Life Lessons I Learned the Hard Way.

by William Childs

While I may not be thrilled with the knowledge that I’m getting older by the second, I recently made peace with the fact that with age comes a realization that life is the best teacher. Of course, in school, the lesson comes before the test. But in life, the lesson comes after the test. So I thought I would impart some of the best lessons that I learned the hard way; experience.

The world doesn’t care if you love your job. The world owes you nothing, nor is it responsible for your overall happiness. But, on the other hand, the world doesn’t want or need any more mediocrity, which happens when you do work that’s not your passion. The best way to ensure you do work that feeds your soul is to match your talents with your authentic self. Author Kristen Hannah offers this rather blunt assessment, “Finding your passion isn’t about jobs or money, it’s about finding your authentic self. The one you’ve buried beneath other people’s needs.”

Sometimes you can draw more inspiration from the people who don’t believe in you than from those who do. I have always found it incredibly motivating when people would say that I couldn’t do something. That’s usually all I would need to put me on the road to accomplishing the goal. Never let anyone tell you something is impossible when it involves your hopes and dreams. History is full of great ideas that started out being ridiculed by those who couldn’t see their potential. I would encourage you to use that rejection as fuel to propel you to success.

Failure and success need each other. Failure and success are intrinsically linked. You can’t have one without the other. The exciting part about failing that nobody teaches you is that you can glean valuable lessons from it if you’re open to discovering them. People are often too quick to tell you something’s impossible because they are too afraid to try it themselves. Don’t let their fear rob you of opportunities. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said this about failing, “You miss one-hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”

Humility is a sign of strength, not weakness. Humility is the secret weapon to ward off the nasty effects of an overinflated ego. Approaching your work with humility opens you up to learning new techniques and skills which will help you get better at your craft. There’s a considerable difference between ego and arrogance. Don’t let arrogance cloud your judgment in how you interact with the world. Leadership expert John Maxwell believes, “Have the humility to learn from those around you.” Being willing to share your weaknesses openly is a sign of a great leader. If you can show vulnerability, you’ll be amazed at how powerful that can be as a tool to help build trust and strengthen the bonds with the people you are leading.

Conformity is a career killer. As much as we like to think of ourselves as free thinkers, society often encourages us to fit in and go with the flow. If you have a dream, you have to protect it, nurture it. The world isn’t going to arrange itself to make your dreams come true, that’s on you, and you won’t be able to if you buckle every time you meet a little resistance. Your job is to make sure you keep moving forward and weed out those people who would seek to derail your hopes and dreams. You owe it to yourself to never stop growing, evolving, learning, and transforming into the best version you can be. That takes grit and an unwavering determination to stay on the path you’ve set for yourself. I’ll let American poet Walt Whitman have the last word here, “That you are here, that life exists, an identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” What will your verse be?

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