Proven Truths for a New Decade
It’s a new year and a new decade. There’s talk of resolutions and goals and the future. It’s all great fun. I love thinking, talking, and writing about those things. But every year I also review my journal. That’s a sobering experience.
The sobering part is the written record of all the times I forgot an important truth. I know those truths, but I don’t always live like it. Sometimes I’ll rush by a truth in a race to accomplish something. Sometimes I smother a sensible truth with wishes for the outcome I want. Sometimes I fool myself into believing that an unlikely outcome is inevitable.
Here are some important truths. I’ve learned them all the hard way, often several times.
Technology changes rapidly. Society and cultures change slowly. Nature and human nature don't change. Be wary of anything that promises to overcome or change human nature. Be suspicious of any promise that a new technology will transform society. It happens, but it’s never a sure thing.
What goes up must come down. There are natural laws and cycles. Summer follows spring, which is followed by autumn then winter. There’s a corollary to this one. Things that can't go on forever don't. Don’t expect either good times or hard times to last forever.
All beginnings are hard. Whether you’re starting a new venture or learning a new skill or beginning a new relationship. In the beginning you must pay attention to things that will come naturally later.
New things need protection. New ideas need protection. So do new team members and new plantings. Protect new things until they grow strong and can fend for themselves.
You can't grow or develop or get better without discomfort. It doesn’t matter if you start with both aptitude and a great attitude. Getting better at anything means doing new things and that’s uncomfortable.
Good things take time and attention. Everything important you’ve ever done was hard. The important things you do in the future will be hard, too. Important learning and achievement require unremitting diligence and attention to detail every day.
Sleep is important. I’m tempted to sacrifice a little sleep to do just a little more work. That’s backwards. Sleep should be the priority. I perform way better when I’m sleeping well. I bet you do, too.
Don’t make the people who love you forgive you too much. In the beginning they will forgive you because they love you. But that can’t go on forever. Relationships are critical. Strong relationships give you the power to do great things. Strong relationships help you survive hardship and celebrate success. But you must do your part.
Effort and recovery is a natural cycle. We’re not built to go full speed all the time. You’ll be more productive and happier if you follow periods of hard work with time to recover.
If you’re a leader, you have two jobs. You must accomplish the mission through a group. You must care for team members and help them succeed.
Other people and the universe get a vote. To paraphrase von Moltke: no plan survives contact with reality. Team members and competitors influence outcomes. Luck plays a role.
Some things matter more than others. You don’t have the time, energy, or resources to do everything. You don’t even have enough for every good idea. So, identify a limited number of things to act on.
You don't learn from experience, you learn from reflecting on experience. It’s up to you to carve out the time to review and reflect. It’s up to you to identify ways to change. It’s up to you to act.