What You Learned In Kindergarten May Be Holding You Back

In kindergarten we learned to play nice. To wait in line, take turns, and never take more than our fair share. These values help to create a society that runs smoothly, where people get along with each other.

But they do nothing to create a world that is getting better every day, where innovative people come up with new ideas. They do nothing to create leaders.

Share Equally

Consider the case of Lihong, who grew up in China. His parents struggled to get by. Everybody in the village was very poor, and there was no incentive for self-improvement. If one person worked harder than the others, he didn’t profit, but instead, anything he made was shared equally.

But during the Four Modernizations era people began to be allowed to profit by their own hard work. Many small industries sprang up. Lihong’s parents ran a shop, and began to be able to afford small luxuries. Culturally it was still difficult; people still thought of capitalism as a dirty word, but conditions began to improve.

Lihong learned from this experience. When everybody is forced to share equally, there is no incentive for anyone to to try to do better. It was as if everybody was lazy. But when people were allowed to profit from their hard work, they would work hard to improve their own circumstances, which also usually made life better for other people as well.

If we can’t benefit from the fruits of our own labor, we are no better than slaves or serfs. Each person should have the right to benefit from their own thoughts and actions.

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” — Winston Churchill

The promise of life in America is the right to benefit from what we do. We need to make sure that what we do doesn’t hurt society. We have to be prepared to suffer the consequences of our actions. But we have the right to make as much or as little as we we are willing to work for.

It’s Not Fair!

A common refrain of childhood, especially in multi-child families, is “It’s not fair!”. Cries of “She got more than I did!” or “His piece is bigger than mine!” abound. At an early age the concept of fairness is ingrained in us.

Fairness helps to make sure that our clan can survive, by making sure that each person gets some food. The concept of fairness helps us to look out for each other. Human beings are social animals. When we look out for each other, we create strong social bonds.

However, life is not fair. Some people have more opportunities than others. Some people have more bad luck. If we always strive to be fair, we might think that we shouldn’t take an opportunity because not everybody has that opportunity. Or we might think that we should suffer a calamity, because other people are suffering.

That way of thinking doesn’t help to create a better world. We each have the right to pursue the opportunities that come our way, even if other people don’t have the same opportunities. And we don’t have to suffer needlessly just because other people are suffering.

We can make our choices based on considerations of what might help other people or society as a whole, but we don’t have to forego good luck just because other people don’t have the same opportunity.

And we have the right to do everything in our power to avoid negative outcomes for ourselves.  We should consider the larger world, our families and communities, but ultimately we don’t have to take the bad just because “somebody has to”.

“Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.” — Oscar Wilde

Life is not fair. It is your responsibility to make the best of what is given to you.

Wait Your Turn

In kindergarten we learned to wait for our turn with a favored toy. There was some assurance from the adults in charge that we would have equal time if only we would wait. However, even in kindergarten we may have noticed that sometimes playtime was over before we got the promised turn.

Again, waiting for a turn creates an orderly society, where people are not fighting to be first. It works well in bank lines and at the grocery store. But it does not work so well with opportunities in life.

If we believe that somebody else has the right to the valued goods right now, we deny our own right. It is much better to realize that we have equal rights to the scarce commodities, but we have to be smart about how we get to them.

One approach that is often successful is to fight for our rights by explaining convincingly why we should have the coveted resource more than other people should. A highly persuasive person is often allowed to go first or have the best.

“If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” — Harry S Truman

Another approach is to spend more than other people for the right to be first. You can become a gold card member at some establishments, giving you special privileges. You can donate more, or pay a higher price for the privilege of being first.

Perhaps there is a way around the queue. At some stores, if you are paying attention, another register will open and you can grab the opportunity to be first. Perhaps a kindergartner can find old toy and have so much fun with it, that other children will abandon the new toy and gravitate toward the older one. The wise child can then go take a turn with the new toy in peace.

However you approach the situation, realize that you have as much right as anybody else to be first. You do want to consider your community when you plan your approach.  Starting a fist fight in order to be first is not a good approach in civilized society. But you should consider finding a way around the line if it matters a lot to you. Otherwise just wait your turn patiently.

Leadership

A leader recognizes that she has a right to the fruits of her own labor and mental efforts. Other people may not have as much, because they may not strive as hard. But that doesn’t mean that she has to limit herself.

A good leader considers other people and the greater good to society, but also allows herself to have what she can earn.

A leader realizes that life is not fair. She takes what comes her way, and makes the best out of it. She knows she has the right to pursue her unique opportunities, and to avoid negative consequences to herself.

