There is an old saying, “We get too soon old, and too late smart.” It’s like the young man who came home after graduating from university and commented on how smart his dad had become during his absence.
As we mature our values have a way of changing. We discover that the rich and poor have one thing in common — they both die. We also discover that it is not how long you live but how well you live that really matters. It’s not how rich you are but how you have enriched the lives of others. It’s not the degrees behind your name but the influence you have had on the lives you have touched. It’s not the wealth you have accumulated but the investments you have made in people.
Hopefully we have come to realize that true happiness does not come from the material things we possess but rather the inner peace that is rooted in a healthy relationship, both with people and God.
In my 78 years of living, I have listed out 12 important lessons that I have learned. Let me drop them as seeds into your mind.
- Never say never! Never is a word of finality that closes the door to a world of infinite possibility. We live in a world filled with inventions that defied the prognosticators saying “Never!” I believe there is a personal, infinite God who makes the impossible, possible.
- The goalie is not the team. During my high school years, I had an enviable shut out record. My skill as a goalie inflated my ego. The coach and the team had a plan. During the last two minutes of a game that I was sure would give me another shut out, our team lined up at our blue line. They let the opposing team pepper me with shots. When they scored, I was mad. On the way to the dressing room the coach put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Well, Duane, I guess it takes a whole team to win!” A life lesson I have never forgotten.
- Listen to the heart. The wife said, “I want a divorce!” The husband responded in anger. His response only intensified her feelings of despair. In her heart she wanted the marriage to work but her mouth expressed her hopelessness. Listen for the intention of the heart not the definition of the mouth.
- Never stop learning. You have probably heard people say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” If you are a dog, that may be true. However, you have barely scratched the surface of your brain’s capacity. Exercising your brain is as vital to the health of your being as exercising your body.
- Be willing to admit you are wrong. We have been taught to cover our weakness and promote our strength. A personal friend made this observation: “Be careful not to trust a person who doesn’t have a limp.” Being willing to own our weakness opens the door for growth.
- Look for the gold in the rock. While working with a group in Whitehorse, I was told that the early miners would process a ton of rock to obtain an ounce of gold. There is a valuable treasure locked in the personality of every person.
- Know well the condition of your flock. Create an atmosphere of transparency and trust that facilitates open communication. Remember, why a person holds a belief is as important as what they believe.
- Fix it before it breaks. This is connected to the previous point. My Dad used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Regular maintenance is an investment in your investment.
- Bloom where you are planted. Which leads me to another saying of my father: “The pasture always looks greener on the other side of the fence.” Live in the now. Make the place you are a better place because you have been there.
- Build for the last 10 years of your life. This was wise counsel that was given me early in my “career.” There are people whose dreams collapse because they didn’t take the time to build a foundation that would sustain their dream.
- Run past the finish line. In high school I had a record breaking time for the 100 meter race. I was taught to run past the finish line. When your eyes are fixed on the finish line you start to slow down before you get there. Don’t fix your gaze on “quitting time.” Think of how you want it to be when you start the next morning.
- Remember, you are not home yet! My faith gives me hope that goes beyond the grave. I have the quiet confidence that all I go through in time is a preparation for the timeless adventure of the future.
Let me leave you with advice that was given to me:
“Good people give you happiness; Bad ones give you experience;
The worst ones give you lessons; And the best ones give you memories.”