Bennis Inc. | (Almost) A Quarter-Century of Life Lessons
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(Almost) A Quarter-Century of Life Lessons

(Almost) A Quarter-Century of Life Lessons

Yesterday, December 18th, I celebrated my 24th birthday. Getting to this one day took me nearly a quarter of a century of learning, growing and collecting life experiences. As part of my celebration, I thought now would be the perfect time to really reflect on who I am and what I know to be true. I want to share with the world my own list of 24 life lessons that have taken me 24 years to learn. Some I’m glad to have learned early, some carry heavy memories and some make me smile—but no matter what emotions they conjure up, they have all played a role in making me who I am today and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

Birthday

1. Tie your happiness to a goal—not people or things

You will never be able to control people or things; don’t let your happiness be dependent upon them.

2. There is no such thing as awkward situations, only awkward people

Realizing this allowed me to take control of situations and handle them with confidence and grace.

3. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together

It’s not easy when you feel slighted or taken advantage of, but I truly believe that there’s a greater plan and even the bad parts play in to a happy ending.

4. Crying is neither an indication that you’re weak nor a solution to your problems

You can never really hold emotion in. Not dealing with how you feel causes emotion to come out as passive aggression or displaced anger. I allow myself a good pity party from time to time, but after that’s over I don’t let my thoughts linger. I move on.

5. No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying

Sure it’s easy for people to sit back and criticize when they’re not in your position. But even failing is a sign that you’re trying—and that’s so much more productive than standing still.

6. Do what you love, not what you think you’re supposed to do

I struggled with this one for a while. I thought I was supposed to stay with whatever job offered the most money and benefits, regardless of how miserable I became. Sure I’d like more money, but it will come. Until then, I’d much rather be doing what I love and calling my own shots.

7. Only blaze your own trail if no one before you has gone where you’re going

Don’t take the path less traveled solely for the sake of being different. There’s no shame in following in someone’s footsteps, especially if you admire the path they’ve chosen.

8. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting

This can be applied to both results you want to keep and results you want to change. If you want change you have to create change—time alone cannot and will not do this.

9. At the core, people are truly good

Sometimes I meet people who really test this belief of mine! But if I spend enough time with someone, somewhere along the line they give me the proof I need to know this is still very true.

10. Strive for progress, not perfection

The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists; it rewards people who get things done. Trying to make each day perfect will only paralyze you from making any sort of progress, perfect or not.

11. Opportunity doesn’t go away, it just goes to someone else

Remembering this makes me reconsider any time I’m tempted to take any opportunity for granted and let it pass by.

12. Do not compromise sleep for anything

Anyone who knows me knows that even with a big project or looming deadline, I would rather call it a night and wake up early to get it done. Sleep is sacred to me—it allows my mind and body to reset. Don’t deprive yourself of this vital time; you need it to do anything else to your full ability.

13. As soon as you wake up, start by saying one positive thing about today

I’ve used this positive thinking technique to get me through some of the gloomiest work periods of my life. No one wants to be at the beginning of a 12 hour work day, but saying one thing you have to look forward to—even if it’s just a your favorite lunch–will help get you out of bed.

14. Not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck

It may not be what you want, but life will always give you exactly what you need. The sooner I learned to trust this, the sooner I was able to let go of all of the “What If’s.”

15. When you don’t plan everything, everything goes as planned

You may remember this as a blog post where I learned a pretty valuable life lesson. By planning everything, I only set myself up for frustration (and madness) when things would inevitably change.

16. Don’t measure life in grand gestures or life-changing moments

In doing so, you will miss the better part of what life truly is…the little moments

17. Happiness and success are independent of each other

Sure they can, and often do, occur at the same time. But this is not guaranteed nor is the fact that one will always cause the other. You must pursue each separately.

18. The problems we have with other people are more often about ourselves

You may remember my post about not having to like everyone you work with. It’s a fact of life that we will interact with people we don’t like, but do remain introspective about what it is that bothers us about someone else. It’s most often a reflection of our own insecurity or jealousy we can work on.

19. You will never be 100% ready for an opportunity when it arises

Never use this as an excuse not to take it!

20. Time can only heal what we allow it to

If you allow your mind to wallow in sorrow or hurt, it’s like picking at a scab that’s trying to heal. Either move on or embrace the fact that this will become your scar.

21. Never assume you’re the best or worst at anything

A quote Mr. S often shares with me is from his former coach, Joe Paterno “You’re never as good as you think you are when you win and you’re never as bad as you think you are when you lose.” This thought keeps me grounded.

22. Deferring your happiness to the future is a terrible decision

So often we hear people say, “I can’t wait until I retire so I can do that.” But why not be happy and do what we love right now and throughout our entire lives? Don’t put off your happiness and life goals until you have more money or more time, both can run out sooner than expected.

23. Under promise and over deliver

In work and in relationships, never promise more than you can reasonably give. It’s far better to underestimate your skills and commitment to someone to ensure you’re always exceeding their expectations.

24. Nobody has it all figured out

And anyone who claims they do probably has the most to learn.

And as I begin my 25th year, I will share one final life lesson to grow on. The most important lesson in life cannot be put into words, it must be experienced. Technology may put the world at our fingertips and allow for massive information sharing, but unless we step outside and experience the world for ourselves, we will have failed at the whole purpose of life—to learn and evolve.

Stephanie Shirley

stephanie@bennisinc.com