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We’re more educated and knowledgeable than any generation before us. The internet has opened up a wealth of information. Press a couple keys and you can learn how to do just about anything, boost your understanding of any subject or find out what’s happening on the other side of the globe.
Why is it that, with all this available information, we still have to learn the most important lessons of our lifetime same way our ancestors did — the hard way?
Here is some guidance on ten important life lessons that you’ll probably learn one way or another. Maybe the heads up can help make your experience just a bit less painful.
Life Lessons Everyone Learns the Hard Way
1. Follow Your Passion
The fastest way to success is to do something you’re passionate about. What makes your face light up when you talk about it? What work do you love so much you’d do it without a paycheck? If you can think of something that fits those criteria, you’ve found your passion, and probably something you’re naturally good at.
We all have our strengths, and when you’re working within those strengths even the most challenging situation can be fulfilling, because you’re doing what comes naturally. While you may not be able to open a retreat on a tropical island or drink beer for a living, you can usually use your talents somewhere that actually provides a paycheck.
You’re going to spend the majority of your adult life working. Why not work at something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
2. It’s Not Always About the Money
Money is important: No one can really argue with that. Still, whether you’re starting a business or working for an existing company, if money is your sole objective you’re probably going to find yourself miserable soon — if not now — when it’s too late to make a change.
A lot of companies out there sell profits, better business models, waste control procedures and all kinds of other systems and processes to nickel-and-dime you to the edge of insanity. These approaches all have one thing in common. They concentrate on the economics without taking the human assets into consideration.
Instead of cutting the life out of your business to increase profits, build a team that is engaged and invested in your business, so everyone works together to keep the budget on track.
3. Failure Is the Key to Success
Do you fear failure? If you do, you are probably not taking the chances or gaining the experience necessary to succeed.
Successful people usually have more failures behind them than the rest of us because they’ve done more, risked more and racked up more experience. The key though, is that those failures are behind them. They’ve learned what doesn’t work, picked themselves up and moved on. They don’t dwell on failures, but use them to figure out what does work. The biggest difference between a successful person and one who is a failure is the label they’ve given themselves.
When you say to yourself that failure isn’t an option, mean it. As long as you learn how to avoid that bump you just hit, it’s not a failure — it’s just a bump.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Out
When people hear your name or the name of your business, what do they think of? Do they think of you at all?
If you’re just like everyone else, chances are thinking about you doesn’t create much excitement. Work hard to develop a reputation that makes you stand out. Be different — create something that will stand the test of time, not something that follows the latest fad. If everyone else is already doing it, people will soon get bored and it won’t last long. Sometimes you have to bypass the good to get to the great.
5. Live for Today — Plan for Tomorrow
Living in the moment is one of the prescriptions for success, in business and in life. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t equip yourself and plan for tomorrow. Sometimes we don’t pay attention to how our short-term decisions will affect not only our future, but the future of those that come after us.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. For instance, when you choose to use renewable energy options, you not only reduce your impact on the Earth, helping to preserve it for future generations, you can save money as well. It’s a win-win that gives you peace of mind, knowing your children will be provided for long into the future.
6. Strive to Make a Difference
As we get older, we begin to ask how our lives mattered and what difference we made.
There are many opportunities to make an impact, if you just look. Whether you have time, money, talent or just a listening ear to share, always make a point of giving something back. You never know what seemingly small gesture is going to make a huge difference in someone else’s life.
7. Retention Makes Life Easier
It’s common for businesses to focus on marketing and growth through gaining new customers and clients. But this costs a lot of money and the return on investment can be slim if you aren’t working to retain your existing customers.
Studies have shown that your loyal clients are likely to spend more, and purchase more additional products and services, without additional manpower and capital from you.
The same principle works with employees and even friends. If you’re constantly looking for ways to find and recruit new talent while neglecting loyal, productive employees, you’ll soon find yourself with an inexperienced work force ready to jump ship at the slightest hint of a storm.
8. If You Want Something Different, Do Things Differently
If you’re happy with your life and everything in it, just keep doing what you’re doing. But if you want something different, you have to let go of your fear of change and try something different.
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, so if you want more out of life you need to change your actions and probably your thinking too.
9. It’s All About Relationships
People are attracted to people that make them feel special. The same goes for businesses. Your customers will come back if they feel like you truly care about them.
Building relationships is easier than you think. In a time when customer service is a lost art, showing a genuine interest in the people you interact with sets you apart. Sometimes, something as small as calling them by name can have a huge impact on their perception of you, as a person or as a business.
Keep your promises and always deliver the highest quality you can. This builds trust, and with trust comes loyalty and repeat business.
10. Don’t Neglect Yourself
Last but not least, don’t forget yourself. If you’re pushing yourself to work 50-plus hours a week, the only thing you’re going to accomplish is an early grave. There’s an adage that talks about how, when facing death, no one will ever regret not working enough. Be sure you take care of yourself first and make time to relax and do the things you love. If you’re in good working order, the rest of your life will follow.
You’re probably still going to learn most of life’s lessons the hard way, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most of us don’t really appreciate the things that come easily, so having to experience a few hard knocks will help us care more about the lessons we’ve had to work hard to learn.
In the end, one way or another, what we learn is more important than how we’ve learned it.