8 Notes to Self

clip_image002It’s the start of a new year, and I have a lot of things to look forward to, a lot of demands to satisfy and a few interesting projects in mind. I don’t want to bore you with the details, or risk turning this into a Family Holiday letter, and this isn’t really about the things I will be doing, it’s about what I need to remember as I am doing them. I am stealing the 8-things format from someone I admire, even though I’m told there was no magic reason for choosing 8 things instead of 7 or 9. Hopefully you might find some of these reminders useful as you plow through 2013.

People Change – The only people who remain the same throughout your life are the ones you eventually find boring or annoying. The rest of the people in your life continue to grow, learn, expand in some areas and draw a sharper focus in other areas. As long as they remain true to the core person you like, love or admire, all of those changes are good things.

Encourage vs. Prescribe – I have numerous opportunities to mentor people this year. Fortunately, I have been mentored by some of the best leaders in the business. As I look back and around (I am still being mentored) I see that the people who made the biggest contributions to my life were the ones who encouraged me to follow their general course, but not necessarily walk in their footsteps. They have urged me to rely on my strengths and to trust and be guided by my intuition.

Avoid a “phew” Moment – The last thing I want is for any group with which I am currently involved to start a meeting the day after I leave with the phrase “ok, now that he’s gone…”

Remain Relevant – Looking back on accomplishments is fun, but there has to be more to life. I am at the age where friends are retiring, but most are working to start something new, finish something previously abandoned or turn a lifelong hobby into a near fulltime pursuit. From college educations to new businesses to creative endeavors, the goal is to stay active and to contribute something of value to something that needs it.

Rear-view Mirror – Amazon returns 119,618 Results when searching on “leadership”. You can spend endless hours testing your leadership skills by asking “are you doing the things good leaders do?” While there are lessons to be learned from great people throughout history, most of that study will be a waste of precious time. If you want to know if you are an effective leader, the simplest test is to see if anyone is following you.

You’re Here for a Reason – At some point, the jobs we have, the associations we belong to, the families we are part of all give us the opportunity to coast to the finish line. Avoid that temptation! Accept the responsibility that you have been given and do the job that is expected. You might be asking, “How is this different from remaining relevant?” Remaining relevant was meant to be a personal challenge; doing your job is meeting an obligation – you need to do both.

You Are Your Best Resource – In an age where we are surrounded by so much content from so many channels across so many mediums, it is tempting to simply accept what others are saying as gospel. Recognize that we are also in an age where you can check the facts on statements very quickly, where you can do the research behind outrageous claims and where you can call-out (or at least ignore) liars and cheats. You have a brain, you can ask questions and you can get answers and form your own opinions. You don’t have to accept everything your family, your friends, your church or your political party says is true.

Relax – In between doing your job and remaining relevant, take some time to enjoy life. Once again, be your own guide, you don’t have to enjoy the things that are popular with or “normal” for your age group. Also, relaxing doesn’t have to be an event. I’ll share one personal thing here for those who don’t know me well; I frequently stop at Great River Park on my way to work. Sometimes I stay a few minutes, sometimes I take the time to try and get an interesting picture of Hartford. Regardless of what I do while there, a few minutes alongside the Connecticut River helps me keep my day in perspective.

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