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Paying It Forward

10 Lessons I’ve Learned in Life That Were Meant to Be Shared

I believe we all have a responsibility in life to provide a positive influence on those around us. We are really a sum our life experiences (and genealogy, of course), and the people who have had a lasting impression on our lives. In my life, I have been very fortunate to have met and been influenced in very positive ways by some incredibly inspirational people–both from in-person interactions and through reading. I believe these life lessons are meant to be shared.

1. Never give up! My Dad passed away when I was only two years old and my mother raised my four siblings and me by herself. She was the sweetest and most amazing woman that I have ever met, but also incredibly tenacious. If she put her mind to something, she would knock down buildings to achieve her goal, especially when related to protecting her family and children. Life and business will always throw you curve balls and try to trip you up, but if you never give up, there will always be great lessons to learn and pride in the fact that you gave it your best effort.

2. Kids spell love “T-I-M-E!” This is also true with employees and business associates. The more time you invest in listening to and engaging with your team, the stronger the bond will become and the more invested they will be in the company.

3. Nobody is standing around waiting to buy XYZ from you. You must give clients a reason why they should buy from you. For me, this is the heart of sales and marketing: I look at every brand, product, and business opportunity from the customer’s perspective and ask, “Why would I want to buy this product or service, or do business with this company?”

4. The details make the difference. I learned so many valuable lessons from my late friend, former boss, and founder of RTI, John Demskie, who built a world-class control company from nothing. He was a details master and pushed others to deliver the best in their roles, he and taught me to always review any project several times, very carefully, before delivering the final product. Very often, the final changes are ones that make the magic happen.

5. Respond, don’t react. Very often when humans receive bad news or become confronted, the natural impulse is to react, while much better decisions can often be made by taking the time to digest the information, gather all the facts…then, carefully respond.

6. Just do it. I really love Nike’s classic tagline. It relates very well to a quote by retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink in a podcast I just listened to: “If you want to be tougher, be tougher!” We all have extra gas in the tank to lift more at the gym, run harder, and apply ourselves more. If you want to be better at your job or your business, be better! If you want to start your own business, or move to Austria and become a goat farmer, then dump the excuses. The moment is almost never right–just do it!

7. Good communication is essential. Having been in management positions with several companies, the prickly issues often bubbled up to me. In every case, poor communication was to blame. In most cases, if good communication had been employed, even with a significant issue, the matter would have never escalated.

8. Provide an exceptional experience for your customers. Look at the companies that are really excelling now: Amazon, Apple, Airbnb, etc. All of them focus on delivering an exceptional customer service experience. I love the Airbnb philosophy of creating an “11-Star Customer Experience.” While such an experience may be impossible, if you allow yourself to think about what it might entail, it allows you to craft an experience that is still pretty exceptional.

9. Maybe the bad thing is actually a good thing. When I look back on some of the “worst” experiences in my life, they are actually some of the most valuable lessons or pivotal moments. Don’t waste time and energy on resentment; instead find appreciation in lessons learned through life experiences.

10. Invest in good relationships. Don’t take your relationships for granted and never allow yourself to believe that you are more important than the person standing next to you in a meeting, elevator, or fast food line. That person may be the next VIP who interviews you or a future contact for your next big gig. Treat all others as you expect to be treated. And remember that people do business with people, not with companies.