A good leader realizes that as she pursues an opportunity that is good for her, she can also make the world a better place because of it.

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” — Alexander the Great

A leader doesn’t stand around and wait for something to happen. A good leader steps out and leads the way.

How Thinking Can Help You Succeed

Sketch by Viktoria Romanova
Image Copyright 2016 Viktoria Romanova VRomanova.com

My friend just sent me some working sketches for her next paintings. I am impressed that although we see the same sights, she is able to create something new and fresh and interesting by using her thoughts to organize and interpret what she sees.

Thoughts are amazing things. Two people can have the same experience, but interpret it in two entirely different ways. Experiences shape us, but the use of our minds ultimately makes us who we are.

While I don’t believe that merely thinking positively about something will cause it to materialize, I do believe that you are unlikely to reach your goals if you don’t imagine them.

What kind of thinking can you engage in that will help you to achieve what you want to achieve?

1. Study others
By studying other people who have done something similar to what you want to do, you can begin to see patterns of what works and what doesn’t work.

If you want to climb a mountain, studying accidents that happened to other mountaineers can help you to avoid similar mistakes. If you want to write, you must read a lot. You will see what appeals to you, and get a feel for the style and rhythm of other authors.

The same idea holds true for businesses or careers. If you study other people, both successes and failures, you will build a bank of knowledge that will help you in your journey.

2. See things in a new way
After you have studied what other people do, take a step back, and allow your personal thoughts and experiences meld with what you have learned.

Steve Jobs allowed his love of typography to mix with his love of computers, creating the Apple computer. Your own personal experiences and thoughts will affect your interpretation of the facts.

Perhaps some seemingly unrelated concepts will come together to create something new. Perhaps you will notice something that people who went before you missed. Perhaps you have strong moral or religious beliefs that will cause you to do things in a different way.

It is one thing to study others and merely copy them; in that case you would only be a pale imitation. The real strength is to study other people or ideas, and use that knowledge as a stepping stone to be or create something that is more and better.

3. Be optimistic
By being optimistic we are more likely to come up with ideas that can help us toward positive outcomes. When we think that a goal is possible, we begin to see paths toward that goal that would be hidden if we started with the notion that the goal was impossible.

When I ride a bicycle and want to go through a narrow opening, I must focus on the clear path through the opening. If I slip up and focus instead on one of the barriers that I need to avoid, I invariably hit that barrier.

The same is true with goals. We need to focus on the clear path toward success. When obstacles arise, we must focus on the path around them, and not on the obstacles themselves.

4. Don’t be bounded
There are so many rules, both written and unwritten, that we follow every day. Drive on the correct side of the road, dress a certain way, pursue the right career. We need rules for society to function.

But, if you want to achieve your goals or do something new in the world, you need to question your assumptions. Don’t take them for granted.

Do we really need to drive on the right side of the road? Why is the rule there? It’s purpose is to provide an orderly flow to traffic so that people don’t run into each other. But what if there were no roads? Or separate roads based on which direction you were traveling? Or eastbound traffic went on a different level than westbound traffic?

When you dig down to the roots, to the reason for a rule or an assumption, then you can become creative and begin to get beyond the limitations.

5. Set your own interpretation
In his play, Hamlet, William Shakespeare points out that nothing is really good or bad in itself. It is our interpretation of the events that make them good or bad.

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” — William Shakespeare

You may not have control over the events, but you do have control over your interpretation of them. Most of the obstacles and misfortunes that we suffer in the ordinary course of life are only as bad as we believe them to be.

There are fates that are truly bad, for example being held hostage or starving in the wilderness. But we still have control of our thoughts. John McCain, while being held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, said that he would write books and plays in his head to keep himself sane.

Take control of your thoughts. Use them wisely, to make the best of every situation.

6. Do good for others
Turn your thoughts to how you can best help other people.

Benjamin Franklin’s philosophy was that the highest virtue was to do good to other people.

When you turn your thoughts to how you can to the most good for the most people, you become very creative. You start to solve some of the problems of the world. A successful product is really a good solution to a problem.

In service industries, “delighting the customer” has become a buzz-phrase for a path to success. Customers are delighted when we do the most good for them.

If you want to get ahead in your career, one of the best paths is to make your supervisor more successful. When your supervisor sees that you have his or her best interests at heart, he or she is more likely to help you.

Your life takes on more meaning as you do good for other people. A meaningful life is a successful life.

7. Listen to your inner-self
Your gut feelings or intuition often come about because of things that you perceived on a subconscious level. You may not be fully aware of why you feel a particular way, but you should listen to yourself and your intuition.

