Wisdom For Your Future Self

We Monday morning quarterback our lives. We look back with wistful wisdom, “if I only knew then what I know now.” No question, experience is a wise teacher.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
~ Confucius

And so, we seek out mentors and the wisdom of those who’ve gone before to accelerate our journey and hopefully side stepping a few boulders rolling our way. Necessary, but not sufficient.

At the end of the day, the journey is ours.

What if we could talk to our future selves with similar, compassionate wisdom? What do we know deep within, that we must tell ourselves today and tomorrow. Consider what the you of tomorrow will wish you had known (or done) today.

“What wisdom would you give the you of 10 years from now?”.

This provocative question, was posed by Alex Barker in our Leadership Dojo interview.

As I replayed the show and listed to my own “advice,” I was struck by the tension between what I would tell my past and future selves, which of course is the cocktail of advice I need most today. Weird in stereo.

You can listen to the podcast here: Play | Download

But that’s my story. Much more interested in yours. Let’s have some Friday fun in the Let’s Grow Leaders Community. Comment on any or all of the following provocative questions.

  • What advice would you give your younger self?
  • What wisdom would you tell the you of 10 years from now?
  • What wisdom is your heart telling you today?

Advice on Advice

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Ever given?
What advice do you wish you had ignored?
What guidance do you wish you could retract?

“Advice is like snow; the softer it falls the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it seeks into the mind.”>
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I recently met Raul Valdes-Perez, an advice “expert,” author of the new book, Advice is For Winners. He looks at advice from every angle, with tangible tools of when, where, why and how to look for (and give advice). I asked him for some additional insights for our LGL community.

Advice: The Interview

Q: Of the 28 reasons you list for why people don’t seek advice, which 2 or 3 do you think are the most common?

“The most common by far is that people just don’t think of it, because they’re not in the habit. Other reasons are that they don’t know whom to ask, or they don’t recognize that actual knowledge is helpful. My overall message is that when facing a problem or issue, ask yourself if you have the knowledge and experience to deal with it, and if not, who does and can help.”>

Q: You share lots of great quotes on advice, which best represents you view (or which is your favorite?) 

“For its wit, brevity, and substance, my favorite is: “Those who have no children bring them up well.”

Q: What’s the best advice you ever received? 

“For me, advice must take account of your circumstances, goals, and constraints; otherwise it’s not advice, but principles, methods, or examples. My most memorable advice concerned how best to go about raising investment capital while I was Vivisimo’s CEO, some seven years after its founding. I met with three local CEOs, explained our situation, and followed one of their recommendations, with the confidence that I wasn’t overlooking something.”

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

“When I co-founded Vivisimo with two other computer scientists, none of us knew anything about business. As the senior member of the three, as CEO of a company without outside investors, and as the only one authorized to work (initially!), I had to make lots of decisions. Besides reading a lot about all aspects of business, I regularly got targeted advice after explaining our situation to others. It then occurred to me that lots of people make wrong decisions, avoidably, for lack of getting advice, both in life and work.”

Q: Of course, my standard question.”What makes you “skip to work?”

“I love to make something out of nothing, and to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Getting advice seemed like a simple topic, but it’s been possible to uncover many dimensions whose mastery will make anyone a better decision maker.”

What Dad Doesn't Say

The Dad Conversation Continues

Thanks to all who contributed to my last post Dad Says: Best Advice from Your Dads. For those who read closely, you may have noticed that I did not share any advice from my father. Why? Because he swears he doesn’t give it.

I have huge respect for his approach. He believes that “It’s hard enough to live your own life and you never know the full context”.

The truth is all of my siblings and all of his siblings know, if you need advice, just tell your story to Dad, and look at what his face says. He can’t really hide his pride or lack of enthusiasm. My brother Brad explains:

“The silence reads be thoughtful. Always. Consider the options, the implications, the people involved. the answer is somewhere in the middle.”

So for Fathers Day, Dad, share the top 10 things I learned from you 10 things I took away from advice not given.

10. Be patient

Oh yeah, still trying to learn that one. My sister, Jill, is a quicker study.

