An Advanced Education in Life: 32 Lessons from 2010 that Will Create Success in 2011

Written by Scott January 17, 2011

Written by Scott Dinsmore – Follow me on Twitter.

Learn a Lesson

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

Average Read Time: 4.3 minutes

I love learning.

As part of my goal setting process, every January I review the big lessons that hit me over the head in the year prior. The things that took me by surprise in a good way or bad.

Given that I record key lessons as a part of my weekly planning process, it doesn’t take long to see what stood out.

If You’re Not Learning, You’re Dying.

A little morbid perhaps, but this is my simple motto. Keeps me acting like a sponge everywhere I go.

I treat life as an ongoing classroom. Something new is always being taught and tests are given on a near daily basis to be sure I’m making use of the important stuff. The only difference from traditional school is that instead of grades being the barometer for success, I measure it in fulfillment, excitement and experiences.

The $10m Lesson.

In the 80’s a man who worked at IBM was called into the CEO’s office. He had made a mistake that cost the company over $10 million and it was time to own up. He was sure this would be his last meeting. When the employee timidly asked the CEO if he was going to be fired, the CEO responded with a laugh, “Are you kidding? You just learned the most expensive lesson in this company’s history. The last thing I’m going to do is let you go after spending so much money on your education. I just hope this is the only lesson you need.”

Mistakes made once serve as invaluable education. The second time around is more like stupidity. Ideally learn your lessons from other’s mistakes, but there are times when trial by fire is the only way to go (and a to more exciting). When you’re the test subject, take note and change your behavior. Life’s too short make the same mistake twice.

So here’s my year of education. Big and small. Personal and professional. There’s no real order so just take what you like and leave the rest. I put links to articles I’ve written on the topics where appropriate.