Don’t take your feelings on blind faith, however. Some things that frighten us, like public speaking, are not actually as dangerous as our instincts lead us to believe.

But do take your feelings seriously. Investigate more deeply, for example, if you feel that you don’t trust somebody. You may have picked up some subtle cues in body language that indicate the person truly is untrustworthy.

Use this deeper part of your mind to your advantage, taking it seriously, and probing more deeply.

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Careful attention to your thoughts is important to achieving your goals. Take control of your thoughts, and become successful!

I am excited to announce the release of my new eBook, “19 Tips For Overcoming Procrastination”. Get the free eBook here!

Live A Life Of No Regrets

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You have your dreams, goals that you want to achieve in this life. You are living flat-out, working hard to make it happen. If things are going well, you can be on top of the world. If your goal is still out of reach you may be optimistic, but not yet fulfilled.

But what if tomorrow everything was taken away from you? What if you lost your health, or a loved one, or your business? What if you lost your house or job?

The sense of loss would be devastating.

You would feel grief, anger, and depression. You would find it difficult to focus. Nothing could make you happy, nothing would be good enough. You might think, “What is the point, anyway?”

Your feelings are valid, and very real.

Here are a few lessons that I have learned from my life that help me to get through the hard times.

1. Realize that this moment is a gift.

Every moment that we have will soon be gone. There is no permanence to anything. While you are in the moment, realize what a gift it is.

If your life is going well, don’t forget that you could lose it all tomorrow. Savor what you have at that moment. If you have a big house, pool, tennis court, boat, airplane, or fancy cars, enjoy them to the fullest. They are yours today, but only for awhile.

If you have more modest possessions, enjoy them just as much as the person who has a mansion. A camping trip or night in a quaint bed-and-breakfast can be just as enjoyable as a luxury vacation to a five-star hotel or mansion overlooking the water.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” — Marcus Aurelius

Everything that you have is on loan. Even the people that you love. Understand that they can be gone at any moment, and treasure them while they are here. Delight in the beauty and joy around you. Realize that your life is perfect at the moment, even with pain and sadness.

2. Appreciate all your successes, no matter how small

When we are caught up in big-hairy-audacious goals, the small successes we have along the way may seem of little consequence. It can be easy to think “I will be happy once I achieve my big goal.”

Know that life is impermanent. It is important to celebrate even small successes. Build a bank of memories, so that if you have warning when the end is near, you can look back and know that your life was well spent.

Each day, allow yourself to be content with your life. You are living the life that is unique to you. Your experiences are unlike anyone else’s, because they are filtered through your understanding.

Don’t allow yourself to be unhappy because you have not yet achieved a particular goal.

3. Make human connections

Your goals are important, but in times of crisis it is the people that you have around you that matter the most.

Spend time with people you care about. Your family may be your primary focus, but friends are also important.

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” — Epictetus

Choose your friends carefully. Ask yourself the question – “If this was my last day, is this a person I would want to spend it with?”

You create strong bonds by spending time and sharing emotions with other people. Allow yourself time to get to know a person. As trust builds, you will find it easier to be open and share your thoughts.

When you laugh and enjoy life with people you are close to, you can feel an uplift of your spirits, an excitement, a bubbling upwelling of happiness in your stomach.

4. Make a difference

I think that the biggest regret for many people, when they reach the end of their lives, is about how much they left undone. They want to leave something behind, some part of themselves that can persist. Something that makes a difference.

You have your own unique gifts that you want to share with the world. Perhaps you want to create a new product, or service, or a book, or a piece of art. Or build a business, grow a family, create a home. Or touch others lives through teaching or helping them to grow.

Whatever your dream, it is your contribution to the world. That is how you make a difference.  Perhaps you will discover a new concept or create a new product. Perhaps you will live on through the actions and achievements of those you have influenced.

Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs all left behind a legacy of what they had created. Our lives are different today, because of what they created in their time.

Look for your special gifts, for how you influence the world. Take the gift of each day as one more opportunity for you to make your difference in the world.

5. Be prepared

Life is fleeting. Nothing is permanent. Everything will change.

Set your goals, and achieve them. But always realize that everything can be taken away from you tomorrow.

Think to the future, make sure that your loved ones are taken care of, so that you won’t have any regrets. But live life to the fullest, because you only get to live now.

Have faith in your ability to adapt. Don’t be too attached to what is now, even while enjoying it to the fullest.

Be prepared for the changes that life throws at you. Never expect things to last.