Life Lessons So Far
We all have milestones that mark major events in our lives and stay as clear in our memories as if they happened yesterday. For me, the sharpest memories seem to be tied to rites of passage. I still clearly remember every one of my graduations, from elementary through grad school; my bat mitzvah; my first night in the first home I bought; and the first time I walked through the door of my first professional job—a job I still have today.
This month marks my 25th anniversary at The Center for Health Design and in this industry. My plan never was to create a career out of this work. I made only an eight-week commitment when I started, but by the time I finished the eight weeks, I realized I’d found a new home that fit just right, both geographically in the Bay Area as well as professionally for my career.
This 25-year mark seems like a good time to reflect on and share some of the lessons I've learned. So here they are, 25 lessons from 25 years, in no specific order.
- Find your passion. It’s the key to staying motivated and productive. It keeps you going when times are challenging and is a crucial driver to a fulfilling sense of success.
- Have a meaningful purpose. Purpose is a necessity. You need to know why you’re getting up every morning and if it's just for a paycheck, re-evaluate and find another purpose more meaningful to you.
- Make people your first priority. The relationships you cultivate and feed are your personal and professional lifeblood.
- Cultivate happiness. If you aren't happy, do what you need to do or change what you need to change to be happy. Don’t expect to be happy always, but life is too short to be unhappy for too long.
- Accept disappointment with grace. It’s usually only temporary, anyway. I have a piece of art framed on my nightstand that reads, “It takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow.” So true.
- Aim for but don't demand perfection. Either for yourself or the people around you; you’re more likely to reach perfection with a soft approach.
- Don't dwell. When you fail royally—and you will—learn and move on quickly.
- Invest in the people who report to you. Whether they stay with you a year or a career, their success and happiness is a gift that never stops giving.
- Blend your life. There shouldn’t be hard divisions between work and play. It's a huge stress reliever to not always have to fit work into “work time” and play into “play time,” but to let life organically unfold.
- Take time to reflect. Go on a vacation alone, even if it's just for overnight or a weekend. Slow down enough to check in and make sure you are on the road you want to be on and not just the road that happened by default.
- Create your own personal advisory council. Find 5-8 people whom you admire for different reasons and keep them close. Stay in touch by phone or meet in person every few months to hear what they’re up to and share your life. Their advice and those relationships over the years will be invaluable.
- Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Learn from them rather than be threatened by them.
- Put your family first. Don't miss too many of their life moments, big and small. Work will always be there.
- Be kind. It’s really easy, and it just makes you a happier person.
- Be grateful. I believe gratitude is the single most important ingredient for happiness and a deep sense of contentment.
- People will do strange and unexplainable things. People are sometimes odd. If somebody does something hurtful to you, it's not personal and it's not meaningful; it just is.
- Trust the process. If you did your homework, believe in what you’re doing and in the direction you’re heading. Trust the process you put in place and know there will be ups and downs until you reach the end point.
- Difficult experiences can provide direction. You can learn a lot from very bad situations. Sometimes they’re great roadmaps of what not to do in life.
- Be a flexible leader. There is no one “right” set of rules or one way to manage that brings out everyone’s best.
- Trust your gut. There’s no rulebook to follow in life, but your intuition is the closest you’ll get to having one.
- Become agile. The industry is a living, breathing organism and, as such, will evolve and change over time, often quickly. Being able to look ahead while remaining focused is important.
- Be a bridge builder and a connector. Making a match is a mitzvah (a charitable act).
- Practice the golden rule. At the end of the day, you sleep with yourself at night. Be the person you’d like to wake up next to every morning.
- Get enough sleep. Easier said than done, but more and more studies are showing how important sleep is for maintaining good health, plus it’s hard to be your best self if you’re always on the edge of exhaustion.
- Life is best lived with your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground. Cheesy, maybe. But it’s also really true. Life would be very austere without time to think big thoughts, but you’ll get nowhere if you can’t operationalize them into action.