“I learned about exercising patience in teaching and finding new and creative ways to show others something that seems obvious. For him, it included hours of algebra and geometry on the coach. For me it comes in hand in speech therapy and with my own children.”

9. Go to church

Thanks so much for not caring about which church. A huge part of who I am came from growing up in a fantastic church community.And an important part of who I am becoming is influenced by the church I now attend.

8. Wear a wig

Mom was wary about me including this one, so let me explain. The fact that every year you would dress up at work for Halloween as whatever project you were working on (even after you were a senior leader) taught me a lot. Have fun at work. Take risks. Making people laugh builds teams. I now have a closet full of wigs that I happily wear and never regret.

7. Support people’s passions

You become genuinely interested in anything others are doing and support it full steam. Thank you for being the first subscriber to my blog.

6. Document the family story

I am amazed at the work you have put in to research and track the lineage, pictures and stories. Thanks for always being there with a camera to capture just what needs to be remembered.

5. Show up

Thanks for being REALLY available when we need you the most. Thanks for always digging in and helping at just the right time. I know hundreds of people would say this about you.

4. Try the less obvious next step

I learned that a career path can be complex that if you can lead people, take some risks and try things you know nothing about. How else does someone go from studying the mating habits of striped bass, to making power plants safer, to building space telescopes?

3. Fight for the underdog

You always fight like crazy with your words and actions. You make real sacrifices and invest in others. And mostly, in a subtle and elegant way. Never looking for credit for your contributions.

2. Have an opinion

You always have one and it is always passionate. And you are very careful about how you share it.

see http://www.isoclarity.org/

1. Do it well

Everything. Always.

Thanks Dad. I learn from you every day. 

What Dad Doesn’t Say

The Dad Conversation Continues

Thanks to all who contributed to my last post Dad Says: Best Advice from Your Dads. For those who read closely, you may have noticed that I did not share any advice from my father. Why? Because he swears he doesn’t give it.

I have huge respect for his approach. He believes that “It’s hard enough to live your own life and you never know the full context”.

The truth is all of my siblings and all of his siblings know, if you need advice, just tell your story to Dad, and look at what his face says. He can’t really hide his pride or lack of enthusiasm. My brother Brad explains:

“The silence reads be thoughtful. Always. Consider the options, the implications, the people involved. the answer is somewhere in the middle.”

So for Fathers Day, Dad, share the top 10 things I learned from you 10 things I took away from advice not given.

10. Be patient

Oh yeah, still trying to learn that one. My sister, Jill, is a quicker study.

“I learned about exercising patience in teaching and finding new and creative ways to show others something that seems obvious. For him, it included hours of algebra and geometry on the coach. For me it comes in hand in speech therapy and with my own children.”

9. Go to church

Thanks so much for not caring about which church. A huge part of who I am came from growing up in a fantastic church community.And an important part of who I am becoming is influenced by the church I now attend.

8. Wear a wig

Mom was wary about me including this one, so let me explain. The fact that every year you would dress up at work for Halloween as whatever project you were working on (even after you were a senior leader) taught me a lot. Have fun at work. Take risks. Making people laugh builds teams. I now have a closet full of wigs that I happily wear and never regret.

7. Support people’s passions

You become genuinely interested in anything others are doing and support it full steam. Thank you for being the first subscriber to my blog.

6. Document the family story

I am amazed at the work you have put in to research and track the lineage, pictures and stories. Thanks for always being there with a camera to capture just what needs to be remembered.

5. Show up

Thanks for being REALLY available when we need you the most. Thanks for always digging in and helping at just the right time. I know hundreds of people would say this about you.

4. Try the less obvious next step

I learned that a career path can be complex that if you can lead people, take some risks and try things you know nothing about. How else does someone go from studying the mating habits of striped bass, to making power plants safer, to building space telescopes?

3. Fight for the underdog

You always fight like crazy with your words and actions. You make real sacrifices and invest in others. And mostly, in a subtle and elegant way. Never looking for credit for your contributions.

2. Have an opinion

You always have one and it is always passionate. And you are very careful about how you share it.

see http://www.isoclarity.org/

1. Do it well

Everything. Always.

