Sunday, March 2, 2014

Life Lessons: Things I Thought About While Scraping Snow Off the Roof

Sometimes I think about things I'd like to tell young people so they don't have to learn them the hard way. In all likelihood the only way some lessons get internalized is through experience, nevertheless it still seems like those of us who have been further along life's road should attempt to throw lifelines back toward the up-and-comers who make up the next generation.

The list here pertains primarily to your careers and is drawn from my thirty years as a writer and in advertising.

1) Don’t let other people define who you are.
For most of us, life is longer than we think. Take the time to figure out who you are when you're young and then take steps to find a career that will reward you for that, if able. It may take years but keep at it. You never know what the future holds till you try. If someone says, "You'll never make it doing that," they may be right and they may be wrong. Often they are wrong.

2) Find good mentors.
In the early eighties when I first became serious about writing as an avocation I met a fellow at a writer's group who took me under his wing. He had been writing professionally for a number of years and was writing in a wide variety of styles, including business writing, magazine articles, fiction and screenplays. John helped me learn how to present my work to editors and better understand the practical aspects of the profession. He also forced me to raise the bar as a writer. It was painful to see all those editing marks on my manuscripts, but what a difference it made.

3) “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”
This is a quote from General Patton. He was a man of action. I have it pinned on my office wall to the right of my monitor. I consider it a fundamental principle for achievement.

4) “The butler who folds his hands spills no tea.”
No one likes failure. No one likes mistakes. One way to avoid failure is to never try anything. This is not a justification for carelessness, but an admonition to take initiative and not hold back just because you're afraid of making a mistake. There are plenty of well known writers who could have papered their walls with the rejection letters they received from inquiries to editors.

5)  "Everything is easy for the one who doesn’t have to do it."
Self-explanatory. Whether it's starting a new venture, managing multiple projects or creating an event, there is always more work than meets the eye. There are details to attend to that most people are unaware of.

6) How much you achieve in a day, week or lifetime will be directly related to how you manage your time. 
One of the first chapters of Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive is devoted to how we manage our time. Napolean likewise placed great emphasis on this idea. He once famously quipped “I may lose a battle, but I shall never lose a minute.”

7) Stop and smell the roses. 
This is not to say every moment of your life needs to be scripted and maxed out. Napolean’s approach to war included the recognition that chance was always a variable. He expected it, factored it into his planning. Chance doesn't happen when every minute of your day is scripted. Take your foot off the gas once in a while. Take time to savor a poem now and then, or to enjoy the company of others.

If you're young and have dreams, that's a good thing. It is my hope that there's something you can take away here that will help you move further along on your way.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it. 


My Inner Chick said...

Excellent insights.

Loved this post!

Ed Newman said...

Thank you. And glad to see you are still checking in now and then.
Best to you, always.