Three Important Life Lessons I Have Learned
Experience is a great teacher and she often leaves a few bruises and scars from her lessons. Some of the most meaningful things I have learned in over 60 years of circling the Sun have involved pain and strife. I suspect that without that pain I would not have grown or learned from these situations. Let me share more so you can consider what life lessons you have learned from.
- Lesson #1-Look before you leap: On July 6, 1977 I was sworn into the United States Navy as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. This day was the culmination of several years worth of hard work that led to my ability to become part of that class. A little over one month later I would leave the Academy, having resigned my commission. The reasons behind this departure feed into the title of this lesson, Look before you Leap. When I arrived at the Academy it was the first time I had stepped foot on the grounds. In fact, there had been few nights in my life that I had been completely on my own, away from my parents. The experience I had during those four plus weeks in Annapolis were life changing and greatly influenced what experiences I had my own sons go through as young men prior to college. Honesly, I was really homesick when I saw my parents drive away that day and I didn’t give myself time to adjust to that. In hindsight, God always has a plan and my life as it is today is a result of that choice to leave the Navy. Rather than dwell on what might have been, I have chosen to celebrate what has become and I have absolutely no regrets having left then.
- Lesson #2-Keep your mouth shut: I could have used the phrase “Loose lips sink ships”, but I didn’t want to become to nautical in this post. Let me tell you more about this painful, but useful experience. Early in my career I worked in a corporate headquarters and our organization was going through a downsizing. There was a lot of “buzz” about who would be leaving next and being the thoughtful person I am, I wanted to wish someone well that we all heard was being laid off. When I approached this person to wish them well, they looked at me like they had no ideas what I was talking about. Within 30 minutes this persons supervisor came and got me and provided me with an “ass chewing” that helped me understand to keep my thoughts to myself. I’ll never forget that day and that lesson has stayed with me for over 30 years.
- Lesson #3-It takes a Village: This cliché is often overused, but it accurately depicts one of the best portions of my life. Let me explain further. In 1990 I was a volunteer on a committee in Springfield, TN that was tasked with looking into how we could bring the YMCA into our small community. We were living about 30 miles north of downtown Nashville and our community was nowhere on the radar screen of that Middle TN YMCA. Our committee had an initial meeting with the Y CEO and we just would not go away. This effort culminated with a YMCA charter in 1994, a successful capital campaign that raised over $2.5 million dollars, and a new YMCA facility that celebrated its 23rd anniversary last July. The success of this effort underscores a few valuable lessons that I keep to this day. One lesson is that a good idea can eventually take root if people persist and also coalesce with the right members of the community. The other lesson is that there will always be “nay sayers” who will tell you why things cannot work. You have to sometimes ignore these negative Nellies and push through to the finish.
Having lived almost 61 years, I am sure I could add more to this list. I also know that each of you reading this have your own stories about life lessons, sometimes painful, that have been great learning opportunities.
Always take time to reflect, and never forget to celebrate what you learn from these events. Even more, use them to help influence others so that they too can learn not only from their own mistakes, but also learn from yours.