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3 Rules To Live By

I was visiting with my niece Katie this summer. She is 15 and wise beyond her years. She has already figured out how the world works, so much so that she is puzzled by the choices of her elders. Katie already understands the importance of working, earning and saving. She is incredibly self-reliant and curious.

She wants to live a life less ordinary and I love her for it. I shared these three simple rules for her to live by, and pulled no punches.

Rule 1: Be Patient.

Patience is a virtue. People get into trouble because they cut corners. People get into debt because they finance things they can’t afford (see rule 2), then they live under a cloud of obligation for years and often forever. Impatient people miss out on all kinds of professional opportunities because they refuse to put their time in.

Get an education, get experience, and slowly build your skills and knowledge and reputation. We remember the overnight success stories because they are great stories. Conversely, hearing about how someone put his or her time in, worked hard and sacrificed isn’t as good a story. Unless it’s about Commander Chris Hadfield.

You are always learning. Be patient. It’s possible your great idea isn’t that great. Think slowly. Think deeply. Be patient. If you still love your idea after failing to tear it apart, then roll with it.

Work, and save money every time you get paid, and be patient; it adds up, and you’re going to need it. If you keep spending your money before you can save it, then you are blowing rule #2.

Where you start has nothing to do with where you finish unless you dwell on it. Get over it. Get going.

Rule 2: Don’t believe the lies.

There are many. Here are a few of my favorites. Don’t believe that you can’t do it, or that it’s too hard. Don’t believe that you can’t have whatever you want; you certainly can but you have to earn it (see rule 1). Don’t believe that it can’t be done. Don’t believe that buying stuff now and having it when you really shouldn’t is wise, or that the temporary happiness it brings you will last. It won’t. You just sold your freedom for a payment, and limited your ability to seize future opportunities.

Don’t believe the lies you tell yourself either, that you are special or more deserving than anyone else. You aren’t.

Rule 3: Aspire.

Aspire to be the best version of yourself. Aspire to be more empathetic, aware and present. Aspire to positively affect everyone you meet every day, even if all you can muster is a smile. Aspire to do more human work, to make more of a connection, to change people and leave them richer for the experience. Aspire to do more work that matters, to do important work, unpredictable and human work. Aspire to make a difference.



Comments (4)

Nailed it! Thanks Dennis. Maybe your best yet and should be mandatory reading for our children, right with Jobs and David Foster Wallace commencement speech’s. Thank you for sharing.

Every kid needs to learn how to run a business. Every kid needs to learn how to not fit in, to not be compliant (as far as how the world apparently works) and to do more work that matters. The world isn’t looking for, nor does it reward people who want to be safe and fit in. Conversely, the world is aching for the weird and the wonderful, for people who want to do human work, make a difference and leave the place better than they found it. DMW

This is going on my refrigerator for my teenagers to read – thanks Dennis!

Thank you Camy – what a compliment. I have 2 little girls (10,5) and every day I work to shepherd them away from loss and towards meaning. The advice I offered Katie was honest, and from my heart. Say hello to your teenagers.

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