The Advanced Education of 2010 – 32 Lessons Paving the Road for the Year Ahead

  1. Realize when you’re living in your dreams. It’s so easy to set goals and then once they’re accomplished we move right on to the next thing. I’m notorious for this. Goals are the same as dreams in my book. Once you’ve reached them, bask in the glory of living in your dreams. For some it’s just a simple change in psychology. Makes all the difference. At any one point all of us are likely living one dream or another. Congrats.
  2. Allow accomplishment to come internally – from your own capacity to create, not externally form accomplishments, because the scoreboard will not always reflect how hard and well you play.
  3. Do not sit in the window seat for long flights. I drink a ton of water, especially on flights. That means lot’s of trips to the bathroom and I hate waking people up. Since I’m usually awake reading or writing, the aisle is the perfect spot.
  4. Always travel with a blindfold and ear plugs. These two tiny things can transform almost any environment into a heavenly bed. I’m addicted.
  5. Beware of buyer’s high. Often the lack of anticipation after getting something you really desire (especially a physical thing), can be disappointing and almost depressing.
  6. Stuff doesn’t matter that much. Very rarely do things make life better. There is a threshold but it’s incredibly low. We convince ourselves that stuff matters so that we can justify buying more. Don’t be fooled. Buy less.
  7. The 30-day test solves almost every consumption problem – as soon as you want to buy something, wait 30 days to do it. The fun of wanting it will likely fade. Then it’s like you get the excitement without having to buy it. Pretty cool.
  8. Changes often appear harder to deal with before they happen. We build them up in our mind. But over time (and not that much time) you get used to and enjoy life just the same or more than before. This happened with my move to San Francisco as well as moving our office (and plenty more).
  9. Do not email propose. Always bring new ideas up in person or on the phone if possible. There is too much to leave up to assumption in email. You want to be able to hear or see their verbal and physical reactions to things. This especially goes for sales but also for ideas or just about anything. Most of us default to email because it’s the easiest and the least out of our comfort zone. This also generally means it’s the least effective. Sack up and at least pick up the phone. Granted, if email’s your only option, then that’s life. But there’s often ways to get creative (ever heard of Skype?).
  10. Contact = Comfort. The more frequently you connect with someone the more comfortable it is to get in touch the next time. Which means you won’t wait 3 months or a year to call a customer. I cover this in Phone Phobia: The Fear of Making Contact.
  11. Stay in the front of your customers’ minds. Your value to your customer is often in direct proportion to how often you’re on their mind (in a good way of course). They are also much more likely to tell others about your kick ass service if they’re thinking about it. Do consistent things that add value.
  12. Do not attach your sleeping mat to the bottom of your pack when hiking through snow. This was a cold lesson taught to me at 10,000 ft on my way up Mt. Shasta. Enough said.
  13. Friends and relationships are all we have to make amazing experiences. My wedding permanently ingrained this in my brain. At the end of the day the lights, flowers, music and food don’t make a bit of difference if you’re whole world isn’t there to celebrate with you. Be it a wedding or a coffee break. It’s all sacred.
  14. Save a few rocks for later. You don’t have turn over every one right away. Go for quality over quantity when trying and doing new things. I am notorious for the opposite. This goes along with my ‘read less, apply more’ resolution.
  15. Renting a car is an awesomely invigorating and simply fun way to experience a foreign country. Our honeymoon in Croatia was the perfect reminder.
  16. Taking time to clear space in your head is huge! Take regular walks with no destination in mind. It’s the only way to let big ideas grow.
  17. Things always take longer than you think. Don’t let it frustrate you. Greatness takes time.
  18. Variety can be massively motivating (and fun) in fitness. This is where my 30 Day Fitness Challenges were born.
  19. Have someone sign something whenever possible. Even if the document isn’t legally binding, this adds a layer of commitment and consistency to the engagement. I learned this the hard way with a designer who left us hanging big time on our site rebrand.
  20. The biggest objections never get spoken. Learn to ask the right questions to better understand where someone is coming from. To avoid an awkward conversation or making you feel bad, people will often hide real objections behind general ones that don’t put you down (i.e. ‘I don’t have the money right now.’ – I bet they would if you were convincing enough).
  21. Don’t plan too much in a day. Only leads to stress and disappointment. Stick to 1-3 important tasks a day.
  22. The body is capable of much more than you think. You think you can’t run ten miles? What if it’s life or death? That’s what I thought. Your body has unbelievable potential.
  23. Physical accomplishments transfer directly to breaking limits in personal and business. Doing the impossible breeds more doing the impossible. Running a 50k opened my world up here.
  24. Nothing is more important than the company of friends. Always budget time for this. It’s all of our priority.
  25. Drink more wine. When was the last time you were in a rush when drinking wine? You likely had friends around you too. Enjoy it.
  26. Don’t make goals for things you can’t control. Instead of ‘sales made’, stick to ‘successful phone calls and meetings completed’. Instead of ‘get to 10,000 subscribers’, stick to ‘write awesomely useful stuff everyday for you and other top sites’.
  27. Allow space to be spontaneous. If every second is planned at home or in travel, how can you get into any mischief?
  28. Be a tourist in your own town. Travel doesn’t have to be far away. It can be right in your backyard, literally.
  29. Everyone craves connection. Offer it as often as possible. I don’t care if the person is famous, ridulously popular, a loner or a 5 year old kid. Everyone. I mean everyone, appreciates genuine connection.
  30. Systems rule in business. The more consistency and process you can add to your business endeavors the more scalable and repeatable they are. This also makes it massively easier to automate or outsource things.
  31. Obey the 5 sentence rule. Write short emails. Twitter is great training for this. Brief emails encourage brief responses. Then we all have more time to get out and play.
  32. The mind is way more powerful than you think. Unfortunately it’s often the weakest link. Our mind is what stops us long before our bodies or our surroundings do. Be it fitness, business or anything. The second your mind is convinced something is possible, watch out.

Don’t miss a chance to learn.

Every experience. Every interaction. Every person. Every mistake. Every victory. Every day, is a chance to learn something that will make tomorrow more meaningful and more magnificent. Don’t miss it.

Open your mind. School is aways in session.

I know I’m not the only one who picked up a few things from 2010. Take a stand and share yours in the comments below – because that’s how good education spreads!

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Goal Setting and Action Workbook 2011If you haven’t picked up your free workbook yet, it’s not too late to set some rockstar goals for next year. If you have, then please add a comment and tell us all about your goals here. I am so stoked that 1,350+ people have taken advantage so far!

You all asked for some guidance and here it is.

If you didn’t catch it in past weeks, because I so badly want meaningful results for my readers, I created a totally Free Goal Setting and Action Workbook for stepping through the process described in my recent Goal Setting post and achieving moster things in the new year. I suggest you print it out and put pen to paper.

Take Advantage!

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