principles that I have used throughout my career. I am grateful for the contributions each of these people has made to my life and business. Some of them seem obvious and basic but are still worth repeating. Here are 5 of my lessons learned.

5 Lessons Learned

  1. Read a little bit every day. Yes I know—we’re all on information overload. Sometimes it’s all we can do to keep up with the headlines, emails, webinars and other business and personal priorities. Yet at the same time, if we can carve out 15 minutes per day to read, we can generally finish 18 books in a year. That’s a lot of knowledge. Thanks to the late Roy Chitwood, president of Max Sacks International from 1976-2015 for suggesting this easy way to be a lifelong learner.
  2. Respond to requests in a timely manner. In all walks of life, people—whether it’s a spouse, child, friend, associate or boss—ask you to do things. Depending on the relationship, the first response or obligation is to let the person making the request know if you can fulfill it. The second piece of information is to let them know when you’ll complete the task or action step they need. If it sounds like common courtesy, it is. In business, especially, imagine what a difference it would make if someone acknowledged your request with this kind of reply: “I’d be happy to do that for you. I’ll get it done within two days.” It makes perfect sense to me. Thank you Cork Platts for teaching this valuable lesson to me and your other associates.
  3. If you think it’s impossible, you’re your own worst enemy. Any accomplishment worth pursuing is bound to have some challenges along the way. In her recently published book, “Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Do It,” Dr. Erica Miller shares five tips for “living life audaciously” as she puts it. They are:
  • Life is a journey. Go for it. Pursue your dreams.
  • Flex your muscles. You are the captain of your boat of life. Learn to navigate.
  • There is no failure, only challenges that help you prepare for the next opportunity.
  • Hurt brings opportunities. Develop resilience and the ability to learn from the past.
  • Live life today. The past doesn’t own you.

Thank you Dr. Miller for sharing these inspiring ideas and words of wisdom.

4. First and foremost, show an interest in others. The late president, Theodore Roosevelt, once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In the pre-Internet generation, people relied heavily on face-to-face meetings to conduct business. That meant they had the ability to develop relationships in real time. In Harvey McKay’s book, “Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive,” he provided salespeople with a list of questions they should be able to answer about any prospect or customer. The point: show an interest in others by getting to know people. It’s the first step in building trust and confidence. Thanks Harvey McKay for this sage advice.

5. You are responsible for your own happiness. How many people play the victim card, citing all the reasons why they aren’t happy or successful? Dennis Prager wrote an amazing book, “Happiness Is a Serious Problem,” which in my opinion should be required reading for all young adults. The basic premise is that we all have a moral responsibility to be happy. He believes people act more decently when they are happy. In his book, Mr. Prager also addresses the difference between pleasure and happiness. Pleasure is fleeting and external. Happiness is enduring and internal. It comes from a sense of gratitude and spirituality. Thank you Dennis Prager for your thought leadership and reminding us about living life according to values.

lessons learned

“Do you feel more positively disposed toward other people and do you want to treat other people better when you are happy or when you are unhappy?” – Dennis Prager

Personal Development and Continual Learning

Important principles are different for everyone. What works for one person may not work for another. But one thing that is important is the ability to connect with and learn from others. Whether you gain insight from a mentor, colleague or client, open yourself to continual learning and personal development. What are some of your lessons learned?


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