Thanks Dad. I learn from you every day. 

Dad Says: Best Advice From YOUR Dads

In the spirit of Fathers Day, my son Ben (17) and I set out to collect as much fatherly advice as we could in a week. We asked everyone we knew or ran into friends, work, school, church, airports, restaurants, and random encounters “what’s the best advice you ever got from your dad?”

The question also became a conversation piece in a wide variety of contexts and our whole family got involved. We had people talking about this in team-builders, men’s breakfasts, church meetings, fire stations, summer camps, executive dinners, knitting groups and through our social networks. One friend got so engaged in the process he collected responses from 4 generations of family.

Sebastian (6) also got into the game, taking his own notes “be a taim plare (be a team player)” and “folo yor hirt (follow your heart).”

Ben and Mom’s Top Picks

  1. Don’t listen to your father (Karin’s Dad, from his Dad, MD)
  2. Have faith– but there is no RIGHT faith (Ben’s friend, Matthew who collected 4 generations of advice, MA)
  3. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (Sean, our waiter, CA)

We received hundreds of responses from 5 countries.

The folks we talked to fell into 3 clusters:

  • the eager to engage

About two third of the folks we asked were excited to engage, and had compelling and interesting stories that came along with their advice. A few got choked up, as did we more than once in the process

  • those who preferred not to talk

MANY others had almost the opposite reaction. In these cases our questions were answered with silence or a quick attempt to change the subject. This was the most troubling and surprising part of this process

  • and “gee, my dad didn’t SAY a lot but showed a lot in his DOING

Our favorite was from Magesh in India “he once helped a poor child in the area by paying for him to have a heart operation. I sure learned a lot from him.”

“Sorry Ben. This is one that I can’t contribute to. Not many words were passed from my Dad to me that would fall into your category.
The only thing that I can share is, don’t let it happen to you- always talk to your kids and encourage them without shouting or threatening.
Love you guy”.

So when Dads DO talk what do they say?

Top Topics (and some good -or fun- examples)

Tried and True (19%)

“Do unto others”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”

“Measure twice, cut once”

School & Knowledge (14%)

“If you don’t ask, you won’t know”

“Girls are just as good in math as boys”

“Never listen to the damn doctor”

How to Be and Improve (11%)

 ” Du kannst dich drehen und wenden wie du willst, der Arsch bleibt immer hinten” ( you can turn around as much as you want, the ass always stays in back)

“Figure out what people need and give it to them”

“Names are important. Really important. Never bluff. Ask again”

“As you know, my parents escaped from Vietnam to come to America. The one advice that my father gave me that stays with me is Ask yourself what you would do if you were not afraid My parents taught me to not let fear stop you, but rather move you.”

Dreams, Inspiration and Spirituality (11%)

“Believe in yourself and continue to inspire others the way you inspire me”

“Put your effort and time into the things you love doing”

“Talent is handy, it’s not essential”

Integrity and Respect (10%)

“Strive to always tell the truth, regardless of the consequences”

“Don’t worry about what others say if you are doing it for the right reasons”

“Be honest, open and upfront about anything and everything. You may not be liked today, however you will be respected tomorrow.

Relationships and Dating (9%)

“Girls like to be kissed”

“If you want your wife to be pretty, you’d better clean your plate. When you leave bits of food all over your plate, that’s what your wife’s face will look like.”

“Marry this one”

Family (8%)

“What did your mother say?”

(If I spoke rudely) “Mom is your mother, but she is my wife don’t forget that”

“Find something specific about your daughter to like every day. Let her know you found it”

Sports (7%)

“Don’t throw like a girl”

“Whenever possible, throw strikes”

“When in doubt, grab a glove and go out back”

The Basics: Finances, Food and Drink (6%)

“Cheese and crackers and a beer make a nice snack”

“Don’t complain about your weight while eating a snickers bar”

“Never walk over a penny”

Cars and Driving (5%)

“Don’t date a man with bald tires on his car”

“Always remember where you parked your car”

“Turn your head when you change lanes”

Thanks, Dads. Happy Fathers Day.

Namaste,

Karin and Ben

Please let us know your Dad’s best advice